P A R T T W O
I joined the Army Air Corps in early 1943—I was twenty years old—eager to get into combat against the Nazis. I could have remained in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where I had been working for three years, and where our building of battleships and landing ships kept us exempt from military service. But I could not bear to stay out of a war against fascism. I saw the war as a noble crusade against racial superiority, militarism, fanatic nationalism, expansionism.
Without my parents’ knowledge (they were for the war, but one of my brothers was already overseas with the army and they wanted me home) I signed up with the Air Corps. I passed all the tests for an aviation cadet—I was a basketball player, in good physical shape, lean (skinny, I thought, but the military seemed not to mind), with perfect eyesight, and the written exams were no problem. I then arranged with my local draft board, through a program called “volunteering for induction,” to send me a letter of induction into the military. To make absolutely sure, I asked the draft board clerk if I could mail the induction notice myself, and I dropped it in the mailbox just outside the office.
Before officially becoming an aviation cadet, I had to go through the four-month basic training of an infantryman at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri—forced marches with full field packs and equipment, lots of calisthenics, learning to fire pistols, rifles, carbines, submachine guns, and to distinguish the smells of poison gases. Then to an airfield outside Burlington, Vermont, where I learned to fly a Piper Cub (a ridiculous little toy of a plane; I didn’t seriously think they wanted me to get into it). Then to Nashville for a whole set of classification exams to decide if I was best fitted to be a pilot, navigator, or bombardier.
I knew I hadn’t done well with the Piper Cub—my instructor was a caricature of the nasty, bullying flight instructor whose favorite instruction to me was a snarling “Get your head out of your ass!” (Admittedly, I had almost killed him several times learning to come out of a spin.) I did very well on the math tests for navigator and on the reflex-coordination tests for bombardier, so I wasn’t surprised when I was classified as a bombardier but also scheduled to get some navigation training. We were all put on a troop train headed for preflight training in Santa Ana, California.
After Santa Ana I spent six weeks at a gunnery school outside of Las Vegas, learning to strip and reassemble a 50-calibre machine gun blindfolded, shooting skeet to get into the swing of “leading” enemy planes, then flying over the desert firing machine guns at various targets. In the evening after all that (movies didn’t capture how loud guns were or how bad they smelled, or what damage the recoil did to your shoulder), we relaxed by going into Las Vegas and gambling with our meager pay, enjoying the gentle sounds of dice and the roulette wheel.
Then four months in the desert country of Deming, New Mexico, learning all about the famous hush-hush Norden bombsight—theory and practice. We flew at different altitudes and dropped bombs on little huts set up in the desert. (There were two rectangles on the map we had to avoid—we didn’t know why—near the towns of Alamagordo and Los Alamos.) I was good at it, had a low CE (circular error, or number of feet from the target), and graduated from bombing school with the gold bars of a second lieutenant on my shoulders and bombardier’s wings pinned on my chest at graduation. I now had my first furlough since my induction, eleven days to spend at home before joining a crew and going overseas. I took the long train ride from El Paso to New York.
The first thing I did after seeing my parents was to call on the girl I had been writing to and hadn’t seen for a year and a half. We had lived in the same shabby, lively Brooklyn neighborhood but had never met until sometime in 1942, when a fellow basketball player then in the army wrote to me and asked me to deliver some of his insignia to a girl he liked but was too shy to get in touch with. Her name was Roslyn Shechter. I had found the street and the apartment and the girl and fulfilled my friend’s request. She was finishing washing the kitchen floor; her parents were there, and she suggested we go outside.
We took a walk around the block. She had long chestnut-blonde hair and blue eyes and the face of a Russian beauty, and we had lots to talk about. We discovered that we were both readers: I was reading Marx and Engels and Upton Sinclair, she was reading Dostoevsky and Tolstoy. We seemed to share the same outlook on the world, the war, fascism, socialism. We circled the block several times. I decided I was not really betraying my friend in the service; he was not on her mind.
A few weeks later I invited Roz on a moonlight sail organized for the young workers of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. She wore, very gracefully, a cotton dress which her mother had made. I wore, very awkwardly, a blue sport shirt which my mother had sewn together for me, and a mustard-colored sport jacket which we both still remember as slightly repulsive. But it was a star-filled, romantic evening, and when the sail was over after midnight we didn’t want to go home, so we went bowling.
