William Van Osdol
Special to The Sun
To the Editor:
The paradox of war — death, sadness, love, happiness — is not by choice. The controversy over Lt. Michael Behenna’s imprisonment for actions while sacrificing his honor and duty during combat offers no explanation for what is right or wrong. From World War II, Korea, Vietnam and presently, statistics indicate that only 17 percent of the military are ever involved in actual combat. Did Lt. Behenna’s judges or jury members ever experience combat? It would be interesting to know how they would respond facing the same hostile situation that Lt. Behenna encountered.
Civilian casualties are evident in all wars, but few military members have been court martialed other than a limited number of male and female Nazi war criminals. I’ve been back to Normandy five times. I’ve seen the 9,000-plus tombstones in the Normandy American Cemetery and at the Muesse Argonne near Verdun, France, where my uncle is among the 14,000 dead Americans from World War I. I’ve been to concentration camps — Auschwitz, Dachau, Amersfort and the Jeath site at the River Kwai Bridge in Thailand. Many of those dead, brave men would have been court martialed relative to today’s rule of war.
Wars kill more civilians than military personnel. Nineteen thousand French citizens died during the Normandy invasion. English cities suffered horrendous civilian losses. Allied bombers destroyed Dresden, Germany, shortly before the war ended killing nearly 100,000 German citizens. I’ve been to Nagasaki, Japan, where the second A-bomb killed thousands. While visiting with Col. Paul Tibbets, pilot of the B-25 that dropped the first A-bomb, a person asked if he had regrets. His answer was a strong “Hell no!”
Modern day war apparently is different. Lt. Behenna was court martialed and sentenced to prison for defending himself and his troops. I feel sorrow for the young man. As President John Kennedy said, “Life is not fair.” Lt. Behenna presently is a member of the “Life is not Fair” club. Hopefully, his membership will be canceled.