man does not use good iron for nails, nor good men for soldiers.”
New York Times,
August 7, 2005, carries a story by Damien Cave entitled, “Where
are the War Heroes?”
in Iraq, as in other American wars, has produced its share of heroic
acts by both men and women. What is different is the way in which
the political establishment chooses to handle these deeds, much
to the “discouragement” of many in the military.
declared war in 1941, our numerous interventions since then, now
proclaimed as “preemptive” strikes against non-existent Weapons
of Mass Destruction, have drawn protests and divided the nation.
Publicizing heroes means calling attention to the horrors of war.
All of this is creating something of a legitimacy crisis for the
Empire, and the whole mode of counterinsurgency warfare. Some military
critics of the war such as William E. Lind, have tried to square
the circle by attempting to develop what they have termed “Fourth
Generation Warfare,” a sort of “kinder, gentler” Counterinsurgency
picture of Audie Murphy, the most decorated American soldier in
World War II, reminded me of my friend and coauthor, Nathaniel Weyl,
who died several months ago at the age of 94 (see the NYT
Obit for May 8). To some extent, Nathaniel helped originate the
legend of Audie Murphy. He is most remembered, of course, for his
role in revealing Alger Hiss as a Communist, and for his book, Red
Star Over Cuba (1960).
One day as
we were working together on American Statesmen on Slavery and
the Negro (1971), later selected by Choice, the library
journal, as one of the ten outstanding history books of that year
(Lew Rockwell was our editor), Nate showed me a clipping of an article
from a Seattle newspaper, written by an old WWII buddy, turned columnist.
As his literary executor, I have searched for that piece, but conclude
that, if Nate kept it, it is among those papers he donated to the
Hoover Institution some years ago.
described Cpl. Weyl, scrawny, with helmet askew, as one of the most
unlikely looking soldiers in the American Army. Nate had resigned
his position as an economist in the Federal government to join the
Army. His job was to write up the commendations for the medals given
to the combat soldiers in the Third Division of General George S.
Patton’s, Third Army.
One day, his
superior, a Major Blossom (sp.?) in one of those large PR units,
well described by Cave’s article, called Nate to his office. “Weyl,”
he said, “as you are aware, we are the most decorated Division in
the Third Army, and it is the most decorated among all of America’s
fighting forces. Only one thing is missing. We must also have the
most decorated soldier! He, must, however, be legitimate! Your job
is to find him.”
As Nate dug
through all of the records of heroism, many of which he had written
up, two outstanding candidates emerged, whom he then interviewed.
The first was a Captain, who was daring, but rather, in Nate’s assessment,
seemed to enjoy war and killing. The problem was eliminated when
the officer was killed in action, as Nate had imagined might occur.
That left a
young enlisted man from Texas. Well, as we now know, it never hurts
the cause of a real hero to have a good wordsmith writing up your
In fact, Nate
told me Audie was quite modest about it all. In the film, “To Hell
and Back,” he is shown for a short time out on a burning tank, filled
with fuel, while in reality it was for a much longer time, with
his buddies urging him to get off. Murph became a heck of a recruiter
for the Army after he was wounded.
with Vietnam and today is stark. I recall in 1966 taking an Air
Force recruiter to lunch. His table had been very much ignored by
the Florida Atlantic University students. I told him I had led protests
against our intervention there, but that I understood his situation,
and wanted to learn what I could about what was really going on
After a couple
of beers, he seemed to come emotionally unglued. I have no reason
to doubt what he said was true. It seems he was the only survivor
from a squadron ordered to take out a bridge, ordered by LBJ because
it had been built by the French with Marshall Plan funds. Flying
into that river valley meant facing thousands of rifles firing from
the banks as the Vietnamese came to understand our intentions. The
Air Force did not succeed in that mission.
I was left
wondering, did the Air Force have any inkling of the feelings of
this young pilot sent out as a recruiter? What if I had been an
FAU student wondering about joining up?
has become an increasing problem for the Empire these days, as the
deceptions, going back many years now, are creating a growing crisis,
in an American legitimacy, once believed by a great majority of
our nation, and which was the fundamental source of a once real
American Power. Gone are the days of heroic recruiters like Audie.
And, it certainly didn’t hurt that Audie’s trip into Hell was written
up by what I would suggest was the “best damn medal writer in the
American Army,” my friend, Nathaniel
Marina [send him mail]
is Professor Emeritus in History at Florida Atlantic University,
a Research Fellow of the Independent Institute, Oakland, CA, and
Executive Director of the Marina-Huerta Educational Foundation.
He lives in Asheville, NC.