I took her home around 4:00 A.M. Her father was waiting, and furious. A twenty-year-old shipyard worker with outrageously radical political views was not his notion of a proper boyfriend for his princess of a daughter.
Roz and I went out on a few more dates, but I seemed to be just one of a number of fellows in her life. So when I went off into the Army Air Corps in early 1943 we were not really “boyfriend and girlfriend.” But I was lonely in basic training, and I found myself thinking about Roz. I wrote to her, a long letter about what it was like in the military. Waiting for her reply, I went day after day to mail call, always a long time before they got to Z. But nothing came. Months passed and I decided, with a sinking heart, that she did not want to encourage any expectations on my part. There were those other guys, and I had terrible thoughts about what was going on while I was far away. But I wrote a second letter. A reply came quickly. She had not received my first letter. (Had her parents intercepted it? We never found out.)
We began writing more and more frequently. The letters became more intimate. She sent me a photo of herself, looking very lovely, which I kept near my bunk. I could now claim, without saying it, that I had a girlfriend.
We had never mentioned marriage in our sixteen-month correspondence, but when I came home on that eleven-day furlough after getting my wings, sometime during our first evening together alone, a little dizzy with passion, we decided to get married. Four days later, I in uniform, Roz in a skirt and sweater, our hastily assembled (and somewhat bewildered) parents and brothers and sisters in attendance, we were married in the home of a red-headed rabbi, his nine kids looking on from the stairway. A week of “honeymoon” in a cheap hotel in Manhattan, and I left for Rapid City, South Dakota, to meet my air crew.
The Allied invasion of Europe—D-day—was already under way. I was so anxious to get into combat that twice in the next months I traded places with other bombardiers to get on the short list for overseas. Roz agreed—she was as antifascist as I. (But years later she asked, Were we crazy?)
In Rapid City, the crew had several weeks learning to work together, flying the plane we would use in combat, the B-17 Flying Fortress—four engines, with a swiveling ball turret underneath, another gun turret above, a tail gunner, a radio man, an engineer, and, sticking out in front of and below the pilot and co-pilot, the scarily vulnerable plexiglass nose that I shared with the navigator and which housed my bombsight, along with four 50-calibre machine guns.
Roz arrived by train in Rapid City and this was our real honeymoon, in the cold, clean air of the South Dakota winter, in sight of Mount Rushmore, with Deadwood and the Black Hills nearby. Three other crew members had wives who came for what might be the last chance together, and we all became very close. When we flew night flights the women would get together in one of the cabins and cook spaghetti. Finished with our “bombing” we would fly back to base and on the way buzz the cabin to let them know we’d be there soon for a midnight meal.
The women went back home, and our crew sailed on the Queen Mary to England, sixteen thousand troops packed into the luxury liner. We were told that the ship could outrun German submarines, but we didn’t believe it.
The officers on board were all given supervisory jobs, and mine was to “keep order” in the huge mess hall where the troops ate twice a day, in four shifts. The four thousand black soldiers on board, who slept in the depths of the ship near the engine room, ate last.
(It seems absurd—but is so typical of whites in this country—that I hadn’t noticed the absence of blacks in basic training at Jefferson Barracks until one day I took a long walk through the base and found myself in an all-black environment. What I remember most vividly is a squad of black soldiers taking a break on the grass near me, singing “Ain’t Gonna Study War No More!” I was startled. I had never heard white troops sing that.)
On the fifth day at sea, there was a mix-up, and the last shift was sent into the mess hall before the previous one was finished eating—four thousand black men pouring into the hall, filling in wherever other men had finished and left. It was now, accidentally, a racially integrated dining hall.
“Lieutenant!” A white sergeant, sitting next to a black man, was calling to me. “Get him out of here until I finish.” This angered me, and for the first time in my military career I pulled rank. I shook my head. “If you don’t want to finish your food, you can leave. What the hell is this war all about, sergeant?” It was a long way to the next meal, and the sergeant stayed and ate. I learned something from that little incident, later reinforced in my years in the South: that most racists have something they care about more than racial segregation, and the problem is to locate what that is.
On that ocean crossing, the class system of the military was especially evident. Our nine-man crew, who had become good friends—no saluting, no “yessir and nosir”—were separated on board ship. The five enlisted men in the crew ate in the huge mess room, the usual grubby army food. We, the officers, ate in what must have been the first-class dining room of the Queen Mary—linen tablecloths, white-jacketed waiters, magnificent chandeliers, steaks and roasts. It was bizarre, with us sailing through submarine-infested waters on the way to a war.
