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The Routine Miseries of American Soldiers

A small glimpse into what our heroic war veterans went through can be found in the seven-part Ken Burns documentary The War. It covers World War II from the perspective of the soldiers.

In the episode "When Things Get Tough," the narrator quotes Pulitzer Prize winning Bill Maulden, a cartoonist and writer for Stars & Stripes. It is an analogy written for those who have never fought in a war on the miseries and hardships of the American soldier, in this case with scenes from the Italian Campaign:

Dig a hole in your backyard while it is raining. Sit in the hole while the water climbs up around your ankles. Pour cold mud down your shirt collar. Sit there for 48 hours. So there is no danger of your dozing off, imagine that a guy is sneaking around waiting for a chance to club you on the head. Or set your house on fire.

Get out of the hole, fill a suitcase full of rocks, pick it up, put a shotgun in your other hand, and walk on the muddiest road you can find. Fall flat on your face every few minutes, as you imagine big meteors streaking down beside you. If you repeat this performance every three days, for several months, you may begin to understand why an infantryman gets out of breath. But you still won't understand how he feels when things get tough.


The War, directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, National Endowment for the Humanities and Public Broadcasting Service, 2007, Timestamp 1:40:00 - 1:41:36

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