Sergeant Lee Merson writes home to his parents, expressing his anger with American profiteering and lack of support for soldiers in the field.
"Who will be interested in mere words when big money can be made- and the boys are dying in the Pacific."
Wed., September 21, 1941
What is going on there? Yesterday, my July 13 issue of Time1 arrived. Today, as I read it, it makes me sick and bitter, and fills my mind with unanswerable questions. The drive for scrap rubber is a "disappointing failure"; the sale of war bonds is 200 million per month below government expectations; aggressive war must wait until after the November elections; steel laborers seek a dollar-a-day increase in wages.
What kind of game is this that is being played in those United States? Is it that our invincible, our proud country? While all over the world men are being shot to pieces, other men- the steel, the aluminum, the textile, the rubber workers- are quibbling about dollars, and Washington is still activated by politicians.
Where is that common sense of which we Americans were once so proud? So they want a raise because the cost of living has risen; but isn't it evident to even the most selfish that any increase in consumer purchasing power must necessarily add still more to that cost of living? Or maybe the true fact underlying this "greatest" war effort is the very simple fact that everyone is out to get whatever he can from this unprecedented opportunity. With the aspects of inflation clearly in view, our selfish, bigoted "patriots" are willing to risk chaos and defeat- yes, defeat- because they won't believe there is a war in progress that might engulf them; they argue over something that in reality does not exist.
But those smug, complacent people are playing with human lives! The trickle of beautiful planes comes over and we look up and say to each other: "Just think of what a thousand, five thousand of them could do." You don't feel that; we do. The seamen whose ships have been blown from under them talk of the useless waste because helpless boats are not convoyed. You haven't spoken to such men, I have. The stunned, half-dead sailors adrift for weeks on a raft- you haven't seen them, I have. And "little steel" asks for an increase in wages.
Where is the conscience of America? Must another generation of young men suffer the same disillusionment as the previous generation did? Having been born in 1916, the last war is real to me only in what I have read and heard, and in what you have told me…
And all the while, the young gallant sailors and Marines and soldiers are dying in the Pacific, and in Ireland the boys wait with the realization that they may be the next. And we in the outposts who feel guilty because we are so far from the actual fighting, we sit and rot in stinking, malarial jungles and have time to think- and my mind becomes corroded with what I read. Those boys who are about to die, those who may be maimed, those who may live a lingering death with tropical disease, they as so little. They will fight for you if you but give them the weapons. They will die so that you may have pretty hopes and happy families, but don't let them lose faith.
Personally, I think we shall win this war but only after tens of thousands of people have been needlessly killed, but let me offer this warning: If this generation of soldiers returns home to a collapsed and chaotic economic system due to inflation or any other cause that might easily have been prevented had the people realized the dangers of their shortsightedness, we shall not stand docilely on street corners selling apples; we shall not ashamedly wait in line to receive bread. The American soldier is not a child who can easily be fooled, Dad; he is too well informed.
Is it asking too much of civilians to give up a little of their comfort so that some one else might win security for them? The President speaks of more and more sacrifices. Sacrifices- hell! Is it a sacrifice to defend one's self against impending disaster? What a ludicrous and tragic situation that soldiers must beg, actually beg, for arms to defend people who, by their very actions, don't seem to give a damn. The fine American institution of the Sunday motor trip is far more important than a boatload of supplies to the tankman and aviators in Egypt. Sacrifices? Look to the Chinese people and learn what the word truly means.
To you, Dad, I would give a firm handshake, and to Mother, a tender kiss, for I am very proud of you both. America is not the land of your birth but, in your wisdom and devotion in this country you love, you have become finer, more worthy citizens than a good majority of people who can trace their citizenship back several generations. Although Christianity is not you avowed faith, in you daily lives you prove that you are better Christians than many of those fine people who every Sunday attend that beautiful church on the corner several blocks away.
Yes, Dad, tell them that my mind is sick and bitter. Tell them that I want to believe in my country but find it increasingly difficult to believe in its people. But who will listen? Who will want to listen to a solitary soldier crying out for justice? Who will be interested in mere words when big money can be made- and the boys are dying in the Pacific.