Landing in England, we were transported to our air base in East Anglia, which bulges eastward toward Holland and Germany. Then it was life in a quonset hut—sleeping bags, cold water, rationed food—and flying what turned out to be the last missions of the war.
Mostly “milk-runs” (no enemy fighters, light flak from the ground)—bombing Berlin, Pilsen, other places in Germany, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia. But the day we flew to Regensburg, the intelligence report was “heavy flak,” meaning that as you approached the target the sky was so thick with black exploding shells it seemed impossible to fly through and come out alive. That morning I argued vehemently with another bombardier who claimed he was due to fly that mission, but I insisted and won. We were both war-crazed, wanting to rack up more missions, not seeming to understand that the more missions we flew the more likely we were to die.
And there was one mission where the first German jets of the war appeared—frighteningly fast, in three passes taking out three of the twelve planes in our group, then disappearing (those first jets could not stay aloft very long).
The war was about to be over, obviously, in days or weeks, but one morning we were yanked out of our sleep at 1:00 A.M. and told we were going on another bombing mission.
It was not like the movies, with Robert Taylor leaping out of his bed into the cockpit and flying off. Five hours between waking and the take-off at dawn. Hours of briefings—crew briefings, officers’ briefings, bombardiers’ briefings. Then eating a breakfast with “round eggs” (that meant real eggs, which we got in unlimited quantities the mornings we were going on a mission; on other days we got “square eggs,” powdered eggs in pancake form). Then the equipment: electrically heated suit, sheepskin clothes on top of that in case of electrical failure, oxygen mask and throat mike, a flak vest (a heavy leaden monstrosity we didn’t bother to wear—too much trouble just to save a life), a flak helmet, heavy and awkward (which we sometimes wore). Check the bombsight, check the guns, check the oxygen system, check the parachutes, check everything.
The briefing officer told us about the mission. We were going to bomb a little town named Royan, near Bordeaux, on the Atlantic coast of France. (After the war I learned that it was a resort town for French vacationers; Picasso swam there.) We looked at one another: France? Our armies had already overrun France, were well into Germany.
The explanation came: there were a few thousand German soldiers holed up near Royan, waiting for the war to end, and we were to take them out. And we would not be carrying in our bomb bay the usual load of twelve five-hundred-pound demolition bombs (it was the bombardier’s job, once in enemy territory, to crawl back to the bomb bay and “arm” the bombs, that is, remove the cotter pins so that they became live). Instead, each bomb bay would carry something new, thirty one-hundred-pound canisters of “jellied gasoline”—sticky fire. They didn’t use the word, and I only realized long after the war that this was an early use of napalm.
So, we destroyed the German forces (twelve hundred Flying Fortresses bombing several thousand German soldiers!)—and also the French population of Royan. After the war, I read a dispatch by the New York Times correspondent in the area: “About 350 civilians, dazed or bruised … crawled from the ruins and said the air attacks had been ‘such hell as we never believed possible.’ ”
At our bombing altitudes—twenty-five or thirty thousand feet—we saw no people, heard no screams, saw no blood, no torn limbs. I remember only seeing the canisters light up like matches flaring one by one on the ground below. Up there in the sky, I was just “doing my job”—the explanation throughout history of warriors committing atrocities.
The war was over in three weeks. I heard no one question that raid on Royan, why it was necessary. I didn’t. It would not have entered my mind to stand up in the briefing room that morning and ask, Why are we killing more people when the war is about to end?
I flew three more missions in the last week of the war—but not to drop bombs. Our cargo was packages of food, which we were to drop on Amsterdam and Rotterdam because the Germans had blown up the dikes, the land was flooded, and people were starving. We flew at three hundred feet, barely three times the wingspan of our plane, with some tension because the Germans had threatened to fire on food-delivering planes and at that altitude we were easy targets.
But it all went beautifully, and as we flew over the city we could see the streets, the roofs, crowded with people waving to us. As we turned away from Amsterdam on our last trip, one of the guys in the crew called over the interphone, “Look down there.” On a field just outside the city, there were thousands and thousands of tulips, forming huge letters: “THANK YOU.”
