The Day I Forgot To Hate – by guest author Ted Pavloff

Sunday was V-J Day in the United States, celebrating the end of World War II. In honor of that wonderful time of relief from the trauma and sorrow of war, I’m sharing two short stories set in that time period. The stories are by my father, Ted Pavloff, who is now with the Lord. He may not be here with us any longer, but his stories are still with us, just as alive and as powerful and encouraging as they were when first written. Today, I’m posting the first story, and tomorrow, I’ll post the second.

THE DAY I FORGOT TO HATE

(“Even though the characters and events in this story are fictitious, it was born out of my experiences during combat in the South Pacific Theater during WWII.” —Ted Pavloff)

The gray light of dawn was filtering through the dense leafage when we finally pushed our way out of the heavy undergrowth into the small clearing; Corporal Willmet, PFC Conte, and myself. We three made up one of the frequent patrols to probe the eerie stillness of no-mans-land during the bleak hours of night and early morning.

We had sought out this particular clearing many times before (a queer, growth-free patch, isolated in the midst of solid jungle) to comfortably relax with a cigarette and sort out the results of the current trek.

We were a confident trio, and perhaps our gutsy attitude was justified to a certain degree. Encounters with Japanese patrols and snipers were anything but strange adventure, and the fingers of our hands were not ample to count the number of enemy soldiers we had personally annihilated.

The venomous hatred we shared for the Japanese forged us into a natural combination, and we relished every opportunity to satisfy that bitterness by destroying the enemy. We had come to consider the killing of Japs as a sort of game … a release that made the discomforts of war worthwhile.

The usual mixed sounds of the jungle surrounded us this humid morning as we stretched out on the damp turf. There was little reason to suspect approaching danger, and, carelessly, we dismissed the possibility.

Then it happened. They swept out of the jungle from every side and bayonets were pressing against our stomachs before we could touch our weapons. At first I thought it was a nightmare, and it seemed minutes passed before my mind cleared to the realization that I lay at the mercy of the enemy. I should have been terribly frightened, but whatever measure of fear I might have possessed was totally eclipsed by hate, and I could not detect it.

Desperately I wanted to fight back, but there was small profit in inviting certain death. I ordered my companions to lie motionless and hoped the next few moments would bring the break we would need.

I surveyed the Jap soldiers coldly. They were a poorly clad, hungry looking group and, to my eyes, ripe for the sword. The officer in command was extremely youthful looking and clearly the smallest in stature, but his appearance was deceiving.

His orders poured forth with powerful authority, every word emphasized with vigorous motions of his head and arms. The soldiers reacted instantly, and while three bayonets pinned us in a prone position, the remaining troopers hurriedly appropriated the K-rations in our packs.

Then, with a gesture I considered a mocking insult, the young officer tossed several pieces of Japanese currency at my feet, and turned to rejoin his men. It was at this instant he spotted one of his soldiers who had backed off a few paces, raised his rifle, and carefully aimed at my head. With the agility and speed characteristic of the Japs, the officer threw himself at the would-be killer and dropped him heavily to the ground. The hapless offender suffered several solid lashes across his face before he was finally permitted to join his comrades in a hasty retreat from the clearing.

Obviously pleased over the successful display of his prowess, the officer bowed courteously and smiled, then saluted a farewell.

I did not share his satisfaction. The knowledge that my life had been spared for some inconceivable reason was lost in a hatred that made my stomach ache. Vengefully, I hoped for a future meeting … over the sights of my rifle.

During the week that followed we were spared the relentless torture of night patrol, and the day treks were relatively uneventful. Frequently, and often at unexpected moments, I found myself stabbed by spasms of anger that stemmed from the humiliation of having been successfully snared by the enemy. Even though I had not been harmed physically, I stubbornly refused to be grateful. I was furious that I had been captured at all and vowed revenge upon every Jap I could maneuver into firing range.

Revenge was uppermost in my mind that bright afternoon as we trudged through the jungle on a routine patrol. We were advancing in a widely dispersed position, intent upon sweeping as much terrain as possible with a minimum of commotion.

I was advancing slowly in an oblique path toward a peculiar rise of solid rock, when the figure appeared unexpectedly …. I froze. It was a Jap …. Momentarily, I was mystified over his apparent lack of concern about concealing himself, and also the fact that he was unarmed. He was stripped to the waist and the beads of perspiration on his bronze flesh glistened in the bright streaks of sunlight leaking through the heavy foliage. I crouched low as he stepped to a narrow ledge of the rock and looked about him.

Then it hit me like a blockbuster – it was the youthful officer who had captured and humiliated me in the clearing! Ahhh … finally, I thought, we meet again. I gloated silently and promptly began mental preparations to repay a debt I thought to be long overdue. I studied the situation carefully …. I wanted a clean aim. So with unconscious movements of my body, I urged him toward the near edge of the rock.

