• Last modified 8044 days ago (June 11, 2002)
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Words on Andy's words

Whether you like him or not, you probably watch Andy Rooney each week on the CBS 60 Minutes program.

Andy is of our age, and generally our kind of guy. Some think he's too liberal while others contend he's too conservative. That probably pleases Andy who's a cantankerous curmudgeon.

As a community newspaper for more than half a century, we long ago learned that it isn't important that they love you, it's important that they read you.

A product of what we call the East Coast Establishment and the elite private schools and universities located there, Andy served as an enlisted man during what we call "The Big War." Immodestly he calls the book "My War."

First published in 1995, Andy re-published it following the recently revived interest in that topic, spurred by Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan" movie and Brokaw's book which dubbed ours "The Greatest Generation."

In his "Afterword" of the republished book Andy respects the movie but doesn't agree with Brokaw's assessment of our generation . . . though, you notice, Tom Brokaw was asked to write the foreward the second time around.

Rooney often refers to WWII veterans as survivors, which we are. He says future generations of Americans should "appreciate what they have in this country." He says they are things that were fought and died for by "our generation." And he's proud. So are we.

Andy thinks the present generation would rise to the cause the same as ours did, if they had the same reasons. Let's hope the world will never learn.

He said he "admired" Spielberg's movie more than he "enjoyed" it. "Being reminded of bad times in your life is not my idea of a good time."

Rooney clears the notion, too, that WWII vets were no different from those from the Vietnam war. "The terror of it returns to them in nightmares."

He mentions the change of pace in the movie at the end of the unrelentingly horrible scenes of the Normandy Invasion. Though he says he doesn't cry at movies, "at that point I began to sob."

"I could neither understand nor stop," Rooney wrote, "It was another example of the heart knowing something that the brain does not."

He went home from the movie theatre thinking about all the friends he never saw again . . . "all the good guys who never had the chance to live the good life I'm living."

Andy has no regard/respect for those few who allow it to be inferred that they fought in combat, hedgerow or foxhole, when they didn't. "Every veterans organization has some impostors."

He went to a dinner where individual veterans introduced themselves and were asked to name their unit and briefly describe their experience. It was moving, until one guy said he'd come ashore on "Omaha" D-Day with a division that Andy knows wasn't there until three weeks later.

"It may have been small of me," Andy says, "But I withheld my applause. I thought I owed it to the guys who did wade in June 6th."

On several of our 99th return trips to Europe we met with Oberst William Osterhold, the regimental commander of one of the units which hit us hard on Dec. 16, 1944. He shrugs it off when overzealous veterans stretch a story that needs no stretching. Osterhold has a little trap he uses to identify such offenders. He wouldn't describe it in detail, but assured us "You passed."

Rooney's book describes the times, both good and the bad. He tells of the Eighth Air Force losses and the young Americans who flew in those airplanes. He tells about D-Day, but skips the Battle of the Bulge because he was called Stateside during that time. But he rejoins us at Remagen and across Germany.

He asks what would have happened if the Germans had developed the atomic bomb before us. They were working on it. It could have happened. And would have, if GI soldiers hadn't prevented it.

His opinion is that the best books about World War II have been written because the only accurate report is from the people who were there. And fewer and fewer remain each day.

Now, when the modern warrior presses the button that sends a missile hundred or thousands of miles toward a target, it may cause the death of thousands whose faces he's never seen." And Andy completes his remarks by stating, "Those wars won't make good reading."

We urge you. Read "My War." Also, write your story for publication in the Checkerboard. You paid your dues in 44-45, but you also owe sharing your story with generations to come.