MARCH 19, 1949
HYDE PARK, Friday—I have just finished a book which was given me when I was on the West Coast. It is called "To Hell and Back" by Audie Murphy. He had a remarkable record in World War II and holds perhaps as many decorations as it is possible for one soldier to accumulate. He has received 21 medals, including our highest military decoration, the Congressional Medal of Honor. He wanted to write this book, he says, so that we in the United States would not forget what war really means to the men who fought it. The unforgettable chapter, I think, is the last one, in which he tells of his reactions.
Some of the word pictures are ugly, some of the scenes he may never be able to forget and those who read them should not forget them either, but it is the last paragraphs in the book I want especially to remember. When Mr. Murphy was young he was told that men were branded by war. Now, with the war at an end, he thinks of all those who will never come back and wonders what he himself will do.
"My country. America! That is it. We have been so intent on death we have forgotten life. And now suddenly life faces us. I swear to myself that I will measure up to it. I may be branded by war, but I will not be defeated by it.
"Gradually it becomes clear. I will go back. I will find the kind of girl of whom I once dreamed. I will learn to look at life through uncynical eyes, to have faith, to know love. I will learn to work in peace as in war. And finally—finally, like countless others, I will learn to live again."
Every one of us in this country should remember that this is what many men who fought the war are now trying to do. One of our jobs is to help them to do it and, above all, to help them build a peaceful world so that other men will not have to face, first, a war and then the return to living.
In connection with this, there was a speech made over the radio by Dr. Elisabeth S. Peck, associate professor of history at Berea College, Kentucky, in the early part of this year. It was a hopeful speech, with an insight that will help many of those to face the discouragements which one hears expressed so often today. Here are two brief paragraphs to be remembered:
"Democracy through the ages seems to be always in the throes of growth. Do you despair of democracy? Then view it in the perspective of time...
"He who persists in keeping the perspective of time in his thinking on democracy and every other world issue that vexes him finds reason instead of despair entering his mind.
"Today, as never before, time is of the essence."
There is also a pamphlet published by Edward L. Bernays called: "Why We Behave Like Inhuman Beings." If understanding of a problem can help us to solve it, there are some important things said in this tract that anyone interested in present-day situations should read.