As I retired from a relatively uneventful career in the peacetime Air Force in 1997, I’ve been out of the military for longer than I was in it. I don’t hang around so much in military veteran circles online as I did early in the decade afterwards, when my daughter was serving in the Marines after 9/11 and deployed to Kuwait and Iraq. But she does venture into veteran social media circles, on a local basis through organizations and outlets like Bourbiz, Grunt Style, Ranger Up, and Black Rifle Coffee … and she called my attention to what amounts to a dumpster fire ongoing in veteran circles. Holy heck, it’s more a raging nuclear inferno than your plain ordinary social media dumpster fire. Read the series of articles, she said, it’s jaw-dropping – and so I did. Oh. My. G*d. I thought the Vietnam-era “stolen valor” incidents so thoroughly documented in this book were the far frozen limit, but this Steele character appears to have ventured into hitherto unexplored dimensions.
We read the series of linked articles and discussed them while walking the dogs that morning – discussed mostly how the various linked pictures of Steele and his service and post-service career set every mental alarm madly pinging in both of us. My daughter had been casually aware of him as a meme and discounted them as most probably based on stock footage – not of a real veteran, because they seemed so staged. As if someone was using stills and actors from an over-the-top Gulf War movie version of Rambo. Or as my daughter explained; Steele just appeared like a parody of the most flamboyantly obnoxious “Bro Vet” ever. (see definition here.) My daughter is not a fan of the extreme bro vets; the most toxically masculine of them are pretty obnoxious about female veterans.
For an explanation of my own mental alarm in the case of Landon Steele, I’m of a generation where the slightly older Vietnam and Vietnam-era veterans were much more likely to downplay their service and “disappear” any visual evidence of having served in the military – things like caps, t-shirts and service rings. There was a stigma to being in or having served, which didn’t even begin to let up until the early 1980s. Arthur Hadley called it the “other America of Defense” in The Straw Giant, his 1986 study of the military as it existed then, describing the military as a kind of invisible archipelago, unknown and disregarded by the media, political and academic elite. And notably, what with my own military service, I’ve known, associated, worked with, and occasional dated romantically – a lot of other veterans. Many of them had “interesting” experiences in their past service, for certain meanings of “interesting” up to and including tours of duty where their next of kin had excellent odds of collecting a life insurance payout. They usually didn’t talk much about those experiences. Oblique references, stories of a sometimes grimly comic nature, things that happened to other guys … the main understanding I came away with, is that a serious bad-ass does not need to boast or demonstrate being a serious bad-ass. The men whom I knew for certain had serious cred that way were almost always rather quiet, soft-spoken guys. They certainly had no need of being a kind of military veteran social media Kardashian. Your comments?
32 thoughts on “Adventures in Social Media – Mil-Vet Version”
I read a bit of that first story and it sounds weird. Is there any objective evidence of this guy’s service ?
When I was teaching medical students I used to warn them about Vietnam stories from County Hospital patients.
He did serve, Mike K. Air Force (for two years before being chucked out) and then a tour with an Army Guard unit, where he did deploy … but he seems to have a rather active fantasy life during those hitches and afterwards. Talked a lot of BS, and scampered for new friends whenever the old ones began to be suspicious.
I did my 25, including 2 wartime 1-year tours in Iraq. Since then, I’ve had literally nothing to do with the military beyond retirement benefits, and I’m happy with that–That chapter of my life is closed. Well, as closed as it gets, I suppose.
The thing I’ve observed, over the years, though? If a guy or girl is talking about the things they did, in terms of “I killed twenty guys with a can opener…”, then they’re almost certainly lying about it. I’ve only ever met one guy who was an exception to that, vouched for by his fellow Vietnam-era veterans, and he was pretty much the sociopathic exception that proves the rule. Him, I had pegged for a blowhard fantasist of the first order, which I commented on. I was then informed that, no, he really did all that crap he talks about, and, yes, he’s a loony asshole, but he is one of us.
Real veterans who saw their elephants generally don’t talk about the killing or the deaths they experienced. They will tell you tons of stories about stealing pallets of beer from the O-Club, and all about that funny-ass thing Mikey did, but they won’t tell you about Mikey getting his head blown off the week after. That stuff is too personal, too intimate. Telling an outsider that crap is like discussing the time you were raped as a child, and it just does not happen in the real world. Real combat veterans generally don’t share the trauma even with their families, which is why you hear so many times about people finding out that Grandpa wasn’t actually a file clerk in WWII, but some kind of serious bad-ass with a rack of valor awards that takes your breath away.
