The War, Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s monumental 2007 television production, has recently been shown again. The War follows 40+ persons from 1941 to 1945, focusing on the citizens of four American communities. The book companion to the series is The War; An Intimate History, 1941-1945, by Geoffrey C. Ward and Burns. The words and photographs of two of the men who appear throughout -- Quentin C. Aanenson of Minnesota and Eugene Bondourant Sledge of Alabama – are particularly poignant, especially episode five –“FUBAR -- fucked up beyond all repair.”
In 1994 I chanced upon a brief television interview of Aanenson describing A Fighter Pilot’s Story, a VHS production he had created. I was so impressed with this compassionate man that I asked the editor of The Library Journal, for which I reviewed videos and books, to consider it for LJ Reviews. My review began:
“Using personal photos, combat film, period music and correspondence, 73-year old Aanenson created this masterwork to explain his World War II combat experience to his family. The ‘story’ is of a 20-year old Army Air Corps enlistee as he learned to fly the P-47 Thunderbolt, met his future spouse, was commissioned, and flew European missions. This touching first-person narrative conveys the emotional and physical transformation wrought by the brutality of war. A young man ‘nearly lost all hope.’ ”
Aanenson, now an elder, appeared again, in The War, as both a narrator and fighter pilot. The production team wisely used his military footage and personal films, diary entries and letters to convey the tragic story of one man's war from a very personal viewpoint. For pilot Quentin Aanenson, combat brought moments of intense anguish. He remembered one mission when his plane's machine gun fire sent the bodies of German soldiers flying. "When I got back home to the base in Normandy and landed, I got sick," he says. "I had to think about what I had done… that didn't change my resolve for the next day. I went out and did it again and again and again and again." Aanenson died in 2008 (cancer).
Eugene Bondourant Sledge was Sledgehammer to his fellow rifle company Marines, and he was E. B. Sledge as author of With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa. Sledge prefaced his book, “My Pacific war experiences have haunted me, and it has been a burden to retain this story. …I’m fulfilling an obligation I have long felt to my companions in the lst Marine Division, who suffered so much for our country. None came out unscathed.”
Today not many Americans can comprehend (let alone pronounce) what happened in places called Bouganville, Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, Morotai, Noumea, Palau, Pavuvu, Peleliu, Okinawa (other than The Teahouse of the August Moon perhaps), Tarawa. Sledge took the reader into “the abyss of Pelelui” and on to “the bloody muddy month of May on Okinawa” that almost drove him insane. Fifty years later he still had nightmares. Supposed to take three or four days, it lasted almost two months, one of the worst slaughters of Marines in the Pacific.
“As I looked at the stains on the coral, I recalled some of the eloquent phrases of politicians and newsmen about how ‘gallant’ it is for a man to ‘shed his blood for his country’ and ‘to give his life’s blood as a sacrifice,’ and so on. The words seemed so ridiculous. Only the flies benefited… None of us would ever be the same after what we had endured. To some degree that is true, of course, of all human experience. But something in me died at Peleliu. Perhaps it was a childish innocence that accepts as faith the claim that man is basically good. Possibly I lost faith that politicians in high places who do not have to endure war’s savagery will ever stop blundering and sending others to endure it.” Sledge died in 2001 (cancer).
After World War II, I began to reject that giving their lives phrase. I say taking their lives, and I get a questioning look.
I was living in the Unites States during World War II, contemporary with these then-young heroes. Three of my friends had already enlisted. One, a Nisei, stationed in cold Minnesota was teaching Japanese language to soldiers. Another was shipped overseas in the depths of the Queen Elizabeth and stationed on General Eisenhower’s clerical staff, diving into a rain-filled fox hole during nightly air-raids. The third, with an incredibly high IQ, was assigned to type and transport. They used their GI Bills: Hisako, now retired, earned an M.S.; Justine attended college but dropped out; Dorothy, a retired PhD professor, is a nursing home resident (cancer.) I sent soap and stockings to my English Red Cross club counterpart, evacuated from London, already losing her hearing in the bombings, and she squeezed handwriting onto both sides of scraps of paper. We became lifelong friends until her death in 1985 (cancer).
