Friday, May 22, 2009

We Weren't Alway Terrorized

You Choose: Cowardly or Gutless?
It’s amazing how far our leaders have slithered down the scale of human dignity since I was a little kid in World War II.
Our Astoria neighbor Sal Domenico came home from the service brimming with war stories--though not quite heroic tales of combat. He supervised the repair of army trucks in Texas. His workers were German and Italian prisoners. “Weren’t you scared of them, Sal,” I asked? “Nah,” he said, “they were regular guys. If one of them got out of line, I whacked him with a stilson wrench.”
Converted luxury liners ferried millions of our troops to battle in Europe. On the way back, they carried the losers in those battles--hundreds of thousands of German, Italian and Austrian POWs. When Rommel’s elite Afrika Corps surrendered en masse, its ranks were sent to sit out the war here in America. Another huge bunch came in after D Day. In all, we took in four hundred thousand prisoners--lots of them nasty and murderous Nazi fanatics--by V.E. Day.
High school gyms, fairgrounds and race tracks, including Santa Anita in LA, were turned into prison camps. Some POWs lived on farms, others in rooming houses. They worked in our factories and fields. They did KP for our troops. They fixed our trucks in Texas, occasionally smarting from one of Sal’s love taps. In a notorious incident in Mississippi, black American soldiers were obliged to leave a train to make way for white German POWs because of Jim Crow law.
In any event, we weren’t afraid of the Nazis; they were afraid of us.
How low we’ve sunk since then. Just about the whole U.S. Senate (90 to 6) voted against closing the Gitmo gulag because of their shamelessly slobbering fear of its couple of hundred tortured and broken survivors. They fretted that jihadist fanatics would outfox us, somehow slip out of our grasp and repeat 9/11 outrages from Fresno to Framingham. Apparently, that's how much they think of our antiterrorism efforts.

(For a a full and fascinating history of the above check out Nazi Prisoners of War in America by Arnold Krammer)