30 Robert Leckie Quotes on Darkness before dawn, Helmet For My Pillow (Military History and Helmet for My Pillow: From Parris Island to the Pacific - Quotes.pub

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The souvenir hunters were prowling among them, carefully ripping insignia off tunics, slipping rings off fingers, or pistols off belts. There was Souvenirs himself, stepping gingerly from corpse to corpse, armed with his plyers and a dentist flashlight that he had had the forethought to purchase in Melbourne. I stood among the heaps of dead, they lay crumpled, useless, defunct. The vital force was fled. A bullet or a mortar fragment had torn a hole in these frail vessels, and the substance had leapt out. The mysteries of the universe had once inhabited these lulling lumps, had given each an identity, a way of walking, perhaps a special habit of address or a way with words or a knack of putting color on canvas. They had been so different then, now they were nothing, heaps of nothing. Can a bullet or a mortar fragment do this? Does this force, this mystery, I mean this soul, does this spill out on the ground along with the blood? No. It is somewhere, I know it. For this red and yellow lump I look down upon this instant was once a man. And the thing that energized him, the word that gave to airy nothing a local habitation and a name, the word from a higher word this cannot have been obliterated by a quarter inch of heated metal. The mystery of the universe has departed him and it is no good to say that the riddle is solved. The mystery is over because it has changed residences. The thing that shaped the flare of that nostril, that broadened that arm now bleeding, that wrought so fine that limply lying hand, that thing exists still and has still the power to flare that nostril, to bend that arm to clench that fist exactly as it did before. Because it is gone you cannot say it will not return; even though you may say it has never yet returned-you cannot say that it will not. It is blasphemy to say a bit of metal has destroyed life, just as it is presumptuous to say that because life has disappeared it has been destroyed. I stood among the heaps of the dead and I knew-no, I felt that death is only a sound we make to signify the Thing we do not know.
Our faith in victory had been unquestioning, its opposite, defeat, had no currency among us. Victory was possible, that was all. It would be easy or difficult, quick or prolonged, but it would be victory. So here came the disturbing Hoosier, displaying the other side of the coin, showing us defeat. It shook us. And it was from this moment that we dated the feeling of what is called expendability. All armies have expendable items, that is, a part or unit the destruction of which will not be fatal to the whole. In some ordeals, a man might consider his finger expendable, but not his hand, or in extremity his arm but not his heart. There are expendable items which may be lost or destroyed in the field either in peace or in war without their owner being required to replace them. A rifle is so expendable or a cartridge belt. So are men. Men are the most expendable of all. Hunger, the jungle, the Japanese, not one nor all of these could be quite as corrosive as the feeling of expendability. This was no feeling of dedication because it was absolutely involuntary. I do not doubt, that if the Marines had asked for volunteers for an impossible campaign such as Guadalcanal, almost everyone now fighting would have stepped forward. But that is sacrifice, that is voluntary. Being expended robs you of the exultation, the self-abnegation, the absolute freedom of self-sacrifice. Being expended puts one in the roll of victim rather than sacrificer, and there is always something begrudging in this. I doubt if Isaac would have accepted the knife of his father, Abraham, entirely without reproach yet, for the same master he would have gone gladly to his death a thousand times. The world is full of the sacrifices of heroes and martyrs, but there was only one victim. If we were to be victims, we were as firmly secured to our role as Isaac bound to the faggots. No day passed without extenuating it.