I buried a guy like that, once, as a CAO for a retiree. His family literally had no idea that he’d “been there, done that” in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. He’d been a replacement during Normandy, got wounded fighting in the hedgerows, spent time in a hospital in England and then wound up being fed into the Battle of the Bulge. End of the war, he’d accumulated several Bronze Stars with the Valor device, and had been submitted for a Silver Star that got lost in the chaos after his last WWII wounding. After the war, he’d gone home, couldn’t find a job, and rejoined the Army as a clerk. During Korea, he was “that guy” who had organized the defense of his headquarters element when it was almost overrun during the Chinese counter-attack, and he’d been key and critical to getting his element out from under during the retreat south. For all that, he finally did get his Silver Star, and he wound up doing a second tour in Korea during the immediate post-war period where he saw combat again when his convoy was ambushed by guerrillas. He closed out his career in Vietnam during the mid-1960s, doing two tours over there, and had another “overrun” experience when the firebase he was working out of got hit by NVA sappers.
After he finally retired, as near as I can tell, he never mentioned a word about any of this from the day he walked out of Fort Lewis to the day he died in the early 1990s. He married after he retired, and all his wife ever knew was that he’d been in the Army during WWII and had retired from “government work” in the sixties. Never said a word about any of it, to anyone. Never went to the reunions for any of his units, never seemed to have any side-effects in terms of PTSD or anything else. I had to order all his awards and his DD-214 as the CAO, and I’m here to tell you, that was ‘effing surreal–I’d been told he had some military service by the family, but they had no clue. From what I could make out, this guy had been a rock throughout it all–The Battle of the Bulge citation he had seemed to indicate that he’d been the reason that about a dozen other green soldiers survived and didn’t get killed or captured, because he’d taken charge of them when the headquarters where they’d been waiting for dispersal down to their assigned units got hit. Somehow, he’d mother-henned them out of the chaos and away from the Germans, kept them going, and after about a week of wandering around through the chaos, he’d marched them all into the first American unit they found, along with some German POWs he’d picked up.
I never met the man, but I wish I had.
The father of a childhood friend was a retired Air Force officer who had flown in WW2, the Korean War, and Vietnam. He was enough of a bad-ass to have downed some German planes in WW2- information that he never told me. He never brought up his military service, though he was definitely proud of it.
I’m reminded of the ‘Vietnam era’ USMC refrigerator repairman.
The only thing slightly surprising was that he served at all. It’s not like it hasn’t been happening since the Revolution, and I’m sure before. Then as now the object is usually money and really isn’t much different from any other con game
In the mid 80s I ran across a clear sociopath that was claiming to be a Vietnam Vet. I quietly pointed out to someone that should have known better that the only way he could have been in Vietnam was if he enlisted at around ten years old and that he would want to be far away when the inevitable blow up happened.
I sort of quietly discount this sort of thing, unless it starts to affect me or someone I care about.
I would be especially unimpressed with a fire sprinkler fitter that wore some sort of flack jacket. How did this guy miss out on this thing in Venezuela? He seems like a natural fit with that organization.
Know the feeling, Kirk. Chapter done, closed, walk away. I’ve checked into a couple of FB sites for Misawa AB, and Hellenikon AB, just for grins and giggles. I wrote a lot for various sites, and began contributing to Sgt. Stryker’s Daily Brief back in the day, just getting it out of my system. Thought about joining a local VFW chapter, but just can’t summon the energy.
Your guy was like a lot of vets that I knew growing up. Calm, functional, put it all away in a small closet and went on with life. It’s vulgar to talk of yourself as a big hero.
Which is why this particular vet drew my appalled attention.
And yes, MCS – this fantasist would be perfect for the Venezuela caper. Give it a couple of months, I’m sure he’ll claim to have been in on it.
There’s an ethos to it all, and I don’t know where I picked it up. I don’t come from a family with extensive military background, at least during the 20th Century. Go back, and there are scads of ancestors who did military service in the Revolutionary War and Civil War, but the majority were either too young or too old for WWI and WWII, not to mention completely out of it for Korea or Vietnam.
It’s also not something that I can remember ever getting talked about while I was on active duty, either. You just didn’t ever hear the guys with combat patches on their uniforms talking trash, and you had to pry details out of them. They’d pass on combat experience that would help keep you alive, but the details of how they learned that stuff were never, ever discussed openly. If you got to hear them BS with contemporaries about what they’d done and seen, you often got hit by surprise to hear that the guy you knew as a superannuated fatass senior NCO had once been young, dumb, and a major badass. It was also a shock to discover that the guy who couldn’t keep up on a run was in that state due to those funny purple ribbons on his dress uniform, which you hadn’t really recognized as Purple Hearts in the beginning.
