word craft


Writing about War

Don't You Know There's a War On?The ear­li­est his­tor­i­cal record of war­fare took place in Mesopotamia in 2700 BC. It was between the king­doms of Sumer and Elam.

If you read Euro­pean his­to­ry you learn about some­thing called the “Hun­dred Years War.” Wikipedia gives a suc­cinct sum­ma­ry; “The Hun­dred Years War was a series of con­flicts from 1337 to 1453, waged between the House of Plan­ta­genet, rulers of Eng­land and the French House of Val­ois, over the right to rule the King­dom of France. Each side drew many allies into the war.”

(In Shakespeare’s time his most pop­u­lar and per­formed play was Hen­ry the Fifth, which cel­e­brates part of that war.)

The Button WarIf you con­sid­er World War 1 (1917) as the begin­ning of mod­ern inter­na­tion­al con­flict, our world has been engaged in its own Hun­dred Years War.

In 1937, the year I was born, Japan con­duct­ed war against Chi­na and Adolf Hitler became com­man­der-in-chief of the Ger­man armed forces as well as Ger­man war min­is­ter. In the years since then—you do the math—war has been waged somewhere—constantly.

In oth­er words war—military conflict—has been in the back­ground of my life as long as I’ve lived—and long before that. In truth, it has always been part of human history.

I nev­er served in the mil­i­tary, but I’ve known plen­ty who have. I have ear­ly mem­o­ries of my father in his Coast Guard uni­form (World War II) and my uncle’s broth­er who was a fight­er pilot. Dur­ing that war we kept wall maps that tracked the fight­ing, engaged in scrap dri­ves, expe­ri­enced black outs, had ration books, offered up what mon­ey we kids had to buy war bonds. When I went to the Sat­ur­day movies (for kids) there were always news­reels of the war (“Time March­es On!). Some of those mem­o­ries are incor­po­rat­ed in my book, Don’t You Know There’s a War On?, the title echo­ing a com­mon expres­sion in the day.

The But­ton War is based on a sto­ry my late father-in-law shared with me about his expe­ri­ences dur­ing World War I.

I have mem­o­ries of my grand­moth­er telling me tales about her life dur­ing the Fran­co-Pruss­ian war (1870)!

The Fighting GroundI lived for many years in New Jer­sey, a state where there are many pub­lic mark­ers which inform passers­by about inci­dents which hap­pened the local­ly dur­ing the Rev­o­lu­tion. The Fight­ing Ground was inspired by one such mark­er. Not far from where I lived in New Jer­sey, there was (it may still hap­pen) an annu­al reen­act­ment of Wash­ing­ton cross­ing the Delaware Riv­er to attack Trenton.

In oth­er words, war—even at a distance—has been part of my life’s his­to­ry. Indeed, there is not a per­son alive in the world today who has not been touched by war in some way.

It is part of our lives, our deaths, our history.

I once heard Paula Fox say, “The writer’s job is to imag­ine the truth.”

That’s what I’ve tried to do—even about war.

1 thought on “Writing about War”

  1. My pub­lished MG is about war, the Six-Day war in Israel. I lived it.
    War is part of our species. We usu­al­ly try to chan­nel in into sports and sport teams. So much bet­ter for us.


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