Monday, 26 May 2008

Memorial Day 2008. "War is Hell"

I’ve heard the phrase “War is Hell” attributed to General, and later President, Ulysses S Grant.

But most likely it is from Civil War General W.T. Sherman. The following is attributed to a speech he gave to the Michigan Military Academy.

I’ve been where you are now and I know just how you feel. It’s entirely natural that there should beat in the breast of every one of you a hope and desire that some day you can use the skill you have acquired here.

Suppress it! You don’t know the horrible aspects of war. I’ve been through two wars and I know. I’ve seen cities and homes in ashes. I’ve seen thousands of men lying on the ground, their dead faces looking up at the skies. I tell you, war is Hell!

Sherman is not a hero in the South. His “march through Georgia” etc was cruel and mean. But he knew of what he spoke “War is Hell”.

Out of the American Civil War/War between the States, came Decoration Day - a day in which the survivors of the Confederacy and of the Union united by honouring the Graves of their beloved dead.

Decoration Day later became known as “Memorial Day” - a public holiday on the last Monday in May.

This year (2008) that day also fell on my birthday.

I took myself this morning to Arcadia in DeSoto County, some 35 miles east of SRQ.

There in the Oakridge Cemetery, are the graves of 23 Royal Air Force men, who died during World War II, in the course of their training as Pilots. They are honoured each year on Memorial Day, in a ceremony arranged by the Rotary Club of Arcadia.

It is a moving ceremony.

There was a lovely “twist” today. Arcadia is in “cowboy” country. It is a “right of centre”, and “redneck” town. It used to be a centre of K.K.K. activity.

The Mayor of Arcadia welcomed us today, and led us in the singing of “My country ‘t’is of thee”, and “God save the Queen”.

Here is the twist. The Mayor is African American. In Arcadia!

I was glad to honour the City of Arcadia, and the R.A.F trainee pilots today.


  1. Happy Birthday, Michael! :)

  2. That's lovely. It brought to mind the visit my mother and I paid to the American cemetery in Cambridge (UK, not MA), and her uncle's grave there. He was a pilot working with the RAF and died in a training flight crash. The caretaker of the cemetery treated us as honored guests; it was incredibly moving. I'm glad to hear of at least one British cemetery here where we Americans are returning the favor.