As if responding to a spoken command, he leaped from the perch and approached a mound of rock directly in my line of vision, then hastily removed a cluster of loose branches and brush from a small hollow in the base of the mound.

I lined up for the kill. I held my breath. Then just as my finger was closing securely around the trigger, my eyes suddenly spotted the crude wooden cross that had been secured in that hollowed out area.

I peered down the long rifle barrel in confused amazement as he dropped to his knees. His right hand raised to his forehead, moved down to his chest, then to his left shoulder, and across to his right – the Sign of The Cross! My hands grew numb and my arms trembled uncontrollably.

I’m not sure exactly how long the moment lasted. But slowly … surely … as surely as I had taken aim at what would have been a sure target, I felt myself lowering that same rifle and letting it slip from my grip. Without any conscious thought, I bowed my head.

I couldn’t account for my reaction. But a miracle had taken place. My fervent, persistent, burning desire to kill the enemy had melted away.

Within a few seconds I relived every detail of the incident in the clearing, when he and his men had captured us, and suddenly the realization hit me: The Jap officer’s actions in preventing my murder and leaving the money were not prompted by secondary motives. This man was a Christian. Painfully, I contrasted these truths with the hatred that fed my incessant drive to destroy the enemy anywhere I found him, and under any circumstances. Tearfully, I surrendered to my shame.

I cannot be certain of the length of time I remained in a state of remorseful meditation, but when I finally raised my eyes, the Cross was again carefully camouflaged, and the officer had vanished. I lingered only a short while. Then I set out to join Willmet and Conte … strangely happy and refreshed … having been set free from the terrible, unbearable burden of hate.

`

The End


© 1950, 2012 Ted Pavloff

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Prompt Nights # 21: Dancing

To take part in this writing challenge, visit “A Dash of Sunny.”

 

THE DANCE HAS ENDED
ANTEBELLUM MANSION - WOODLANDS - BONNIE BLUE PUB  FREE CLIP ART

I wish I could dance in your arms again,
As we did in Richmond and drank champagne,
Before you left for the battle’s fray,
Handsome and sure in your rebel gray,
Proud to be a Confederate son,
Anxious to get the victory won.

I wish I could dance in your arms again
And hear once more the song’s refrain,
And feel your breath on my blushing cheek.
How often my heart those memories seeks.
Those glorious antebellum days
Are gone — with all their gracious ways.

For guns and spears and rivers of blood —
Though all were spent — yielded no good.
And in those brutal wounds of war
The truth at last we finally saw:
Our gallant men and Southland slain.
I’ll never dance in your arms again.

I wish I could dance in your arms again.

~~~

Photo courtesy of Bonnie Blue Publishing Free Confederate Clip Art

 

 

 

Christmas Bells

On Christmas Day, 1863, in the midst of a war that was ripping apart the very country his own forefathers had sacrificed to create – a war that was stretching his own personal faith in God to its very limit – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow penned words to a new poem. This Christmas, in the face of what looks like a world being ripped apart by that same kind of evil, may the solace and renewed faith that Longfellow found and shared be rekindled in your heart as well through his words:

 

CHRISTMAS BELLS - GOSPELGIFS
“I heard the bells on Christmas Day,
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet, the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along th’unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

soldiers-and-copter-for-blog
And in despair I bowed my head:
‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said.
‘For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.’

DANCING MUSICAL NOTES WITH STRIPES
Then peeled the bells more loud and deep:
‘God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.’”

 

~~~

The Sidewalk

BRENDA'S COBBLESTONE STREET BROWN“Well, what’a ya know,” Ben whispered to himself, grinning, seeing his breath form vapors on the Christmas air. “Who would have thought it would be the brick sidewalk?”

He sighed. In one unexpected instant – as his feet had tread the bricks of this dear old sidewalk that had run the length of Main Street all his life – it had happened. He knew for sure the place he’d returned to was still ‘home.’

Just yesterday he’d been dreading coming back – as he had been for a week – from the time the doctors had told him he was almost well enough to make the trip. He knew for sure how much he had changed, and he couldn’t shake the deep, gut wrenching fear that the whole world had changed as well – including the little town nestled at the foot of the mountains in Montana. He’d grown up here, played high school basketball, and dated the girl from three houses down the street until she’d decided to elope with the captain of the basketball team.

He had to chuckle to himself when he remembered how devastated he’d felt back then. It had been his first serious relationship with a girl, but in hindsight, he realized that he hadn’t really been in love – just fascinated with the boy-girl relationship.