Somewhere along the line, you just learned that there was a dignity to it all, and that you weren’t supposed to blow your own horn, if only out of respect for the guys who didn’t come home. If you are still alive after the fact, that’s enough, and that’s all you really need. The pale creatures who need to make up their war stories are to be pitied, more than anything. There is an essential void at the center of their identity that can’t be corrected. They never were, and never can be what they dream of, because they are essentially and fundamentally flawed human beings.
In the mid 80s I ran across a clear sociopath that was claiming to be a Vietnam Vet. I quietly pointed out to someone that should have known better that the only way he could have been in Vietnam was if he enlisted at around ten years old and that he would want to be far away when the inevitable blow up happened.
Those were the guys I warned my students about.
My cousin flew 50 missions as a bombardier in B 17s in WWII. He gave me some of his strike photos and I have his list of missions. He didn’t tell me about how he was wounded but I was a little kid. I idolized him and pestered him for stories but he seemed cool about it all.
Kirk, I think it is something in the culture – perhaps a bit stronger in the military culture, but in the wider Western, Anglo culture as well; a concept that is passed on almost by osmosis. Being a braggart is bad. It is Just Not The Done Thing. There is almost this wordless disapproval of those who do; they’re a figure of fun in everything from commedia del arte, to PG Wodehouse books.
Weird little comment was once made to me by a friend of mine who was a Vietnam-era guy that had experienced a lot of the war very up-close and personal–As in, he’d been in several overrun situations with the Infantry unit he was attached to.
The comment ran along the lines that he’d had a much deeper and emotional connection with the men he’d killed within arm’s reach than he’d ever had or would have with any lover, and you just don’t share that kind of intimacy with strangers. The way he phrased it was simultaneously horrifying and desperately humorous, along the lines of “…you don’t share what it feels like to be (euphemism for making love to…) a woman with anyone but her, and you don’t share what it feels like to choke a guy to death that you just stuck something into, either. And, it’s a really awkward thing to bring up with him, after… People look at you funny…”.
As he told it, he’d had that experience with an NVA sapper that had infiltrated his firebase, and who he’d run into when the flares went up and he was coming back from the latrine late one night during guard duty. He’d left his weapon at his position, and all he had with him was the improvised sharpened pick they used for killing rats in the latrine trench–An E-tool with the shovel broken off and the pick sharpened for rat-duty.
At the time I was hearing all that, I thought that a.) he was a full-on BS artist, and that b.) he was a maudlin drunk. Years after, I met a guy who’d served with him in Vietnam, that confirmed the stories he’d told me as more-or-less accurate, and who also intimated, with a shudder, that I’d only heard the sanitized versions.
I did not feel the need to ask questions, ifyouknowwhatImeanandIthinkyoudo…
Only time that I heard those stories come out of him was when he was on one of his periodic (about every odd month…) binges. He wasn’t precisely an alcoholic, but you knew if he came back from the Class VI with a half-gallon handle of gin and a case of tonic water, you were in for a night of loud classic rock and memories rolling out, while he and another contemporary got things out of their systems. I don’t think either of them would have talked about this sort of thing with the younger guys like me, but the two of them together formed something of a critical mass of “old soldier”, and things came out. Most of us avoided them when they were in that mode, but since I was asocial as hell and didn’t own a car, they’d be knocking on my door, sure as sin…
I’ve often wondered what the hell he did after the Army, and where he wound up. He was a natural fit in a barracks, but civilian life? Can’t picture him there. At. All.
Basic training at Ft. Gordon, Fall of 1980. We had a “old” guy — probably mid-30s — who had everyone in the chain of command up to the 2-star base commander believing he’d been a combat Green Beret in Vietnam. Said he had to go back through Basic because he’d been out too long. (I know that does happen for real.) Was our recruit platoon leader & demonstrator on how to wear Class As. Anyway, about a week before we graduated, he borrowed $300 from someone and disappeared. That prompted the chain of command to look into his background. Turns out he’d never been more than a mechanic in Germany. And so it goes …
Kingsnake… And, nobody thought to look at his DD-214? Doesn’t surprise me, at all–We had a guy show up in Germany with a set of personnel records that indicated a whole lot of BS going on–He arrived wearing Staff Sergeant rank, orders said “Specialist 4th Class”, and the rest of his neatly typed personnel records showed a whole lot of awards and all kinds of other fun stuff like a Pathfinder Badge and Master Parachutist wings. Capper was that he’d given himself a Vietnam-era combat patch from the 173rd Airborne, and if he’d been there with them, he’d have had to have done it as a grade-schooler.
