Sins of Omission

Submarine Ace of Aces

Now that the youngest of our World War II veterans, with but a few exceptions, are in their 80’s, I fear that, as they die, memory of them will die also.  While teaching history in college for more than 30 years—15 of those at UCLA, where a single class could have more than 400 students—I was the target of book representatives from a dozen or more publishers.  Nearly every year, I was presented with sample copies of new U.S. history textbooks.  Each new textbook devoted more space to obscure figures of modest significance who were black or American Indian or female.  I searched the same books in vain for mention of the most prominent of our World War II heroes.  Where was the most decorated American, Audie Murphy?  The hero of the Battle of Midway, Wade McClusky?  The first recipient of the Medal of Honor, Butch O’Hare?  The top ace, Dick Bong?  The top naval ace, Dave McCampbell?  The top Marine ace, Pappy Boyington?  The commander of the 101st Airborne who replied “Nuts” to the Germans and held fast at Bastogne, Anthony McAuliffe?  Or the submarine ace of aces, Dick O’Kane?  Nowhere to be found.  These were the heroes I learned about as a child.  They were written about in books, depicted in movies, and, most importantly, were the topic of conversations in the homes and neighborhoods of America.

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