"Blood, Salt and Tears"

29 Jul 2003|Darrel Rhea

After almost 50 years of keeping his World War II experiences close to his chest, my Dad has written a book about his Navy adventures in the South Pacific. He does a great job of creating context and providing the history of the war, and provides personal sea stories that range from humorous coming-of-age events to moving accounts of the pain and horrors of war. (“Blood, Salt and Tears” has not been published yet.)

We see the war through the eyes of a teenager who comes-of-age driving landing craft in the first-wave assaults on islands. If you saw “Saving Private Ryan,” you’ve got a vivid picture of the frightening experience of dropping the front loading ramp to a barrage of bullets. Because of his heroism and skill, he was plucked from this duty with its very short life expectancy, and made skipper of the personal launch for the Admiral Turner who commanded the whole shootin match in the Pacific. Many important meetings of the war between the generals, admirals and Washington brass took place on his small boat as it circled off the islands for privacy, while my father silently stood stone-faced at the wheel. He saw history being made — the petty power politics between powerful old men, the blunders that cost thousands of lives, the hard realities and loneliness of leadership.

The world he experienced is impossible for us punks to comprehend. For example, I watched the movie “The Pianist” last night, but the horror of that world is so far away from my idealistic cushy life that, while emotionally moving to me, it feels like a movie about the middle ages. (And yet, at the end of the movie, it tells us that the German General died in a prisoner of war camp… on the year I was born. You and I are products of that horrible world.)

I’m so proud of my Dad for giving his all in this effort, and thankful that he survived to give me life.

If you know a vet, please, stop and take the time to acknowledge their sacrifices. Most of the WW II vets won’t be around long. Many still awake in terror or suffer the pain and sadness of loss from their ordeal. What they and their generation accomplished changed the world — and for most of you reading this — made it a safe place for you to grow up to be who you are, and have what you have today. 50 million people died for this imperfect but purged world. Just say thanks.

My neighbor is Erik Jendresen, the Emmy winning screen writer that was lead writer for the acclaimed series “Band of Brothers” and many major movies and plays. He is currently working on a series for Spielberg and Tom Hanks on the war in the Pacific, and is looking over Dad’s book for material. How exciting it is to have the possibility of Dad’s stories being included in a $100 million dollar Hollywood production is so exciting, and would be such an appropriate tribute for the man I admire so much. The same team did “Saving Private Ryan” too. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, and I think I’ll take a six pack to Eric this weekend…

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