The RMS Queen Elizabeth was launched in 1938 with luxury accommodations for 2,283. During her World War II career, the “grey ghost” ferried service personnel across the Atlantic without convoy, zigzagging every 7 minutes, with no air-conditioning and very little ventilation, usually in 6 days. On most voyages as a converted troop ship, she carried between 13,000 and 15,000 persons, with lifeboat accommodations for 8,000.
On one trip in 1944, 500 WAACs (later, the Women’s Army Corps) and 18,000 men were crammed onboard. An enlistee recalled “To conserve fresh water, we washed with salt water, and I bunked with the four other women officers in a former bathroom, on the bottom underneath four hammocks. … arrived about a week later in Scotland to the news that the European invasion had begun.” Thirty of these women were assigned to the 5th Army Airways Communications System to provide air traffic control for the 8th Air Force.
From the Berkeley City Council, September 20, 2011. Item #52 Action Calendar:
“…. Staff has received complaints from the taxi using public about, and also witnessed, a variety of issues related to taxi operations. … Such situations include: smoking in the vehicle, refusal of short fares, reckless driving, obstructing traffic, failure to yield to pedestrians, aggressive behavior, unpermitted use of residential streets for vehicle maintenance and storage, owners allowing unpermitted drivers to operate vehicles, owners allowing drivers to operate unpermitted vehicles, offensive treatment of female customers and female pedestrians.” [sic] This suggests that there have been no complaints regarding offensive treatment of aged customers, which is not the case.
Census data show seniors continue to suffer in silence. New data from the U.S. Census Bureau show that the overall number of older adults living in poverty has increased. Even more significant is the number of seniors who have experienced an increase in economic
Insecurity or those simply living on the edge. Seniors with incomes below 200% of the federal poverty level rose from 33.7% to 34.6% since 2009.
Coming soon: a national strategy on Alzheimer’s. People concerned about AD and its effect on families, the health care system and the country as a whole have lobbied for years for a national action plan. Advocates celebrated in December 2010, when Congress passed the National Alzheimer’s Project Act, aimed at developing such a plan, although the bill had no budget appropriation; President Obama signed it into law in January.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR: Be sure to confirm. Readers are welcome to share by email news of future events that may interest boomers and seniors. Daytime, free, and Bay Area events preferred. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesday, Oct. 5. 9 A.M. – 1:30 P.M. AARP Driver Safety Refresher Course.
Designed for motorists who are 50+, taught in one-day. To be eligible, you must have taken the standard course within the last 4 years. Preregistration required. $12 per person fee for AARP members; $14 per person fee for non-AARP members. MastickSenior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. 510-747-7506.
Wednesday, Oct. 5. 10:30 A.M. Mastick Senior Center. 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. Balance Your Walk with the Alexander Technique. Lenka Fejt, certified teacher. This 6-part workshop on the Alexander Technique has begun. Prepaid fee of $60. 510-747-7506. Also Oct. 12.
Wednesday, Oct. 5. 12 Noon – 1 P.M. Playreaders. Meets weekly on Wednesdays to read great plays aloud, changing parts frequently. Intended for adult participants. Central Berkeley Public Library. 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6100. Also Oct. 12,19, and 26.
Wednesday, Oct. 5. 12:15 P.M. – 1 P.M. Noon Concert Series Performing Arts - UC,B Hertz Concert Hall. Felicia Chen, soprano; Daniel Alley, piano. Jason Yu, piano. Tickets not required. 510-642-4864.
Wednesday, Oct. 5. 6 P.M. – 8 P.M. Alameda County Library, Albany branch. 1247 Marin Ave. Lawyer in the Library. Free 15 minute consultation with an attorney. Sign up in person at the Reference desk or call 510-526-3720 ext. 5 during library hours.