There was only one point during the war when a few doubts crept into my mind about the absolute rightness of what we were doing. I’d made friends with a gunner on another crew. We had something in common in that literary wasteland of an air base: we were both readers, and we were both interested in politics. At a certain point he startled me by saying, “You know, this is not a war against fascism. It’s a war for empire. England, the United States, the Soviet Union—they are all corrupt states, not morally concerned about Hitlerism, just wanting to run the world themselves. It’s an imperialist war.”
“Then why are you here?” I asked.
“To talk to guys like you.”
I was astonished and deeply impressed that he would be risking his life flying these missions, all to wage his own political warfare inside the military, to persuade others of his point of view. Two weeks after that conversation his plane did not return from a mission. It was shot down and his whole crew killed.
At the time I wasn’t convinced by what he said, but I was troubled by it and never forgot it. I didn’t realize myself to what extent my mind was changing during the war, but when it was over and I was putting my stuff together, I collected some photos, old navigation logs, and some other mementos, my Air Medal and ribbons with two battle stars, put them into a folder and without thinking wrote on the folder, “Never again.”
After victory in Europe, V-E Day, my crew flew back across the Atlantic in our battered B-17 (“Belle of the Brawl”). We had a thirty-day leave before going to the Pacific to take up bombing again, this time on Japan. Roz and I were heading toward a bus to take us into the country to have some time alone before my leave was over. We passed a newsstand around which people were gathered, evidently excited. A fresh pile of papers had just been delivered, and there was this huge headline: ATOMIC BOMB DROPPED ON JAPANESE CITY OF HIROSHIMA. WAR’S END EXPECTED.
I remember our reaction exactly. We were simply happy. We weren’t sure what an atomic bomb was, but it looked like just a bigger bomb than what we had been using all along. Now I wouldn’t have to go the Pacific and the war would be over—total victory over fascism—and I would be coming home for good.
It was John Hersey’s postwar report, Hiroshima, that first made me aware of the horrors we visited on that city, made me see what we had done to a city of civilians, to old people and to schoolchildren, made me see the Japanese as human beings, not simply a nation of ferocious, cruel warriors. It led me to match the infamous “death march” on Bataan, that Japanese atrocity, with another kind of death march in Hiroshima, this time our atrocity, when dazed, burnt civilians, their flesh hanging, their eyeballs out of their sockets, their limbs torn from their bodies, walked in a stupor through the eerie remains of their flattened city under a drizzle of radioactive vapor.
While I was a fellow at the Harvard Center for East Asian Studies in the fall of 1960 (on temporary leave from Spelman), I did some research on the dropping of the atomic bombs, and published an article called “A Mess of Death and Documents.” The most powerful reason given for the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was that they saved the lives of those who would have died in an invasion of Japan. But the official report of the Strategic Bombing Survey, which interrogated seven hundred Japanese officials right after the war, concluded that the Japanese were on the verge of surrender and would “certainly” have ended the war by December of 1945 even if the bombs had not been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and even without an invasion of Japan. Furthermore, the United States, having broken the Japanese code, knew the Japanese were on the verge of surrender.
Then why was it done? The research of an American scholar, Gar Alperowitz, pointed to a political motive: to beat the Russians to the punch in defeating Japan, and to demonstrate to them our strength, because they were about to enter the Pacific war.
My experience with Royan suggested additional reasons: the powerful momentum of a military machine which has been built up and is bursting with energy; the disinclination to “waste” a project into which huge amounts of time and money and talent have been expended; the desire to demonstrate a new weapon; the cold disregard for human life which develops in the course of a war; the acceptance of any means, however horrible, once you have entered a war with a belief in the total nobility of your cause.
In August of 1966, Roz and I traveled to Japan at the invitation of a Japanese peace group, to join people from various parts of the world to commemorate the dropping of the bomb and to dedicate ourselves to the elimination of nuclear weapons. We all met in Hiroshima, rebuilt now except for a few things deliberately left standing to remind people of what had happened.
One day we were invited to a “House of Friendship,” a kind of community center for survivors of the bomb. We were expected to say a few words of greeting to the people there, and when it was my turn I started to say something, then looked at the men and women sitting on the floor, their faces turned to me, some without legs, others without arms, some with sockets for eyes, or with horrible burns on their faces and bodies. My mind flashed back to my work as a bombardier and I choked up, could not speak.
