Posted tagged ‘Charles Glass’

Thinking of Sergeant Bergdahl and T.V. Commentators

June 4, 2014




Thinking of Sergeant Bergdahl and T.V. Commentators

I grew up in the sixties when
the phrase was born,
so I can tell you that
“my country right or wrong” was not
the song of the young, but a croaking ode, reconstituted
beneath flat garrison caps, over
flapped bellies,
while the young, the young–vibrating
like reeds that whistle high
and scrape by low, the young–
for whom life is, for a while,
a succession of first times–
voice varying measures–

So, why don’t you made-up faces on television
talk about the 50,000 U.S. soldiers who deserted
the European theater, World War II,
the 100,000 Brits?

Men, riddled
by bombardment (part of the war package),
who slipped, stunned,
from their own sides’ guns, tried to stowaway
in blanks,
to secrete their crazed selves
from crazy;

men, who wanted, with unforetold
desperation, to fold their arms
on a kitchen table nights,
the room lit yellow
as a lantern in July,
only curtains ruffling,
the animals outside
not human–

I’m not saying
they should be honored,
only that your sacred cows,
the shibboleths sprouting
from your lip-glossed mouths
are highly tippable, unlike
the real kind, those still, sound, beasts
who will stand through wind and storm, their bones
propping wayward tents in their hides,
their soft dumb eyes aware in every stare
of the world’s perverse

Something solid.
Which brings me back
to love of country,
love of
my countrymen,
right or wrong,
of thee I sing.



This is very much a draft poem, way too long, written for a “get listed” prompt by Fireblossom (Shay) on With Real Toads. I’ve edited it since posting as well.

I refer in the poem to a recent history by Charles Glass, The Deserters, A HIdden History of World War II, that reports 50,000 U.S. troops deserting from the front (a  fairly high number given that only 10% of U.S. troops involved in World War II were in combat.)   Those in combat were kept for terribly long and arduous tours, probably what caused the breakdowns  The larger number of deserting British soldiers–100,000–relates, it seems,  to the longer period of war for the British.  There were far fewer defections on the Pacific front, in part because the battles were on islands.  The desertions were very little spoken of during the war as discussion of this was thought to weaken morale and to give comfort to the other side.

According to Glass, there were a number of desertions where a man would wander off sometimes just for a few days, and then after some emotional repair, find his way back to his unit.  Apparently, front line soldiers rarely turned in the name of a deserter; if a deserter were reported it was by someone from the rear echelon.  A very interesting interview of Glass can be found here.

In terms of Bergdahl–I confess that I’ve only read aspects of the case. (I don’t have a TV, so my main knowledge is from written news sources.)  However, I am appalled at the rush to judgment.