Sometimes when he’d been hunkered down in the trenches, waiting the next command to move out into the threat of enemy fire, he’d started thinking about Allyson, and even though she belonged to someone else now, the memories comforted him. He’d known even during those hours that it had nothing to do with Ally or their time together, but it was all about ‘home.’ When he thought of Ally, it took him away from the cold, wet, ugly war he was fighting.

Sometimes he’d remember his mother and could smell again the warm vanilla scent that so often clung to her from her constant baking. He’d conjure up the image of Granddad, sitting with his feet propped in front of the living room fireplace, sweet-scented smoke curling from his pipe. He’d hear again his father’s voice as he read the latest news stories from the paper as the family sat soaking up the security of their home and their quiet life together.

Then, sometimes, when he and his unit were on the move and trekking through secure territory, on their way to the next battlefront, he had remembered walking down that old brick sidewalk – past Old Man Chesterfield’s hardware store, Woolworth’s Five & Dime, the candy and tobacco shop, where he’d bought Ally that huge box of chocolates for the Valentine’s Day they’d celebrated together. There was Mrs. Gallagher’s Boutique next, and then Pansy’s Pancake House. Some days, when his senses were crystal clear, he could nearly taste those light, fluffy concoctions smothered in her special Cherry Cordial Syrup.

When he let his memory take him wherever it willed, he usually ended up thinking about Christmas, and he’d see again the decorations strung the entire length of Main Street, with lights in the windows of every storefront, snowmen standing sentry at almost every corner, and wreaths and holly hanging everywhere. He could almost feel the frost in the air and the festive atmosphere that surrounded shoppers and merchants alike from Thanksgiving to Christmas. And oh those chestnuts! The scent of roasted chestnuts hung over the main business district for two whole weeks before Christmas Day. And often he thought that sweet aroma was his favorite memory of all. Sometimes he swore he could smell those roasted chestnuts even though he was thousands of miles away on foreign soil with no hope of even a warm dinner for that night.

He’d been wishing he could have some of those chestnuts just minutes before the ambush occurred, but then bullets and grenades had killed all thoughts and images of anything but the hell breaking loose in every direction. Those same bullets and grenades had killed twenty of the men in his unit as well. When he’d taken the first hit in his leg and fallen, his best buddy had turned back to help him up. But the bullet that caught his rescuer in the head snuffed out his life in seconds, and as Ben had tried to hoist himself with his friend’s help, he’d taken a second bullet in the chest, blacking out at that point.

Five days later, when he regained consciousness in the hospital, he was hooked to all kinds of tubes and machines. The doctor had been compassionate and kind, assuring him that he was going to make it, but that it would be a month or so before he’d be fit to leave the hospital. When he’d asked about his unit, the news had been brutal, and he’d found himself so frozen by the grief that he hadn’t even been able to cry.

The day he’d been released and given his extended leave for home, his doctor had been wreathed in smiles. “We’re going to get you back to your family in time for Christmas, Son,” he’d said. And as much as the news brought a spurt of joy to Ben’s heart, it also brought a stab of fear.

He’d made a short journey first to the home of the man who’d been his best friend in combat, the man who’d lost his life trying to save Ben. He’d learned that Rick’s body had been shipped home for burial in the family plot. Ben knew he had to visit that grave and spend some time with Rick’s family before he could get started on the longer journey to his own family. And it was with that family, sitting in Rick’s home, remembering his buddy, that he’d finally been able to let the tears come. With his head on Rick’s mother’s shoulder, and her arms holding him tightly – the way she would never be able to hold her own son – Ben had finally cried out the pain and bitterness and loss.

Eighteen hours later, on the day before Christmas Eve, he boarded the bus that would take him to Montana. He had purposely refrained from letting his family know what bus he was taking. He had to walk out this journey one step at a time – in his own way and in his own timing. He had to find out what kind of world awaited him at the end of this journey, and he had to have the security of facing it on his own terms.

His physical wounds were almost healed, but the wound’s in his soul would be with him forever. And that’s what made him afraid. As long as he didn’t go home, he could always try to tell himself that it was still a place of peace and safety and love and laughter – and that life was still good there. But all the time he sat on the bus, heading to that little town in Montana, he battled with the fear. The questions kept circling through his mind: when he walked down the streets of his old hometown – when he stepped into his mother’s kitchen – when he visited the high school campus – when he sat in the park watching the breeze blow across the lake – when he met with friends in a restaurant –would he find what he’d left behind – or would it all be gone – forced out of existence by the same powers that had changed him forever?

Finally, at the end of the seven hour trip, he stepped off the bus, retrieved his suitcase and stood for a few moments just looking across Main Street at the row of well-remembered businesses – those stores and shops that had filled his dreams and imaginations hours at a time in the rare instances between battles.