The following year, Roz and I, driving from Paris to the Atlantic coast, visited the rebuilt town of Royan, spoke to survivors of the wartime bombing, rummaged through documents. We found an additional motive for that senseless slaughter—the need of both the French and the American military for one more victory before the war ended.
Hiroshima and Royan were crucial in my gradual rethinking of what I had once accepted without question—the absolute morality of the war against fascism. Sometime in the sixties, I read with fascination Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, with its jabs of black humor poking holes in the self-righteous arrogance of the “good guys” fighting against Hitler. Heller’s mad but wise antihero, the bombardier Yossarian, warns a fellow flier who talks about “the enemy” that “the enemy is whoever wants to get you killed, whichever side they’re on.” I knew by this time that we had again and again bombed people on “our side”—not just the French of Royan, but the Czechs of Pilsen and the Chinese of Hankow and Formosa. By the early seventies, when I wrote a book called Postwar America, I entitled the chapter on World War II, with deliberate irony, “The Best of Wars.”
There is no war of modern times which has been accepted more universally as just. The fascist enemy was so totally evil as to forbid any questioning. They were undoubtedly the “bad guys” and we were the “good guys,” and once that decision was made there seemed no need to thinkabout what we were doing. But I had become aware, both from the rethinking of my war experiences and my reading of history, of how the environment of war begins to make one side indistinguishable from the other.
That went way back to the Greeks, to the Peloponnesian War as described by Thucydides in the fifth century before Christ. Athens, “the cradle of democracy,” the haven of magnificent art and literature, was the “good guy.” Sparta, totalitarian, grim, was the “bad guy.” But as the war progressed, the Athenians committed more and more atrocities—indiscriminate massacre, enslavement of women and children.
In World War II, we—the United States, France, England, the “civilized world”—had declared our horror at the new phenomenon of modern aerial warfare, the indiscriminate bombing of the civilian populations of cities. The Japanese bombing of Shanghai, the Italian bombing of unarmed Africans in Ethiopia, bombs dropped during the Spanish Civil War on Madrid, the German bombings of Coventry and Rotterdam. Of course, what do you expect of fascists!
And then we were in the war and doing the same thing, except on a much larger scale. Royan was a minor event. The bombing of Dresden by British and American planes (which Kurt Vonnegut deals with in his own odd way in his unforgettable Slaughterhouse Five) killed at least thirty-five thousand, perhaps a hundred thousand, people. Incendiary bombs sucked the oxygen out of the city, bringing hurricane-like winds which sent the flames racing through the streets in that phenomenon called a firestorm.
The bombing of the working-class districts of German cities—the death toll perhaps half a million—was a deliberate policy of Winston Churchill and his advisers, with the agreement of the American high command, to break the morale of the German nation.
The more I read, the more I thought about World War II, the more I became convinced that the atmosphere of war brutalizes everyone involved, begets a fanaticism in which the original moral factor (which certainly existed in World War II—opposition to a ruthless tyranny, to brutal aggression) is buried at the bottom of a heap of atrocities committed by all sides.
By the 1960s, my old belief in a “just war” was falling apart. I was concluding that while there are certainly vicious enemies of liberty and human rights in the world, war itself is the most vicious of enemies. And that while some societies can rightly claim to be more liberal, more democratic, more humane than others, the difference is not great enough to justify the massive, indiscriminate slaughter of modern warfare.
Should not the real motivations of governments be scrutinized? They always claim to be fighting for democracy, for liberty, against aggression, to end all wars—but is that not a handy way to mobilize a population to support war, indeed, absolutely necessary because people do not instinctively want to fight? I cherished the lines of e.e. cummings:
i sing of Olaf, glad and big
whose warmest heart recoiled at war:
a conscientious object-or
The evidence was powerful: the Allied powers—the United States, England, the Soviet Union—had not gone to war out of compassion for the victims of fascism. The United States and its allies did not make war on Japan when Japan was slaughtering the Chinese in Nanking, did not make war on Franco when he was destroying democracy in Spain, did not make war on Hitler when he was sending Jews and dissidents to concentration camps, did not even take steps during the war to save Jews from certain death. They went to war when their national power was threatened.
The hands of Hitler were filthy, but those of the United States were not clean. Our government had accepted, was still accepting, the subordination of black people in what we claimed was a democratic society. Our government threw Japanese families into concentration camps on the racist supposition that anyone Japanese—even if born in this country—could not be allowed to remain free.
