Friday is Remembrance Day.
Lest we forget.
As time erodes memories and generations give way to generations, a new concept of remembering is taking shape.
Naturally, we can’t be expected to remember all who gave their lives for our country in WWII because we weren’t born until it was over, but a modern day service of remembrance asks us to think about people and times of sacrifice we do know about, regardless of when they occurred.
The point is that much has been given by many for the benefit of us all and on November 11th every one of us can take time to think about actions and efforts made by others on our behalf. We can each be thankful for gifts we have been given through the sacrifice of others.
Since the end of WWII, there has not been one day of total world peace and by the look of the political scene around the world, that isn’t going to change any time soon.
Total world war means total.
It means the entire focus of so many countries is to support the war effort. Lives are sacrificed, interrupted, put on hold and changed. People contribute in any way they can or have special skills to do so.
Since WWII ended in 1945 and the youngest men and women called to enlist were 17 or 18, the oldest survivors are now close to or past 90, so their numbers are declining rapidly, but the few who remain relay some fascinating stories about those they knew who did take part. Some were golfers.
Just about every person who grew up in the Toronto area and played golf has heard the name Murray Tucker. He was a fierce competitor on the course. He won championships and played a bit on the winter PGA tour.
Murray was called up in 1941 and quickly advanced in the RCAF as a tail gunner in a fighter plane. I knew Murray quite well and I can honestly say he is one person I wouldn’t have wanted to compete against in that arena.
War exposes the ugliest side of human beings, but it also produces some ingenious discoveries such as radar, nuclear energy, wrist watches, electric drills, pressurized airplanes, duct tape and freeze dried ice cream.
It also brings out concentrated efforts to produce goods, materials, food and funding. To help finance the war effort, the thousands of people who were unable to fight physically, fought with their individual skills and/or money.
Money to finance the war was raised by selling Victory Bonds and War Savings Certificates. These were government-backed investment instruments that sometimes generated interest, but often were redeemed at less than face value. The services of celebrities, movie stars and athletes, especially golfers, were called upon to sell them.
A wide variety of entertaining concepts were devised, one of which was when Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, a couple of fairly accomplished golfers in their own right, toured across the USA playing in a series of golf matches against some of the best-known names in the game, male and female.
Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Johnny Weissmuller, Jimmy Demaret and Byron Nelson formed a musical group and sold millions of dollars in War Bonds and they each paid their own travel expenses.
After the war, the traveling road show selling war bonds, money for hospitals, the USO and the Red Cross become the foundation for the operations concept of the PGA Tour, the world’s best professional golfers putting on an exhibition while generating millions of dollars for charities.
In terms of active service in WWII, Lloyd Mangrum was offered the golf professional job at the army’s Fort Meade golf course, which would have kept him out of combat.
He would receive two Purple Hearts, and was wounded a final time at the Battle of the Bulge. When he was discharged from the army, he won the 1946 U.S. Open. Other name professionals who served in the army: Ted Kroll, who earned three Purple Hearts and was wounded four times, Jack Fleck, who served in the Navy as part of the D-Day invasion and Tommy Bolt, Herman Keiser and Ed “Porky” Oliver who also went overseas.
Bobby Jones received his discharge papers after participating in the D-Day Landings as a Lieutenant Colonel under Dwight Eisenhower; Ben Hogan left the army as a Lieutenant.
Across North America, golf professionals and superintendents worked side-by-side, building practice tees, greens, courses and indoor nets near hospitals and on playgrounds, where they taught military patients.
The records of the number of Canadian golfers serving in various wars is unclear, but given the stories I have heard from some of those who lived through it, our men and women played a big role.
Many champion golfers put away their clubs and picked up a rifle for their country as did everyone else.
Lest we forget.
Can we now simply give peace a chance?