Last Thursday afternoon, as CBS-TV’s resident curmudgeon Andy Rooney sat on the panel at the World War II Conference, someone in the audience asked him why so many veterans who returned from the war were reluctant to talk about it, while he and others write entire books about their experiences. “I’ll tell you why most of them don’t talk about it,” he said. “They didn’t do anything worth talking about. They served in the 10th Shoe Repair Batallion.” He explained that only about 10 percent of the members of the armed services actually shot at the enemy or were themselves shot at.
Now, I realize he said it that way to make his point, and being a journalist/humorist, he doesn’t mind offending you a little in the process. But it was offensive.
The members of the “Shoe Repair Batallion,” as he put it, are the soldiers and sailors who fed and clothed the men on the front lines, who served as medics and truck-drivers and communications people and mechanics. In other words, you couldn’t have won the war without them.
There’s a good point from early in the life of the future king David that works here. David and his six hundred men (perhaps not unlike Robin Hood and his merry men, outlaws and living on the lam) were chasing some bad guys who had raided their camp and taken everything they owned as well as their people. Day and night they traveled. Finally, some of David’s men were exhausted, so he allowed them to stay behind and guard the baggage which allowed the others to travel lighter and faster. A day or so later, David and his victorious four hundred return. They’ve recaptured all their people, made short work of the enemies, and taken all their treasures. That’s when a dispute arose.
The four hundred who had actually faced the enemy insisted that the two hundred who had stayed behind would not share in the bounty. “Give them their people back and their possessions which were stolen, but nothing more,” they protested. David held up his hand. “You must not do this, my brethren, with what the Lord has given us.” Then he instituted a principle which has come down through the centuries as the ultimate in fairness.
“As his share who goes down to battle, so shall his share be who stays by the baggage. They shall share alike.” (I Samuel 30:24)