Everything glowed with Christmas. It looked the way he would have expected it to look back before he’d had to wade through hatred, filth, and slaughter in another land. But could he relate to this place any longer? Could he ever belong here again? Would it welcome him – would he welcome what he found here now? He slowly walked across Maine and stepped onto the sidewalk that would take him from the north end of town to the south, where his parents lived.

He walked – slowly – hesitantly at first. His eyes caressed the old, worn bricks that stretched out ahead of him the whole two-mile distance of the business district, and he began to realize that each step he took was a familiar experience – the same experience he’d enjoyed for years, day in and day out – treading those warm brown bricks woven together by expert hands generations ago – just slightly uneven but plenty smooth enough for easy walking.

And every step reassured him. He began to breathe easier now, and as he took a good, deep breath, his nostrils twitched a little. Chestnuts, roasting, in a cart just up the street about two more blocks. He walked with more purpose then, his eyes still caressing the worn, welcoming bricks beneath his feet, stretching out before him invitingly.

Finally, he chuckled out loud. Yep … it was okay. … It was really okay. … He was okay. And he really was home. … Yep … this good old brick friend told him everything was going to be all right.

THE END

 

 

~

Hatred & War Cannot Quench Love

Civil War Soldier Sullivan Ballou Echoes King Solomon.

The Song of Songs, by King Solomon, says, “Set me as a seal upon thine heart … for love is strong as death.  … Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it.”  (Songs of Songs  8:6-7).   Those words were penned many centuries ago by an Israelite king, but during the American Civil War, a Union soldier penned words that echoed those of Solomon, almost exactly, in a letter to his wife about one week before he died.

FLAG & CANNON EMBOSSED REDMajor Sullivan Ballou poured out his heart to the one woman he knew would understand it, his wife Sarah.  He told her, “Sarah, my love for you is deathless.  It seems to bind me with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence can break.  Yet my love of country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me … to the battlefield.”  In another statement he describes the level of his commitment to his love of country as well as his wife: “I know … how great a debt we owe to those who went before us, through the blood and suffering of the Revolution, and I am … perfectly willing to lay down all my joys in this life to maintain this government and to pay that debt.”

In those words, Sullivan Ballou spoke for every American soldier who has left loved ones safe at home to go into hate-filled, death-filled foreign lands and willingly give everything he had — including his own life — to make sure those loved ones were kept safe — and that the nation whose constitution undergirded that safety was defended and secured from all that would try to destroy it.

SOLDIER COLLAGE SEPIA JPGIn every war that America has fought, thousands of her soldiers have gone courageously into harm’s way because they believed in the truth that “love is strong as death.”  They believed that all the hatred and all the wars this world will ever know cannot quench love.  And they have been right:  ALL THE HATRED AND ALL THE WARS THIS WORLD WILL EVER KNOW CANNOT QUENCH LOVE — because real love comes from only one source: the eternal, unfathomable, unquenchable Creator of the universe.  It is He who gives soldiers like Sullivan Ballou the unquenchable love that he writes about in his letter — love for his wife — and love for his country and all it represents to millions of people who long with all their hearts for freedom and security.

~~~

Friday Fictioneers — February 22

Copyright-Janet Webb

Copyright-Janet Webb

The Painted Fence

Odd … the fence so freshly painted. The barn still bore silent scars from enemy troops scouring the countryside of its rightful owners and leaving all to ruin. A few lucky farmers had fled, losing all they’d worked for.

But before … before death and destruction … she and Johann had walked the length of this fence daily … stopping for kisses … planning: marriage, children, living beside this fence.

The night of the soldiers Johann had forced her to run while he covered her, and she’d seen them capture him.

20 years gone and she’d come back to remember. If only Johann were ….

Odd … this fence so freshly painted ….

~ ~ ~

To join the fun visit Rochelle’s blog:
http://rochellewisofffields.wordpress.com/2013/02/20/22-february-2013/

The END of the War — August 14, 1945

Today is the anniversary of the Japanese surrender to the Allied Forces– August 14, 1945 — marking the actual, physical end of WWII. (The treaty was signed just 19 days later, on September 2).  For those who lived that never-to-be-forgotten moment of learning we had won the war,  and the world really did have a future — and for those who never had to experience it, but are truly thankful to those who made it possible — the video below is a “must see.”  By Richard Sullivan, this video shows his father’s real-life 16 mm film recording of several spontaneous V-J Day celebrations in Honolulu, Hawaii, minutes after the announcement that Japan had surrendered.  I suggest you watch it with a box of tissues.
(If, for some reason, you have trouble playing it from this blog page, click on the link connected to Richard’s name above and go directly to his site.)