Sorry to hear Andy Rooney passed away. Barely a month past his resignation from 60 Minutes.
He was 92.
One of the reasons I am involved with building the National World War Two Museum in New Orleans is because of people like Andy Rooney. His generation isn’t getting any younger. The museum should have been built in the 1960's, when memories were fresher. But, Rooney’s generation came home from the war and went to work. They raised families and built businesses.
Few talked about their wartime experiences. They wanted to shield their kids from the pain. I haven’t ever talked with a person that was in battle that actually beats their chest and yells, “Look what I did”. Most of the ones that do weren’t ever under fire-at least according to my friends and acquaintances that were.
Today, we have a thing called Honor Flight. I think it’s great. They fly WW2 vets out to a memorial in Washington DC. My only regret is that I wish they would fly those same guys to New Orleans to visit the museum. Then we could get an oral history from them-something on tape to save for the generations to come. Something historians one hundred years from now could have access to.
Rooney and I differed politically. But, his accounts of World War Two resonate to this day and I believe his experiences are what caused him to be so antiwar in the later stages of his life. War is such a waste of resources.
But, sometimes they do have to be fought when left with no other practical choice. World War Two was one of those wars. It was truly a choice between freedom and totalitarianism. Human decency and dignity vs Destruction of humanity.
I hope that someday you make a trip to New Orleans to see the museum and learn about the war, and what can be done to stop future wars from being fought. Plus, I’d be happy if you sent a check to the museum and made a small donation. Every little bit helps, even twenty bucks.
Here is a little of what Andy Rooney witnessed and wrote after the war. It came from an article by Bethanne Kelly Patrick Military.com Columnist
Andrew A. Rooney set out from his hometown in the Albany, N.Y., area to nearby Colgate College, ready to play football and have a good time — until fate, in the form of World War II, intervened.
Rooney was drafted and sent to basic training at Fort Bragg, N.C. His most memorable achievement there, he noted, was managing to heist a chunk of ice back to the barracks on a hot night so that he and his cohorts could enjoy canteens full of cold water.
The unit soon had a cold shower of reality when they were shipped out to Europe. Because Rooney had a smidgen of education and a very brief amount of Army writing experience, he was assigned to “detached service” with the newly created Stars and Stripes newspaper. Housed in the vacated Times of London offices (that venerable journal had moved underground), the busy military newsroom covered events as diverse as VIP visits, unit softball games, and — oh, yes, combat. Rooney was detailed to the 8th Air Force and spent so much time observing its preparations, maneuvers, and landings that he co-authored his first bestseller, “Air Gunner,” during that time.
It was while Rooney was attached to the 8th that he witnessed a death terrible in its inevitability. A call came in that one bomber’s ball turret gunner was trapped. Operating in the bomber’s belly, ball turret gunners rotated their plastic “cages” for maximum target capability. On this particular aircraft, the rotational gears had jammed and the gunner could not return to a position where he could exit into the plane.
The bomber was losing altitude fast and would have to make a crash landing. Everyone –crew, observers, and especially the ball turret gunner — knew what was going to happen. The pilot ordered the crew to ditch everything to keep the plane in the air for a few more precious minutes, but still the wheels could not be brought down. “We all watched in horror as it happened,” Rooney writes in “My War.” We watched as this man’s life ended, mashed between the concrete pavement of the runway and the belly of the bomber.”
And then young Sgt. Rooney went back to his city desk and his work. “I returned to London that night shaken and unable to write the most dramatic, the most gruesome, the most heart-wrenching story I had ever witnessed,” he recalls. “Some reporter I was.”