Those were the days of non-computerized, non-centralized records, and you PCS’d with your records in a sealed envelope. This character apparently decided to go all-out on the PX Ranger thing, and carefully rewrote his own record, resealing the envelope.
Which lasted right up until our Vietnam-era Operations NCO got a look at them, and went insane. You could hear the explosion in his office about five minutes after he started looking this guy’s paperwork over from outside the building, and by close of business, our hero had his appointments scheduled for the court martial that came flying down the pipeline at him. End of it all, he wound up in Mannheim awaiting transportation back to Leavenworth for about a five-year sentence. I forget what he did to compound the offense, but it turned into a lot more than just falsifying government records.
The funnies thing about the whole incident, aside from watching a Very Senior NCO go full-scale berserk and apoplectic? Week later, we had a very young-looking Sergeant walk in to the unit, wearing all the accoutrements of an SF trooper. I think you can imagine the likely reception he got, and the massive embarrassment of all concerned when it turned out that he was actually the real deal, funny green-colored hat and all.
That’s hilarious. Wish I’d been there to see the ops sergeant turn shades of red. I figure, yeah, it was eiter pre-computers or maybe he claimed his records got lost in the St Louis fire. So many basic stories. We had the goon platoon, so I just wanted to get out of there without the drill sergeant knowing my name …
Kingsnake… The hilarity was that poor bastard Green Beret. He walked into the unit the week after the first guy, completely clueless about it all, and the Operations NCO just looked up at him standing in the doorway and about to lost his mind.
He was convinced that this was the second guy showing up pulling the same crap, because the Green Beret-wearing Sergeant looked so damn young and unlikely. Yet, he was an actual SF-qualified guy who’d been in 10th SF Group in Maryland before being medically disqualified due to jump injuries–Which is how he wound up being re-assigned to a leg unit in the middle of Central Germany completely unexpectedly for all concerned.
“a serious bad-ass does not need to boast or demonstrate being a serious bad-ass. The men whom I knew for certain had serious cred that way were almost always rather quiet, soft-spoken guys. They certainly had no need of being a kind of military veteran social media Kardashian.”
There were several SEALS in my OCS company in the ’70s, fresh from 10 tours or-so in Vietnam. They very rarely said anything about it unless you asked, and even then they didn’t say much. In normal conversation you’re never guess how much they’d accomplished. Terrific men to serve with, the best.
Just watched an Amazon-Prime movie called “Memorial Day”. James Cromwell does a magnificent job as an old WWII soldier, now a grampa sitting on the front porch. I was initially going to pass because Cromwell is a noisy leftie, however the story was beautifully (if somewhat amateurishly) told.
My own service during the late eighties, early nineties was unique. I was basically a student for 6 years. Basic, DLI, USMAPS, USMA…. separated 30 days before graduation for having gotten married. (not an honor charge I admitted to it). I’m not even sure I could really say I was a soldier. I never even made it to a permanent party. I stand when veterans are asked to stand only because if I don’t my family will want to know why and the simple reason is that my service was insignificant to those that served and died in the service even in training.
To me guys that brag, regardless of whether they really met the elephant or not, are to be avoided like the plague.
I was born in the early 50’s and my dad was a WWII vet, as were the dads of almost every one of my friends. He talked very little about his experience other than to drop hints that it wasn’t a lot of fun. I was probably around age 30 or so when a conversation with one of his sisters alerted me to the fact that he had in fact been at or near the pointy tip of the spear from Normandy (not D-Day, thank God, but shortly after) as a ground pounder under Patton. His division was one of a handful singled out by Eisenhower at the end of the war and cited for the sustained combat they saw. As I said, he just didn’t talk about the experience. I do have a great photo of him leaning back against a tracked vehicle of some kind, elbows hiked back onto the track, covered in mud and wearing a .45 under each arm. 5’7″ and 135 lbs of badass. LOL.
I don’t think either of them would have talked about this sort of thing with the younger guys like me, but the two of them together formed something of a critical mass of “old soldier”, and things came out.
I wonder what got EB Sledge to write His book ?
