Posted by Curt on 30 May, 2016 at 11:20 am. Be the first to comment!


Charles C. W. Cooke:

A few miles outside my hometown of Cambridge, England, there is a well-manicured field on the far outskirts of a handsome little village named Madingley. In that field there sit a few thousand crosses, and, beneath them, the remains of a few thousand American men.

I write “remains” reflexively — evidently, we English speakers have decided to use this euphemism to indicate that time has passed and that it has taken the flesh with it — but in this case it is an especially apposite word, for many of those buried at Madingley were incomplete long before they were interred. Among other things, this is a graveyard for the men who did not come back intact. At the Casablanca Conference of 1943, Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt came to an agreement: The Royal Air Force would take care of the nighttime sorties over Germany and beyond; the Americans would fly when it was light. In retrospect, this was a good deal for the Brits. So ugly were the daytime fights that it was not uncommon for deceased rear-gunners to be “hosed” rather than pulled out of their positions when — nay, if — their aircraft returned. In addition to the buried, there are memorials for the 5,125 airmen whose bodies were never found.

One sees all sorts of names at Madingley — there are Abbots, Abernathys, Aguirres, and Airoldis; Bakers, Buchanans, Baczeks, and Backhauses; Caputos, Carlsons, Callahans, and Cafferatas — and one cannot help but consider how improbable it is that they all ended up here, in some corner of a foreign field. These were boys from all over the United States — from New York, California, Wyoming, and Colorado — the sons of parents who, at various points in time, had come to America from all over the world. What is it that had compelled them to travel to this faraway place, thousands of miles from home, to face fear, injury, and death? What is it that makes any man lay his life down for others in an alien time zone?

I hail from a family of military veterans but I am not one myself, and in consequence I shall not attempt to answer this question. What I will do, though, is express my gratitude for those who have. As a child I was taken to Madingley often by my father, the better to impress upon me that all that I had so nonchalantly taken for granted was the product of hard choices that had been made before I was born.

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