True, fascism was not to be tolerated by decent people. But neither was racism or colonialism or slave labor camps—one or another of which was a characteristic of all of the Allied powers. And granted, fascism was worse, admitting of no opening for change. But was war the answer? Was the only way to deal with fascism to engage in a bloodbath which left forty million people dead?
War may be undertaken for what appears a good cause, against violence, against cruelty, but war itself multiplies the violence, multiplies the cruelty.
I had been an eager bombardier in the war, caught up in a fanaticism which let me participate unquestioningly in atrocious acts. After the war I slowly came to question whether war, however noble “the cause,” solves anything, given the warping of moral sensibility, of rational thought, that always accompanies it.
Contemplating the world at the end of the war: Hitler and Mussolini were gone, Japan was defeated, but was militarism gone, or racism, or dictatorship, or hysterical nationalism? Were not the main victors—the United States and the Soviet Union—now building nuclear arsenals that threatened a war which would make Hitler’s holocaust look puny?
Nonviolence, pacifism, had an air of a fairy tale—soft, silly, romantic, unrealistic. And yet, by the seventies and eighties there was no question addressed to me by my students that gave me more trouble than, Okay, war is bad, but what would you do about fascism? I could not, in honesty, pretend that I had a clear answer, but I felt sure that the answer could not be the slaughter of war.
I was intrigued, after my experience with the civil rights movement in the South, by the phrase that King used, that SNCC used: nonviolent direct action. Not simply passive nonviolence, certainly not surrender or acceptance or appeasement, but action, resistance, engagement, with the determination to keep violence to a minimum. To ask for solutions totally free of violence was unrealistic; even the nonviolent marches and protests in the South, the picket lines and sit-down strikes of the labor movement, had resulted in violence.
As I write this in 1993, the world faces starving children in Somalia, brutal ethnic warfare in Bosnia. Passivity is intolerable, yet military action would probably make things worse. The situation is not dissimilar to World War II: some form of action is necessary to defend the victims of violence, to relieve suffering, to create safe havens for threatened people. The action should be focused, controlled, intervening between victims and the evil they face but without creating more victims. And in the meantime, we must look for negotiated solutions, even at the expense of national pride, must consider human life more important than boundary lines, must buy time for the achievement of justice without war.
I see this as the central issue of our time: how to find a substitute for war in human ingenuity, imagination, courage, sacrifice, patience.
Yes, patience. I recall a Bertolt Brecht fable. A man living alone answers a knock at the door. There stands Tyranny, armed and powerful, who asks, “Will you submit?” The man does not reply. He steps aside. Tyranny enters and takes over. The man serves him for years. Then Tyranny mysteriously becomes sick from food poisoning. He dies. The man opens the door, gets rid of the body, comes back to the house, closes the door behind him, and says, firmly, “No.”
I thought of that story in 1989, when the apparently all-powerful regimes of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe collapsed in the face of mass protests and demonstrations. If the United States had become impatient somewhere along the line (that almost happened in the Cuban missile crisis of 1962), we might have had nuclear war. I thought of how the power of tyranny is overestimated (not in the short run, but in the long run), and how it can be overcome by the unity, the determination, of apparently powerless people, as I saw happen in the South.
World War II is over. It cannot be replayed. Everything in history, once it has happened, looks as if it had to happen exactly that way. We can’t imagine any other. But I am convinced of the uncertainty of history, of the possibility of surprise, of the importance of human action in changing what looks unchangeable.
War is not inevitable, however persistent it is, however long a history it has in human affairs. It does not come out of some instinctive human need. It is manufactured by political leaders, who then must make a tremendous effort—by enticement, by propaganda, by coercion—to mobilize a normally reluctant population to go to war. In 1917, the United States government had to send 75,000 lecturers around the country to give 750,000 lectures reaching millions of people, to persuade them that it was right to go to war. For those unpersuaded, there was prison for draft dodgers, prison for people who dared speak against the war.
After the First World War, in which ten million men died on the battlefield for reasons which no one, afterward, could explain, there was a general public horror of war itself. World War II made war acceptable again; it then became the basis for justifying every war that followed it.
For me, my growing abhorrence of war, my rethinking of the justness of even “the best of wars,” led me to oppose, from the start, the American war in Vietnam.