A Thousand Apologies

Walking out of the Airborne Museum Oosterbeek, one directly faces this remarkable stone. Wondering why liberation forces would be to blame for the effort they made. Indeed came terror over the citizens of Gelderland, but that didn’t start September 1944.  German oppression and criminality started back in 1940. Since Belgium was liberated in September 1944, Allied forces wanted to move on and secure Antwerpen and bridges towards Germany. Starting up Operation Market Garden.

I’ve spoken with an old guy decades ago, present May 1940 at battlefield Rhenen 10 clicks away from his hometown Renkum. As a prisoner of war he had to work in camps in Germany and later on in Russia, for the Sovjet Army took over all labor and forced them to work in The Gulag Archipelago.  Their road through Hell continued untill November 1950. On the other hand; he wasn’t the only good guy who couldn’t live as a free person. Most soldiers from Poland had to wait another 40 years when pressure was released of their country.

When this man spoke of his war, he started to cry. He was a sweet, gentle man when he came to age. A real sportsman too, he went skiing until his late 70’s. But what was he like in his 30’s, 40’s and 50’s, confronted with stress and raising up his children. Did he cry or did he yell faced with his war trauma and anxiety attacks? A lot of times, he made an exhaused impression.

President Roosevelt

President Roosevelt

Although psychiatrists were advancing in their understanding of war trauma, combat exhaustion was not universally accepted.  General George Patton was notable in his lack of sympathy for the psychological afflictions of soldiers. He is said to have slapped two soldiers who were recuperating in a military hospital while yelling to a medical officer, “Don’t admit this yellow bastard … There’s nothing the matter with him. I won’t have the hospitals cluttered up with these sons of bitches who haven’t got the guts to fight”… President Roosevelt received thousands of letters about the incident, most of which indicated support for Patton. “Ultimately, though, Patton was reprimanded, ordered to apologize, and relieved of command of the Seventh Army”  

[from history of PTSD]


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