Jay and others have already noted the recent death of Studs Terkel. As probably his biggest fan, (a highlight of my life was asking Studs a question when he did a reading at the Milwaukee Public Library about 5 years ago), I could probably say a lot. But in the spirit of Studs, I will let others do the talking.
This is an excerpt from what I think is about his most powerful interview out of thousands. The interview was in The Good War, published in 1985 and winner of a Pulitzer Prize.
The words are not from Studs, of course, but an interviewee named Gene LaRocque. What the man had to say may not please some who worship war, and may anger the grieving mothers of dead soldiers. But LaRocque --a retired Navy admiral whose thirty years of experience include surviving Pearl Harbor in December, 1941, the battles for the Marshall Islands, and Vietnam -- is entitled to his opinion.
The genius of Studs was to hear from people when they were wise.
“Since World War Two, we began to use military force to get what we wanted in the world. That’s what military is all about. Not long ago, the Pentagon proudly announced that the U.S. had used military force 215 times to achieve its international goals since World War Two. The Pentagon likes that: military force to carry out national will. Of course there are nuclear weapons now. . .
"I was in Vietnam. I saw the senseless waste of human beings. I saw this bunch of marines come off this air-conditioned ship. Nothing was too good for our sailors, soldiers, and marines. We send ‘em ashore as gung ho young nineteen-year-old husky nice-looking kids and bring ‘em back in black rubber body bags. There are little pieces left over, some entrails and limbs that don’t fit in the bags. Then you take a fire hose and you hose down the deck and push that stuff over the side. . .
"For about twenty years after the war, I couldn’t look at any film on World War Two. It brought back memories that I didn’t want to keep around. I hated to see how they glorified war. In all those films, people get blown up with their clothes and fall gracefully to the ground. You don’t see anybody being blown apart. You don’t see arms and legs and mutilated bodies. You see only an antiseptic, clean, neat way to die gloriously. I hate it when they say, “He gave his life for his country.” Nobody gives their life for anything. We steal the lives of these kids. We take it away from them. They don’t die for the honor and glory of their country. We kill them.”