Maybe off topic, but as a child my family visited an old guy we called Uncle Button. He had a set of brass knuckles on a shelf over the fireplace that fascinated me. I understood that he had used them in combat. I guess I was about five or six years old, that would have been around 1935. Uncle Button had served in the infantry during WWI. He never talked about his experiences, so far as I know. But I do recall that he was not anxious to repeat the service. He said “They’ll have to burn the woods and sift the ashes to find me for another war.”
I was never military, but I have known a fair few veterans. My experience fits the “guys who were the real deal don’t talk about it” mold. Almost without exception, they almost never talked about it. Of the few I personally heard talk about it, it was under fairly extreme provocation. I long ago learned this maxim through experience and have used it as a measuring stick throughout my life. As pointed out here, there are exceptions. I have never met any.
I served in the Army but if I mention it to somebody for the first time, I always say I didn’t deploy. I was in 69-71. 11B 71542.
I grew up in one of the massive suburbs slapped up after WW II for the millions of young guys with families getting started. My father was a vet as were all my uncles. Most of my friends were in the same situation. The gym teachers had a drill for getting us organized for cals which was straight out of Benning. Boy Scout leaders….. I’d heard some other troops were running squad drills in the woods, but I couldn’t confirm it.
We won the Second World War every third recess.
My fatber and his friends frequently told each other war stories of one or another branch and service and part of the world. This is when there were kids around. Lots about garrison.
But nothing heavy. How to tell a Browning thirty from a MG42 by the sound, break in a pair of boots, avoid M1 thumb, all that sort of stuff.
So, when it was our turn, it was….just another thing you have to do, like graduate high school. After some discussion, we agreed to do it the Army way, seeing as they set such store by it…and it was polite, as well, seeing as they were paying us, too.
Thirty years later, for some reason, it occurred to me to ask my father; “When you and your friends were talking about the war, you were talking to us, right?” He agreed. If you forgive a bit of historical foreshortening, they could think that….you graduate, they give a war. And they were right.
I learned later they talked about the heavy stuff with each other.
My mother’s stepdad was a little fellow, only stood about 5’5″ and weighed maybe 140 pounds as a 70 year old retiree.
PFC Oscar Ivan Potter, Company G, 2nd Battalion, 308th Infantry, 77th Division.
From 02 Oct 1918 until 08 Oct 1918, Private Potter and something less than 600 other soldiers of this battalion were cut off from Allied lines. They became known as the Lost Battalion. Their CO, a peace time lawyer and citizen-soldier, Major Whittlesey, had protested the orders to advance and ironically, became the only battalion commander in the 77th Div to actually enter the Argonne Forest to reach his assigned objective. Cut off and surrounded, under constant German artillery and infantry attack, he held his position until relieved on the 8th, by troops from the 1st Infantry Division (which, ironically, contained my dad’s stepfather, Fred Boyd).
Oscar was wounded, but was able to walk out, with less than a third of the men of the battalion who remained.
I never heard a word about that from Gramps. I only found out that he had been in this unit because my mother told me about it after I had been in the US Navy for more than a year. Sweet little man, loved a little whiskey and playing the ponies, and doted on his grandkids.
I was a child during WWII and knew a lot of guys who went away for years. When the war ended, my parents had big parties for the guys coming home. There is a photo of one of the parties here.
My cousin was a B 17 bombardier with 50 missions out of north Africa. He had a bunch of his strike photos he gave me and he talked a bit about it but I was only 8 in 1946 so I got a child version. I asked him who their escorts were and he said “P 38s and ME 109s.” He was wounded by shrapnel but not seriously. One of his buddies sent me his medals and then was shot down and lost before they arrived.
Another cousin, in recent years, talked about the war with me and was in the infantry at the northeast shoulder of the Bulge. He had frostbite that caused neuropathy in his legs the rest of his life.
One of the guys in that photo I linked, was shot down and spent a couple of years in a POW camp. His buddy in the camp was strafed on the ground after parachuting and lost an eye. He married his buddy’s sister after they got home.
And, nobody thought to look at his DD-214?
Kirk, we had a woman show up to Loring AFB in the early 90s who claimed to be a doctor. I would have to search for any details on the matter, but it took several weeks of borderline psychotic behavior before anyone with authority actually called and checked on her story/credentials. She was phony as a $3 bill.
Yeah, I suppose I should know better. While there are a bunch of guys like me and that Operations NCO who’d demand paperwork, there are just as many or more who would just take things at face value. I seem to remember reading of some military physician that was caught as a complete fraud, with zero college or medical training, and they’d let him do full-scale operational procedures at a fairly large military medical facility. I forget how he was caught, but it was something really inane, like dues for a professional association and a clerk who went “WTF? I can’t find this guy listed as a graduate…”.
