Friday, July 20, 2012

A tragic sense of deja vu

Christina Taylor Green
   I was terribly upset by the story of the young aspiring sportscaster who was killed in the Aurora, Colo., Dark Knight Rises massacre, and at the same time had a strong sense of deja vu. There was a similar tragic coincidence, but where?
  Then I found it. Nine year old Christina Green, who died in the Gabby Giffords shooting in Arizona, was born on 9/11.
   I tried to think if there were anything in my oral histories of a similar nature. I received an email once many years ago from the son of a member of the battalion who was killed near the end of the war, and he said his father had been on the USS West Virginia when Pearl Harbor was attacked, later transferring to the Army. But when I looked at a roster of the West Virginia that seemed to have the name of every sailor who served on it, I couldn't find the fellow's name, so I won't mention it here.
   I did, however, find one interesting item from my interviews. Dan Diel, a sergeant who received one of the battalion's 14 battlefield commissions, mentioned that when he was in the horse cavalry in 1941, they trained in San Ysidro, California. And he asked me if I knew what San Ysidro was famous for.
   Ironically, or perhaps coincidentally, perhaps even by design, the McDonald's massacre took place on July 18, 1984, the anniversary falling barely a day before the Dark Knight Rises killings. At first I thought San Ysidro was the first such massacre, but then I remembered Charles Whitman and the Texas tower shooting, which took place in 1966.
    Here is a portion of my interview with Dan Diel, in which he mentions San Ysidro:

Dan Diel

   We didn't necessarily get THE first, but we got amongst the first draftees of the war, in February of '41. We had guys that were sent back to some of the big cities like Chicago or Milwaukee, or Cleveland or New York, and escorted these guys back to the cavalry in California. At the time that they came in, I was going to horseshoeing school, and was working in the stable gang and learning to become a horseshoer.
   Later, I was in a machine gun troop. We had the old water-cooled heavy 30-caliber machine guns and we had an area where we set up and stayed there, 24 hours a day, seven days a week for two weeks. It was right outside of San Ysidro. I don't know if that name brings up anything to you or not. That's where the McDonald's was that had the big massacre several years ago and they tore the building down and they made a monument. That's where we were stationed. The border patrol would come along and pick up a couple of us and take us into the high school to take showers.
   They were getting us ready, theoretically they were going to ship us to the South Pacific, and we were being issued new equipment and being inoculated for different things, and the yellow jaundice came from yellow fever shots. I don’t know how many of them got sick, whether it was half of the regiment, there was a huge number, and if you went on sick call they told you, "Go back and just take it easy and eat light foods, salads and stuff," and that's about as stupid as you can answer somebody when you eat what they put out in the mess hall and you've got no choice.
   But we had one man that died from the yellow jaundice, his name was Lemke. I can't remember his first name. And there were a lot of others that were sick. I was sick for a few days from it, but it wasn't anything life-threatening, it was just that you were uncomfortable as hell.
   But I don't remember how many of them in the regiment that was bad enough to be hospitalized or anything, I just remember that this one guy that was in our troop that died.

The San Ysidro Monument

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