Friday, November 6, 2009

The Cricket Speaks Out

By Chip Schrader
Book Review Editor
Roland Glenn’s wartime memoir, The Hawk and the Dove: World War II at Okinawa and Korea, lifts the code of silence that many veterans have been known to keep, from the World Wars through Vietnam. Even though World War II was a popular war where soldiers received an overwhelmingly positive reception upon returning home, the casualties were great, and Glenn sheds a great deal of light on the torment he endured after serving as an infantry commander.
Glenn was born and raised in rural Western Pennsylvania, a place, to those who have been there, that is every bit of America’s heartland as Wyoming, Oklahoma, and Indiana. Known as “Cappy” to his family, Glenn was raised equally by his parents, grandparents and aunts and uncles. He learned to hunt and “hug the land like a reptile” from his uncle, and would remember to keep his mouth shut after his target was hit so he would not give away his position to other prey.
After applying these hunting lessons to combat, he earned the name “Cricket” because of the style in which he gave his orders. Unknown to many people, the platoons often were multicultural, and Glenn commanded over several Mexican immigrants, including John Garcia, who would save Cricket numerous times during their tour.
Glenn recalls his father’s insistence that Cappy befriend an African American child in his school, in spite of the prevalence of racism within the community. Later, in boot camp, Glenn was thankful for his father’s forward thinking as a black man was introduced to his barracks who would eventually become a good friend. Glenn ponders all of the friendships he would have missed had his father never removed the stigma of racism from him.
Roland Glenn’s reflections take us to Seattle, Oahu, Okinawa, Saipei, Korea, and the lower depths of human conflict, and the moral lapses of good kids growing up in a battlefield. His deeply religious parents displayed a faith that is nearly extinct today, a faith cemented by unconditional love, and understanding. We also are shown a close father and son bond that Roland has cherished through the years.
The most stunning aspects of this memoir are, of course, the amount of lives the war cost and Glenn’s firsthand account of losing several friends over a mere few days. Glenn eases us into battle after chapters of the colorful pursuits of cadets in training, and warm tales of rural home life. All the while, the landscape of Okinawa and the outskirts of Latrobe are similar, which allowed him to successfully lead his Platoon, in spite of the fact that Okinawa is all harsh jungle.
As Glenn earned a purple heart, survived intense combat, and returned home with nightmares requiring psychotherapy, he endured and championed a happy life. While he exposes the hell and inhumanity of war, he also depicts the bravery, humanity and heroism of soldiers on both sides of the war. Glenn is haunted by the lives he was ordered to take, but brings these demons to the world hoping so that we might see what it is like to walk in a soldier’s fatigues.
This book is tightly written with letters from his family, and his own letters to them from the field to more succinctly capture the mood of the war, and the voices of his family. The Hawk and the Dove is a revelation, and a philosophical read that should not be passed up. This belongs among the greats of wartime literature, fiction and non-fiction. Roland Glenn lives in Kittery.
Photo caption: Cover of The Hawk and the Dove: World War II at Okinawa and Korea by Roland Glenn. (Courtesy photo)