Australia and the US have had the luxury and romance of going to war. Neither country has suffered too much on its home turf. Yes there was Pearl Harbor and of course the World Trade Centre attack. Whilst Australia had the bombing of Darwin also the three midget submarines that came in to Sydney Harbour back in 1942.
But in the first two US cases, these attacks gave the government an excuse to enter war. (Let us face it, US soil is still pretty impenetrable). And for Australia, the subs in Sydney provided us with proof we were under attack. They were a thrill, that killed enough people to say we were affected by war, but nothing life changing. And Darwin is very remote to the rest of Australia.
My nan's sister has very fond memories of the war time. She had a lovely time. There existed a saying amongst the defence forces in those times, here in Australia (and other places American soldiers were stationed, and particularly R&R'd):
There are only three problems with the Yanks: They're overpaid, oversexed and over here.
And my aunt loved every minute of it.
They gave her stockings and lipsticks, just like the textbook tells. They wined and dined her. They made her laugh. And she loved every single one of them. And each one she refers to as a "Good Sort". To this day. Her eyes light up when she thinks about the brave American and Australian soldiers.
And I am glad that she has such wonderful memories. But this is not a real depiction of war. This is Australia's experience of the war. Well, at least those who stayed at home.
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My school once arranged for a real life soldier of the Second World War to come and talk to us girls. He seemed so big, and old. A girl in our class could not help it, and we all wanted to know: "Did you shoot anyone?"
The teacher's eyes opened wide, her face went red and she barely kept from screaming: "You must never ask a soldier that!"
Heh. I have never asked a soldier that, and I probably never will. But I can tell you, everyone in that class wanted to know the answer. We honestly, naively thought it was unlikely that he had shot someone. Although we clearly realised it was a possibility. We did understand that he had risked his life for our freedom - and he had earned the right to not tell everyone how many people he had killed, or if he had killed any.
* * *
I am married to a Dutchman who generously acted as translator between me and his grandmother. And my grandmother-in-law remembers with tears in her eyes the war time - tears she stoically holds back. She does not talk about the years of occupation by the Germans. Somehow, it is acknowledged but not stated. She will talk about the American tanks rolling into town. And then she proudly and kindly sounds out the words: "Would-you-like-a-cup-of-tea?"
Her eyes also light up at the thought of the Yanks. But it is not the joy of stockings, or stolen moments. It is the light of hope after such oppression. I am not surprised that the Netherlands is not a major player in the Coalition of the Willing.
It is a surprise to me that the UK is. But then, except for the Channel Islands, they have not been occupied either, well not in living memory.
* * *
Invasions, who needs 'em.