Some of the recommended Veterans Day reading that’s turning up on Twitter today, plus a few other Storyboard favorites:
“The bugle that sounded the end of the first World War,” by Kelly Whitson, Smithsonian:
When Hartley “Hot Lips” Edwards joined the Army in May 1918, he had never played the bugle in his life. A few months after joining the Army, Edwards was off to France to join General Pershing’s Regiment, where he would soon become the lead bugle in Pershing’s famous drum and bugle corps. In November 1918, in the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, General Pershing ordered Edwards to sound Taps. This command was a bit confusing to Edwards, as normally he only played that sad, soulful tune at funerals and at the end of the day.
In the last century, a few years of sodden slaughter in France and Flanders turned British poetry from Keatsian lyricism to raw, aghast reportage. Isaac Rosenberg’s poems, for instance, moved from prewar patriotic exultation—“Flash, mailed seraphim, / Your burning spears”—to, three years later, this numb, bone-dry mutter from the trenches: “Droll rat, they would shoot you if they knew / Your cosmopolitan sympathies.”
In Ivor Gurney’s “To His Love” you see the thing happening not in mid-career but in mid-poem—between lines, in a line break, specifically the last one. It’s the most astonishing line break I’ve ever encountered. It’s the sound of a culture’s poetic history cracking in half.
The World War II columns of Ernie Pyle. From “A Dreadful Masterpiece,” December 1940:
Someday when peace has returned to this odd world I want to come to London again and stand on a certain balcony on a moonlit night and look down upon the peaceful silver curve of the Thames with its dark bridges.
And standing there, I want to tell somebody who has never seen it how London looked on a certain night in the holiday season of the year 1940.
For on that night this old, old city – even though I must bite my tongue in shame for saying it – was the most beautiful sight I have ever seen.
It was a night when London was ringed and stabbed with fire.
They came just after dark, and somehow I could sense from the quick, bitter firing of the guns that there was to be no monkey business this night.
Shortly after the sirens wailed I could hear the Germans grinding overhead. In my room, with its black curtains drawn across the windows, you could feel the shake from the guns. You could hear the boom, crump, crump, crump, of heavy bombs at their work of tearing buildings apart. They were not too far away.
Half an hour after the firing started I gathered a couple of friends and went to a high, darkened balcony that gave us a view of one-third of the entire circle of London.
As we stepped out onto the balcony a vast inner excitement came over all of us – an excitement that had neither fear nor horror in it, because it was too full of awe.
The Face of War, by Martha Gellhorn. From “The Third Winter:”
In Barcelona, it was perfect bombing weather. The cafés along the Ramblas were crowded. There was nothing much to drink; a sweet fizzy poison called orangeade and a horrible liquid supposed to be sherry. There was, of course, nothing to eat. Everyone was out enjoying the cold afternoon sunlight. No bombers had come over for at least two hours.
The flower stalls looked bright and pretty along the promenade. “The flowers are all sold, Señores. For the funerals of those who were killed in the eleven o’clock bombing, poor souls.”
It had been clear and cold all day yesterday and probably would be fair from now on. “What beautiful weather,” a woman said, and she stood, holding her shawl around her, staring at the sky. “And the nights are as fine as the days. A catastrophe,” she said, and walked with her husband toward a café.
Pat Barker’s Regeneration, a World War II fiction trilogy:
I am a soldier, convinced that I am acting on behalf of soldiers. I believe that this war, upon which I entered as a war of defence and liberation, has now become a war of aggression and conquest. I believe that the purposes for which I and my fellow soldiers entered upon this war should have been so clearly stated as to have made it impossible to change them, and that, had this been done, the objects which actuated us would now be attainable by negotiation.
I have seen and endured the suffering of the troops, and I can no longer be a party to prolong these sufferings for ends which I believe to be evil and unjust.
I am not protesting against the conduct of the war, but against the political errors and insincerities for which the fighting men are being sacrificed.
“Digging JFK Grave Was His Honor,” by Jimmy Breslin, New York Herald Tribune:
Yesterday morning, at 11:15, Jacqueline Kennedy started toward the grave. She came out from under the north portico of the White House and slowly followed the body of her husband, which was in a flag-covered coffin that was strapped with two black leather belts to a black caisson that had polished brass axles. She walked straight and her head was high. She walked down the bluestone and blacktop driveway and through shadows thrown by the branches of seven leafless oak trees. She walked slowly past the sailors who held up flags of the states