The reality of the logo up top.

The reality of the logo up top.

The way we’re going to start Instapunk Rules. I have one of these. It’s a trench knife. A real one. It’s a triangular blade not meant for or even competent for slicing bread. The only thing it’s good for is killing. Mine belonged to the gentlest man I ever knew, a former captain of infantry in the famous Rainbow Division of World War I. He participated in almost all the final battles that determined the outcome of that war.

Its beginning was almost exactly a hundred years ago. The most deadly strike against modern civilization ever. But most of you know nothing of it. Names like Verdun, the Somme, Chateau Thierry, Gallipoli, the Argonne Forest, and Belleau Wood mean nothing to you. Even as I write this, Apple software is protesting that the proper names are misspellings.

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates don’t know or care about this stuff. Men hurled themselves into a hail of technology that was guaranteed to kill them. People like Jobs and Gates condemn gun technology. As if machine guns are to blame for what happens between titanic egos. So they’re for gun control. Like I’m for computer mouse control. Which folded into the price of a cup of coffee adds up to nothing, even at Vente prices.

I’m going to do all you millennials a huge favor. You won’t like it. You won’t understand it. You won’t even believe it. But men who were far far better than you threw their lives away for a cause you’ll never understand because by their sacrifice they eliminated any responsibility you might ever have to feel. Great, huh? Sure. Ungrateful jerks are jerks because they never know they should be grateful. People like me are sick of you.

Thing is, I won’t be talking in general.

No. I have proof of the difference between the ones who were men then and the whiny pricks who call themselves men now.

I have a pile of letters from my grandfather to his wife. From the front in World War I. Which killed more western Europeans (uh, the supposedly civilized ones) than died in World War II. For the sake of comparison the Brits lost 350,000 in WWII. Ten times that in what the Greatest Generation liked to call the prelude. To be clear, that’s 3,500,000. Wrap your tiny heads around that and look up Douglas Haig on Wiki. Starting to get it? That’s three times all American combat losses in history.

America always comes to the rescue. But we don’t consent to the pure slaughter of our young in foreign adventures. Except one time, in 1918. When progressive Woodrow thought he could remake the world in the image of Princeton. Bad idea. No world ever wanted to be Princeton. But America paid for his orange and black vision.

In close to four years of world war across all oceans Americans in the army, navy, air force and marines lost 440,000 killed in action in WWII. In less than one year of World War I combat, American infantry in Europe lost more than 100,000 troops in France and Germany. In trenches that sickened and disfigured them when they weren’t charging into mud and shit filled swamps of stinking arms and legs and intestines called No Man’s land.

Everything dead. Killed trees don't stink as much as corpses of men.

Everything dead. Artillery fried trees don’t stink as much as corpses of men.

Whether you like it or not, I’m going to tell you about it. Not because I want to cater to your idiotic naïveté. You know, if we treat them right they’ll treat us right bullshit. Because there are always power brokers who are willing to spend every level of human life, unflinchingly, to achieve domination over others. The United States was the first nation in history to halt this kind of aggression without seeking to impose an authoritarian empire of its own. Here’s one of the first missives from one of the least imperialistic soldiers of that first great selfless defense of civilization.

A man writes to his wife. Wanna hear what he has to say?

A man writes to his wife. Wanna hear what he has to say?

Or just enjoy the fact that every photo you click on will expand to fill your screen.

  1. Lake’s avatar

    I’d like to read them. I want to know more. My gratitude to these men has expanded without stopping as I read more and more. Most movies glorify, most fiction tries to find a spin on it, but the personal letters and memoirs really drive the trench knife home. These men and boys died on foreign soil to save Europe and Asia from evil. Simple and sharp as the instrument on top. Take a straight-on picture of the piece you inherited and I’ll replace the one up top with its silhouette.

    I believe I’ve recommended it a few times, but I’m reading it again and I think you might find it interesting: Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon. Your post above discusses computers, millennials, weapons, and Men. Cryptonomicon has four characters, three in WWII, one in the late 90’s, the grandson of one of the other characters. The WWII Marine’s account led me to the real stories of the fighters in that war. The WWII codebreaker’s account led me to an understanding of the birth of digital computers. The WWII Japanese engineer’s account led me to understanding the other atrocities in Asia, the ones outside the concentration camps. And the modern computer nerd’s story shows both how the WWII story is responsible for so much of our lives today and what the future may hold in consequence.

    Also, there’s a secondary character who may be a time traveler or an angel — he reminds me of you, in some ways. Anyway, it’s what I’m reading on the plane today, and your post is serendicitous. As always.


  2. Instapunk’s avatar

    This is Instapunk. There is a fifth member of the Shuteye Train (verified in text) who never agrees to be depicted with Loco Dantes, Pig Millions, Joe Kay, and Reedy Weeks. His name is Ruby Ricks. He’s the one who made their writing possible. You should sign your future comments “Ruby.”


  3. Connertown’s avatar

    Have you been to the updated WW1 museum in Kansas City?

    I was blown away. My opinion don’t count for much, but my more traveled and worldly friends put it in their top 5 museums in the USA.

    If you haven’t been, it’s a great reason to visit KC.


  4. ErisGuy’s avatar

    So… what did you think of Alaistar Horne’s “The Price of Glory?”


  5. Null’s avatar


    Thanks for the book suggestion. Always looking for something new.



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