The Pittsburgh Press (March 23, 1944)
I DARE SAY —
The new usefulness
By Florence Fisher Parry
I am glad to see, at long last, in the news, admissions of our own losses. I think we are all beginning to realize that every time we read of 20,000 Nazis being killed here and 10,000 Japs being killed there, it means that the cost has been heavy in our own men, too.
It is disturbing to know that even after the fearful and costly bombing of Cassino, the Germans still were there, able to fight, able to put up grim and successful resistance.
Every day we read of more thousands of Nazis killed in Russia’s latest offensive. Every day we read that Berlin is a dead city, as well as most of her sister cities, but our losses are hidden in little, deceptive, obscure lines.
So it is more of a relief than a shock when we come upon a really unsparing analysis of our cost in bombers and fighters, and more important of all, in our men – the cost that we have sustained in the raiding of Berlin.
I do not know how realistically the British government deals with the RAF losses, but for months, we who have our own loved ones based in England and know they have been participating in this preliminary invasion – we have been angered by the deceptive “scores” that have been set down in the reports.
We read that we have lost “only” 193 planes to Germany’s 324 in the four daylight bombings of Berlin alone. But we know that the 324 German planes were single-seater fighters, and that the great majority of our own were heavy bombers carrying 10 or 11 men each.
The real loss
So, what the figures really mean is that in four Berlin raids, the Germans lost 324 small fighter planes and far fewer than that number of men, whereas we lost 1,494 airmen and $27.5 million worth of bombers and fighters! Seven million dollars a day and 376 airmen a day for four days over Berlin!
Yet this loss is as nothing compared with the truly horrible loss sustained in the early days of our air battle over Europe, when whole squadrons of our men were wiped out, and only a few of an entire group remained. That was at the beginning, when the terrible necessity of using our first fliers as guinea pigs for experimental flights had to be.
I never see a motion picture or a newsreel showing a flight formation five miles high that I do not find myself wondering what terra firma can ever offer to these birdmen, when the day comes for them to relinquish the fearsome challenge of the stratosphere! I am afraid we will have to give them a very splendid world; for it would be too much for them to have fought off their high weird kind of death successfully, only to descend into contemptable, dreary living again.
The other day I happened to be where a group of men my own age – and younger – were met together, a group composed of Veterans of Foreign Wars. Every man there had known both the flavor and the gall of combat, and has tasted of its dregs, when the cup was drunk and they were “returned to the peace” that they had fought to win.
And now, fathers themselves of young combatants deep in another and more fearsome war, they were facing an ordeal harder to bear than that which they, themselves, had endured 25 years ago! They were having to unlock that secret compartment of the past where they had packed away forever (or, so they had thought), the intolerable past. As fathers of these boys, as employers of these boys, as associates of these boys, come peace again, they would have to speak again that secret language of war and take these boys into that exclusive brotherhood which we, on the outside, call “war veterans,” but which could be another breed or men upon another planet!
And it seemed to me, looking at them, that the task ahead for them was very great, for they will be the only ones truly able to understand and ably help these boys who are even now being returned to us, casualties. They will be the only ones to whom our young veterans can speak the new and bitter language of war.
We would do well to look to these men, these veterans of other wars, for advice and guidance as we face post-war problems, for only they are in position to understand the haze and maze confronting our returned soldiers.
So, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Legionnaires, and every group of men who have known and who have spoken the language of the last war – your work is cut out for you! These kids will need your help and you can give it to them as can no other!