Everybody has this image of the military as being this vast monolith of competence and organization, but… That’s no more of a reality than what you find in fairy tales. The number of really outrageous things I observed falling through the cracks would flatly blow your mind–Even Catch-22 fails to really outline the possibilities. Mostly because, as a novel, it has to make a narrative sense.
Reality does not. You try to impose order on it all, but… That turns out to be a really sad, sick joke when you’re living in it. You just avoid thinking about it, try to keep things vaguely in contact with reality around you, and just ignore the half-dozen odd things going on inside your observational sphere that are outside your control.
Here’s a truism that it took me many years to figure out and internalize: It really isn’t the “best military organization” that wins the wars. It is really more of a case of it being the “least bad military organization” that triumphs over all. If your service can’t manage to decide on a logical tactical system, you’re probably screwed going up against someone who has. If, on the other hand, you’re dealing with people who can’t even manage to keep their soldiers fed and watered in the combat zone, you’re almost certain to win. It is a comparative thing–As Moshe Dayan is supposed to have said at some point, the real secret behind Israeli military prowess is that they’re mostly fighting Arabs…
Major Whittlesey, he didn’t make it. I learned the story of the Lost Battalion as a boy. As a man I read the explicit version of they had undergone.
Yes, the major got a MOH. But, a few years later in civilian life he stepped off of an ocean liner and finally got some rest from those four days.
I volunteered for Army, August 1968 enlisted, age 17. Army sent me after advanced training to Southern Maryland (born in Md, not happy with this, coming back to my own state after such a commitment). I asked to go to Viet Nam, they sent me to Ethiopia (Eretria at the time was part of this country, I was in communications, and we had receiver station there). Then couple months, think 3, requested Viet Nam again. Finally there start 1970, extended three months. Arrived home after service end Mar 1971, told to remove all soldier clothing, keep to “street clothes”, before I went home. Paid my University education with GI bill. Happy to make the transaction. NOBODY wanted to know what I did there, or even if I was there. My family (dad Navy, his brothers Army, my older brother Army, though older brother came in after I was already there) understood. That was enough for me.
Do not need their or your recognition. Happy though now, when I mention, at request for my background, at the reply – “Thank you for your service”. It goes a long way. Any ghosts I have die with me. After Puerto Rican wife divorced me (27 years, 5 children, her dad was my Sergeant Major back in Maryland) because I was, AGAIN moving – we were in several countries, states in our time together; I left for Spain, then China – now married to Chinese wife, then Singapore, India, Nigeria, now in Virgin Islands. My life choices have worked for me. Nice life and 12 yr son; so who do I go to, to explain what I went through. I was not infantry, not front line. We do not need sympathy, just understanding. See much more today than 50 years ago, and happy to see. My DD214 is available to any who ask. Though it has handwritten note about my Army Commendation Medal that came in 07 May 1971, after my 09 March 1971 discharge. Understanding is great. Help is not needed. We can and have done it for 50 years now.
Re: Those who have seen the elephant up close and personal and not talking about it:
Purely fortuitous timing but yesterday doing some web surfing, I followed a link on the right side-bar on youtube to a BBC documentary from 2003, narrated by Jeremy Clarkson (Top Gear/ Grand Tour): Victoria Cross: For Valour.
He gives a history of the VC and talks about the then 15 surviving recipients, noting that most are reticent to talk about their events, and are humble about their actions. In particular he talks at length about the actions of Major Robert Cain of the South Staffordshire Regiment, which parachuted into a field 8 miles from the north end of the bridge at Arnhem, the ‘Bridge Too Far’ in September 1944.
Over 9 days, the Regiment fought with an SS Panzer division, and was unable to make it within a mile of the bridge which was its objective. Cain could have been awarded a VC for any one of a half dozen exploits during those days. He ensured that he was the last soldier when the remnants of the airborne force were evacuated across the Rhine.
After the war, Cain returned to his management job with Shell Oil and spent many years in Nigeria. He died in 1974.
And the tie-in? His family, including his daughter, who is married to Jeremy Clarkson, *never knew* that he was a recipient of the Victoria Cross, *until after his death*.
Gives extra meaning to the idea of humility and the concept of reticence.
Left out the link:
Curmudgeon, have you read the Andrew Wareham series of novels called “Innocents of War?” It is very well researched and I kept running to look up details, like rotary engines. All details checked out.
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