Ken Beaton: History repeats

Ken Beaton

Ken Beaton

  • Discuss Comment, Blog about
  • Print Friendly and PDF

Today is the first day of your three-day weekend. What does Memorial Day mean to you? Does it mean popping the tab of your favorite beer and eating barbecue hamburgers and franks, potato salad, macaroni salad, chips with dip and S’mores for desert?

WAKE UP DUDE! Do you know how many shoulders you’re standing on today enjoying your freedom? FYI you’re standing on 1,225,124 shoulders at least! You didn’t get to where you are today without all the loyal generations of Americans who fought and died for your freedom.

In the Revolutionary War at least 25,000 freedom-fighting colonists died. The War Between the States was our costliest, 620,000 boys gave their lives, some weren’t even in their teens! During World War I, 116,516 of our boys crossed the Atlantic Ocean to die on French soil defeating the Germans. Twenty-seven years after World War I by Sept. 2, 1945, 405,399 of our boys and over 200 women gave their lives for your freedom. Our USN Dauntless dive bomber pilots won the Battle of Midway. American, British, Canadian, French and Polish troops landed at Gold, Juno, Omaha, Sword and Utah beaches on D-Day to fight for your freedom.

Otherwise, you could be speaking fluent German or Japanese today. Don’t drop your beer! Have you thanked a vet because you read, speak, and write in English today? Instead of saying, “Thank you for your service.” As you shake a vet’s hand say, “I want to thank you that I read, write and speak English!”

I was fortunate to visit Europe four times, 2008, 2011, 2013 and 2014. I’ve visited the Ardennes American Cemetery the final resting place for 5,162 of our boys. The Lorraine American Cemetery with 10,481 of our boys. The Luxembourg American Cemetery with 5,070 of our boys including Gen. George S. Patton, Jr. Our largest American Battle Monuments Cemetery, the World War I Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery with 14,245 of our boys and one American female. The Normandy American Cemetery has 9,387 of our boys including 45 sets of brothers next to each other including the Roosevelts, Quentin and Teddy Jr. The Normandy American Cemetery has more than 1 million visitors each year. There’s a quote at the cemetery, “Spirit Of American Youth Rising From The Waves,” so true.

In 2008 my wife and I took an eight-day “Follow In Their Footsteps Tour” in Italy. We climbed Monte La Difensa where The First Special Service Force, “The Devil’s Brigade,” defeated German paratroopers in two hours. Thirty-nine members of “The Force” were KIA on Dec. 3, 1943, including my 21-year-old uncle, Pvt. R. E. Daigle, and his foxhole mate, T/4 H.N. Deyette.

My grandparents had Richard’s remains returned to his hometown in 1948. However, T/4 Deyette’s remains rest in the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery in Nintuno, Italy 38 miles south of Rome with 7,844 men and six women, Army nurses. After visiting T/4 Deyette’s grave site, I walked along the rows reading the white marble grave markers of our heroes.

One grave marker was a staff sergeant who was KIA on Jan. 30, 1944. He probably was fighting at Anzio Beach. I was shocked when I read his age, 17! You read his age correctly. He was either 14 or 15 years old when he enlisted in early 1942. Maybe he used an older brother’s birth certificate or lied about his age to a recruiter.

He wanted to fight for his country. His division was part of the North African campaign, the Sicily campaign and then the Italian campaign. During those three campaigns, he was a responsible soldier who rose in rank from private to staff sergeant, “three up and one down.”

If you’re older than 17, I want you to stop and recall all the happy memories in your life after your 17th birthday. At this moment, how would you feel if you never experienced any of those wonderful moments in your life? Did you have one or more dates at a drive-in movie theater, parties at the beach, staying up all night and watching the sun rise, graduating from high school or college and great times with your friends?

If you’re younger than 17, think of all your fun times so far. How would you feel if I told you, “You’re going to die at 17! You’re not going to graduate from high school or college, have parties at the beach, stay up all night to see the sun rise, fall in lust multiple times, have wonderful holiday memories, get married, have children, grandchildren and have special memories with your ‘rust friends.’”

At the Meuse-Argonne American cemetery there are members of the Big Red 1 Division’s 16th Infantry Regiment and the 29th Division’s 116th Infantry Regiment buried beside one another.

On June 6, 1944, the Big Red 1’s 16th Regiment and the 29th’s 116th Infantry Regiment landed at Omaha Beach at different locations. Similarly at the Normandy American Cemetery there are graves makers for members of the 16th Infantry Regiment and the 116th Infantry Regiment beside each other.

Toward the end of World War II, Germany was a fiscal disaster. Do you know who buried all of the dead German soldiers? Six of the Allied nations paid to bury two Germans using one headstone. One soldier was buried on one side of the dark gray headstone with his information and a second soldier was buried on the opposite side with his information on the headstone.

The Germans decided on the color of the gravestones which was depressing compared to bright white marble headstones in the American Battle Monument Cemeteries with verdant grass. Sadly, in the early months of 1865, the confederate states were desperate for troops at the front. Boys from the sixth to the 12th grades were conscripted, given a rifle and sent to the front lines.

In early 1945 the German army was desperate to have someone with a rifle at the front. Many Hitler youth were given a rifle and placed in the front lines as cannon fodder! Our troops didn’t want to shoot young boys. One of the GIs said, “If you don’t kill them, they’ll kill you.” Unfortunately, history continues to repeat.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment