Monday, June 28, 2004

The Good War

I was just thumbing through the introduction to Charles Willeford's novel, The High Priest of California, and I was taken with a quote by the late Mr. Willeford regarding his tenure in the military during WWII. For those of you who don't know who Willeford was, he was one of the best practioners of the hardboiled genre during its heyday. He's probably best known for his Hoke Moseley series, including Miami Blues, which was made into a film in 1990 starring Fred Ward as Moseley, and co-starring Alec Baldwin and Jennifer Jason Leigh. Pretty good stuff, although the book is far better. Anyway . . . here's the quote:

"A good half of the men you deal with in the Army are psychopaths. There's a pretty hefty overlap between the military population and the prison population, so I knew plenty of guys like Junior in Miami Blues and Troy in Sideswipe. Like, some of these other Tankers I knew used to swap bottles of liqor with infantrymen in exchange for prisoners, and then just shoot 'em for fun. I used to say, 'Goddamn it, will you stop shooting those prisoners!' And they would just shrug and say, 'Hell, they'd shoot us if they caught us!' Which was true, they used to shoot any Tankers they captured. So that of behavior became normal to them, and I used to wonder, 'What's gonna happen to these guys when they go back into civilian life? How are they gonna act?' You can't just turn it off and go to work in a 7-11. If you're good with weapons or something in the Army, you're naturally gonna do something with weapons when you get out, whether it's being a cop or a criminal. These guys learned to do all sorts of things in the Army that just weren't considered normal by civilian standards."

So here's to the Good War. May there be many more!

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