|George Whitbeck: killed on April 12, 1945 in Kamikaze attack USS Mannert L. Abele - body never recovered|
Here she is with her brother before he deployed & was killed on April 12, 1945 in the South Pacific by a Kamikaze pilot on the same day FDR died:
|George Whitbeck again & with Dick before deployment in 1940s|
Here is the plaque my great-uncle Ed Bukoski showed me in Ansonia, CT in 2011 (when I finally found this lost family of my grandfather's - about whom I knew nothing until years later and with whom he was never in contact after he changed his name - at his boss's insistence - to Barclay). Ed will be there tomorrow, I am sure, as he is a proud WWII Veteran, age 91:
|George Whitbeck's name has mark next to him signifying he is MIA because body not recovered|
Dick's life was changed after her brother was killed. This was a common occurrence for women at that time who lost beloved brothers. She was not killed, but part of her died. However, there is no story about this, no narrative, no A&E special. This is one of the many ways in which the casualties of war are not calculated.
I am struck now, even more so than usual because of the Santa Barbara shootings and the extraordinary Twitter hashtag #YesAllWomen (which if you are living under a rock or are not on Twitter, I suggest you go follow now), that we have no day to memorialize all the countless women killed by domestic violence or hate crimes, like the shooting on Friday. In general, the abuse of women (and children) is swept under any nearest carpet in hopes, I suppose, that it will go away, because it disturbs our idea of how things Should be.
We are perhaps too in love with the hero narrative and War is a more glamorous way to die, definitely more photogenic, than being beaten to death. By saying this, I am Not demeaning the sacrifice that anyone has made in any war they deemed worthy to fight or were drafted to fight, but it is worth noting what we don't pay attention to in this world. I can see how lovely George Whitbeck was and what a horrendous loss his death was to his new bride, Marion Palmer, his parents and siblings and the life-altering toll it took on Dick.
Jani and her daughter (my mother), were deeply affected by Bob's experience of having been in the first troops to liberate Dachau. He was one of the troops, as an army journalist, who sent out the first images and brought them home with him. My mother remembers seeing those photos as a little girl. These are experiences that seer one's soul.
Dick must have known about the atomic bomb, because her husband, George, was a secretary on the Manhattan Project. Did they see the pictures of July 16, 1945, the first test at Trinity? Did they know what was headed to Japan in August? How do you even absorb all that? When was it clear, if ever, the cost?
So, on this Memorial Day, I'd like you to spare a thought for all people, but especially women - your mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers who have been affected by war - and the many casualties of war, at home and abroad.
These kind of questions are what I am exploring in the book, The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick and Jani, speaking from my grandmothers' points of view, using both their own words and my imagination to do so. The campaign to complete the book about my grandmothers ends on Tuesday. Please help if you can. There is a matching donor now, so anything you contribute will be doubled up to the goal.
I am doing my best to tell their stories, to capture something about the 20th Century from an unfamiliar and neglected point of view. Perhaps this can enhance our understanding, help ask questions from a different angle, begin to see history and war not as inevitable but as a series of choices...choices that perhaps if truly understood could be made differently in the future.
But first, we have to listen to the voices we have not yet heard, because without those voices, we don't understand the whole reality, and if we don't understand the whole reality, we can't accept it. And if we can't accept it, we can't possibly ever change it. I don't know about you, but I could do without another 20th Century of global wars with the creation of ever-escalating ways to kill ourselves and ever-increasing divisions (yet again - the new boss looks a lot like the old boss, etc., etc...) between rich and poor. Perhaps it's time to try a different way?
Will this book bring that about? Clearly not. But, it's my humble attempt to begin this conversation, open up new pathways to see our history outside the Hero Narrative...allowing for a richer, more complex understanding of our lives, how we live them, what choices we exercise and what rules - conscious or unconscious - we break or uphold. Why does one woman rebel and another cling to her prison bars? What makes us...well, us?