By Ernie McCray
I just finished a book, “The Lost Airman,” that made we want to cry out for some kind of miraculous change in the world, where people would finally come to “study war no more.”
The book is a true story of Arthur Meyerowitz, who was shot down over Nazi-occupied France in 1943.
Although the story is factual it reads like a masterful tale spun by an author adept at keeping a reader on the edge of his seat.
It was written by Arthur’s grandson, Seth Meyerowitz, who had never met him but became enchanted about bits and pieces of stories he had heard growing up and decided to pay tribute to him and the valiant men and women of the French Resistance who, for six months, hid and clothed and fed and helped him make his way back home.
It was the wonderful telling of the story that made me yield to my desires for peace because I felt as if I was there with the protagonists, going through the hell they went through like in this scene: “The sudden drone of a Henschel 126 froze all three men in place. They hurled themselves onto the dirt and sharp little rocks of the path holding their collective breath, straining not to move at all.”
The “three men” were Arthur, a highly decorated RAF pilot, R.F.W. Cleaver, and a guide named Emil. They were, when the searching eyes in the enemy plane found them, in the last stages of fright filled days that they had spent trekking from France through the perilous snowy and icy trails in the Pyrenees Mountains, trying to make it to Spain.
Their worries weren’t nearly over at this point but Arthur and Cleaver would soon be leaving the life they had lived with bated breath for every second of their ordeal. A life of relying on fake ID’s, always hiding (sometimes in the open) and learning who to and who not to trust. They were subjected to the whims of officials who could let them pass, end their life on the spot, send them off to a prison or torture chamber — the choice not theirs.
I didn’t breathe easily until they were home free from Hitler’s brand of inhumanity. When I put the book down, I immediately found myself overflowing with profound admiration for the people who came to Arthur and Cleaver’s rescue.
These French men and women were wonderful and brave beyond belief. They committed good deeds, constantly, under the most horrible of circumstances. They resisted their Nazi occupiers efficiently and intelligently, sometimes as fiercely as the enemy. They put their welfare and their lives on the line continuously. They trained Arthur to portray a deaf mute. They artistically forged and created fake identifications and official letters that saved lives.
After finishing the book I couldn’t keep myself from thinking how our country, after enduring such a savagely fought war, after all the losses, after Pearl Harbor, after unleashing the atomic bomb — how could we then go on to more wars: Korea, the Bay of Pigs in Cuba, Vietnam, Dominican Republic, Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, Gulf War, Somalia, Haiti…
At some point it would seem that we would look back at our history and see how we owe it to people like Arthur Meyerowitz and other heroes to find ways to prevent wars rather than engage in them.
Or what was the purpose of their sacrifice, their coming home shaky and ridden with horrible dreams for the rest of their lives?
And I’m not talking about creating some unrealistic “peaches and cream” fantasy world, as this is a dangerous world in which there are conflicts in places that I know our country will not back away from.
But what about future wars out there just waiting for fuel? What can be changed in our approaches to being in the world that can assist us in finding alternatives?
I mean there are many community needs internationally that we could focus upon rather than shooting at each other.
I find myself crying out, specifically, to my fellow countrymen and women, “We the People,” as Bob Dylan did at an earlier time of “crisis” in our history:
“Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam…”
“Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen…”
“Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call…”
“For the times they are a-changin’.”
And it’s way past time for us, in honor of veterans like “The Lost Airman” and for those warriors ducking and covering in today’s battles (many of them our teenage daughters and sons) to “study war no more” and turn this troubled world around.