Thursday, Oct. 6. 10 A.M. – 1 P.M. Lavender Seniors of the East Bay’s Annual Aging in Place Symposium & Resource Fair for Older Adults. Marina Community Center, 15301 Wicks Blvd., San Leandro. Refreshments, entertainment. Free. Dan Ashbrook at 510-667-9655 Ext 1. Email email@example.com.
Thursday, Oct. 6, 12:15 P.M. – 1 P.M. West Edge Opera presents highlights from their upcoming production of Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6100.
Thursday, Oct. 6. 6 P.M. Lawyers in the Library. Berkeley Public Library South branch. 1901 Russell. 510-981-6100. Also Oct. 13.
Mondays, Oct. 10, 17, 24. 11:10 A.M. – 1 P.M. Introduction to Video Production. Learn video camera, script writing, storyboarding, basic lighting and sound. Produce a newscast and a short documentary. No experience required. Equipment provided. Graduate to the advanced class on October 31, 1:00 P.M.-3:00 P.M. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. 510-747-7506.
Monday, October 10. 7 P.M. Kensington Library’s Knitting Club – “The Castoffs.” 61 Arlington Av. All levels are welcome and some help will be provided. Free. Contact: Louise O’Dea, 524-3043, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesday, Oct. 11. 1 P.M. Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST)
Marilyn Ababio and Dorothy Ridley, POLST representatives inform about POLST, a form that spells out the medical treatment you desire during the end of your life + question and answer period. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. 510-747-7506.
Tuesday, Oct. 11. 7 P.M. Latin American Music, with. Rafael Manriquez and Ingrid Rubis. Kensington Library, 61Arlington Avenue. Free. 510-524-3043.
Wednesday, Oct. 12. 12:15 P.M. – 1 P.M. Noon Concert Series Performing Arts - UC,B Hertz Concert Hall. Andrea Wu, piano. Tickets not required. 510-642-4864.
Wednesday, Oct. 12. 6:30 P.M. – 8 P.M. Drop-In Poetry Writing Workshops. Free. Albany branch of the Alameda County library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720.
Thursday, Oct. 13. 10 A.M. Computers for Beginners. Central Berkeley Public Library. 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6100. Also Oct. 20 and 27.
Thursday, Oct. 13. 10:30 A.M. New Member Orientation & YOU! Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. Guided tour outlining the various activities, programs, and services, and a coupon to enjoy a complimentary lunch provided by Bay Area Community Services (BACS)! Make a reservation by visiting the Mastick Office or calling 510-747-7506.
Saturday, Oct. 15. 11 A.M. Landlord/Tenant Counseling. Central Berkeley Public Library. 2090 Kittredge. 510- 981-6100.
Monday, Oct. 17. 9:30 A.M.- 12:30 P.M. Beaded Jewelry Making. Rose O’Neill, Custom Jewelry Designer. Beads and tools will be supplied. Limited to 10 students. $15 per person. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. 510-747-7506. (Also Mondays, Nov 21 and Dec 19.)
Monday, Oct. 17. 2 P.M.-3:30 P.M. Queue Rolo, M.A., M.S., Museum Studies, SFSU, will present “W.A.Leidesdorff: America’s 1st Black Millionaire.” Free for OLLI and Mastick Senior Center members. MastickSenior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. 510-747-7506.
Tuesday, Oct. 18. 12:30 P.M. San Francisco Gray Panthers General Meeting: Program to be announced. Location: Fireside Room, Unitarian Center, 1187 Franklin St. at Geary, # 38 bus. 415-552-8800. email@example.com, http://graypantherssf.igc.org/
Wednesday, Oct. 19. 12:15 P.M. – 1 P.M. Noon Concert Series Performing Arts - UC,B Hertz Concert Hall. University Gospel Chorus - Another Day's Journey. Tickets not required. 510-642-4864.
