Guard from want and fear

The 40th Infantry Division had secured Los Negro in the central Philippines, and the remaining Japanese army had fled. The units of the 40th were assigned border patrol and policing villages. The 115th Medical Battalion was on duty for occasional gunshot wounds, jeep accidents and sexually transmitted diseases.


However, we were under strict orders to be ready for battle casualties. We were not to accept any civilian casualties; the operating rooms were occupied with civilians, preventing prompt treatment of our own.

One quiet night, while I was on duty as the chief noncom triage officer, plaintive wailing approached our entry. A bloody clot of family members and wounded children appeared. We discovered four 8- to 10-year-old boys, bloody from head to what was left of feet. The boys had found an unexploded Japanese hand grenade.

They recognized it as a familiar G.I. C-ration can. It had no opener, so someone with a jackknife attempted to open the can. The boys, in a tight circle, feet to the center, took the full force of the blast. All four were blind, all four had both feet blown clear off or attaching with a bit of skin. The boy with the knife had his hands and arms blown off to the elbow, with sticks of forearm bones waving in the air amid the total pain and fear.

Our surgeons, with great care, examined each child and determined all four had fatal injuries. Surgery would be futile. Furthermore, we were on strict orders to accept no patients but U.S. Army personnel.

The boys were given morphine, and the situation was explained to the parents as best as language barriers would allow. They all picked up the precious bundles and headed for the door. The scene that night has seared my soul for 67 years.

Now I get The Augusta Chronicle and read of wanton disregard for life. A mother sleeping it off while her baby drowns; children playing with guns without knowledge of consequences; the gang rape and sodomy of a young mother – the list is too long and too well-known.

The answer also is obvious: education, training, discipline, safety measures and supervision in the home 24/7!

Does anyone know the cost of keeping even one inmate in prison for a year? It is more than is spent on the education of a room full of teenagers. If someone keeps a pistol under their pillow, that person’s head better be on that pillow or the pistol in a securely locked gun cabinet. A home security system is a must and in use. Swimming pools should be secured and children guarded. Fathers should not leave home without the knowledge of competence in the home supervision of his children.

Why should lamentations be our daily fare? The land of the free and the home of the brave also should be free from want and fear. Let us make it so. Please.

Tom Zwemer




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