All WWII vets were not saints

I follow someone on twitter who uses the handle Screwed by State.  He (or she) seems like quite a consistent libertarian on most issues and I’d urge people to follow him to get the latest on the battle over Net neutrality and other topics.  However, he tweeted something this morning that bothered me.  It was this picture:

An American sailor of the U.S. Navy rings in 1942 with a companion while on leave. New York City, New York, U.S.A. 31 December 1941. Image taken by Otto Bettmann.:

and the tweet was “A sailor on leave with his girl, New Years eve, New York, 1941.”  A quick google search reveals he copied this image from Pinterest and the caption there is “An American sailor of the U.S. Navy rings in 1942 with a companion while on leave. New York City, New York, U.S.A. 31 December 1941. Image taken by Otto Bettmann.”

So there is no evidence that the woman in this picture was the sailor’s “girl” unless  “girl” means the woman he was drinking with on New Year’s Eve in New York City.  Screwed by State apparently wants his followers to imagine this was some brave soldier having one last romantic evening with his future wife before he went off to war to defend his friends and family from the evil Nazis.  It’s at least as likely this is just some woman out having a good time who was attracted to a man in uniform.  I’d say there is probably about a 50% chance these two never saw each other again after New Year’s Day 1942.

Now I don’t care if young men and women want to have a few drinks and sleep together. More power to them as far as I’m concerned.  But why do Americans of seemingly every political outlook have to go around canonizing soldiers, particularly those from the “greatest generation”? Why do so many people assume that American soldiers in the 1940’s were the one military in all of human history who were well behaved and never did anything bad or immoral.  If you saw this same picture, but the man was in regular street clothes, would you really jump to the conclusion that this couple was in some committed relationship?

I have news for you.  Servicemen from World War II weren’t all brave.  They weren’t all good.  Most of them never fought anybody.  They certainly weren’t defending America as they rampaged through Asian jungles or the European countryside thousands of miles from home.

Here are some other images people might want to take a look at:

In this undated image released by the Yokosuka City Council in Japan, U.S. sailors gather in front of a Yasu-ura House “comfort station” in Yokosuka, south of Tokyo.

By the late summer of 1944, soon after the Invasion of Normandy, women in Normandy began to complain about rapes by American soldiers. Hundreds of cases were reported.

During the Second World War, the demand from servicemen grew so large that most of the better brothels on Hotel Street simply stopped seeing local men altogether.  To speed things along, a “bull pen” system was instituted:  Hawaiian matrons guarded the doors, turning away any man who was drunk or looked like a troublemaker.  Each then paid his fee and received a poker chip, then waited for an available room where he undressed and waited for the whore who was working in the next room; she would come in, collect her chip, inspect him for signs of venereal disease, quickly wash him and do her work.  He had three minutes to achieve release, after which she said “aloha” and was off to the next room while he washed up and got dressed.  Most brothels required girls to see at least 100 men a day and to work at least 20 days per month

So there are just a few examples of some unsavory behavior by our sainted WWII veterans.  The point isn’t that American soldiers are exceptionally bad.  They’re just not exceptionally good despite all the propaganda.  That includes the “Good War.”  Give a bunch of 18-26 year old men guns and tell them to invade and occupy some foreign country and it will be the same thing every time.  Some will rape women.  A small number will commit war crimes.  A lot will visit prostitutes.  Don’t pretend otherwise just because they wear an American Flag patch on their shoulder.

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