Wednesday, Oct. 19. 1:30 P.M. Alameda County Library San Lorenzo branch, 395 Paseo Grande. 510-670-6283. Social Security Administration Public Affairs Specialist Mariaelena Lemus will address older adults’ questions and present information specifically for them. Program repeats at other branches through December. No reservations required. Free. Library Older Adult Services at 510-745-1491.
Wednesday, Oct. 19. 7 P.M. – 8 P.M. The Bookeeper’s Apprentice, by Laurie R. King. Book discussion. Alameda County Library Albany Branch, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720. (On Sunday, Oct. 23 @ 2 PM, the author will read and talk. Albany Community Center.)
Thursday, Oct. 20. 6 P.M. Lawyers in the Library. Berkeley Public Library West branch. 1125 University. 510-981-6270. Also Oct. 27.
Sunday, Oct. 23. 2 P.M. – 3 P.M. The Albany Library (1247 Marin Av.) presents Laurie King, the author of Albany Reads book, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice. Community Center Hall. 510-526-3720.
Mondays, Oct. 24, 26 and 31. 10A.M. – 12 Noon. Oliver Guinn, Ph.D Economics, returns to teach “Our Damaged Economy: The Financial Meltdown and Economic Inequality.” Free. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. 510-747-7506.
Monday, Oct. 24. 7 P.M. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Av. Book Club. Pudd’nhead Wilson, Mark Twain’s most overt treatment of the moral and societal implictions of slavery in America. Free. Contact: Louise O’Dea, 524-3043, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesday, Oct. 25. 1 P.M. AC Transit and YOU! Representatives from United Seniors of Oakland and Alameda County will inform about the Regional Transit Connection (RTC) Discount Card Program and the Clipper Card, route changes, and the 10-year AC Transit Fare Policy. Refreshments. Free. MastickSenior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. 510-747-7506.
Tuesday, Oct. 25. 3 - 4 P.M. Tea and Cookies. Central Berkeley Public Library. A book club for people who want to share the books they have read. Central Berkeley Public Library. 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6100.
Wednesday, Oct. 26. 12:15 P.M. – 1 P.M. Noon Concert Series Performing Arts - UC,B Hertz Concert Hall. Tony Lin, piano. Tickets not required. 510-642-4864.
Wednesday, Oct. 26. 1:30-2:30 P.M. Alameda County Library Albany branch. 1247 Marin Av. Great Books Discussion Group. Roman Fever, Edith Wharton short story. Facilitated discussion. Books available at the Library. Parking! 510-526-3720 x 16.
Wednesday and Thursday, Oct. 26/Sacramento and 27/South San Francisco, 2011 .
"Dementia Care Without Drugs - A Better Approach for Long-term Care Facilities" symposia about misuse of psychotropic drugs as treatment for dementia, difficulty in managing dementia treatment, and non-pharmacological approaches to care. CANHR staff attorney Tony Chicotel presentation, "Stop Drugging Our Elders!" California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform http://www.canhr.org. 415-974-5171. Fax 415-777-2904.
Thursday, Oct. 27. 12:30 P.M. Celebrating a birthday in October? Cake, music,
balloons, and good cheer. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. . 510-747-7506.
Thursday, Oct. 27 1 P.M.- 3 P.M. Fall Dance…Halloween Stomp. Come in costume
to be eligible for “best costume award”, enjoy door prizes, and refreshments. Volunteers enter free with volunteer badge. Cost is $2.00 per person. . Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. 510-747-7506.
Thursday, Oct. 27 1:30 P.M. Music Appreciation with William Sturm, Volunteer Instructor. Piano recital and discussion on “The Sceptered Isle: Music of England”. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. 510-747-7506.
Saturday, Oct. 29. 12:15 P.M. Halloween Bingo Bash. Patrons will receive a free Halloween dauber (ink marker) compliments of Center Advisory Board and Bingo Committee. Doors open at 10:00 a.m. with the first game at 12:15 P.M. 18 years of age+ are welcome. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av. 510-747-7506.