Web Site Update

The web site, DamnYankee.com, has undergone a substantial amount of revision and I just wanted to invite everyone to look it over. The appearance is much the same but I think it’s better organized and offers more information.

I’ve set up (and recently revised) a separate site dedicated to the novel, Cold Morning Shadow. Perhaps you’ve already visited it, but it’s always worth another look. (For subscribers to Kindle Unlimited, you can download a free copy of the book. For anyone else, the Kindle edition is $4 with occasional discounts down to $1. The “hard copy” (paperback) edition is $16 at Amazon.com.)

And I’m in charge of a site in the name of the 20th-Century author and thinker, Albert Jay Nock. There is a lot to read and contemplate there.

A site at DamnYankee.us serves as a hub for the several sites that I oversee. I just wanted people know who have signed up to follow DamnYankee.com.

Thanks for looking!

=David A. Woodbury=

Web Log

DamnYankee.com no longer issues a “blog” but has arranged former newspaper, magazine, and blog articles as web pages. See the menu at the top or bottom of this page for currently available content.

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ABOUT the author David A. Woodbury

=DamnYankee.com=

A Parting Tribute

Grove Cemetery lies two miles or so west of Concord, Vermont.  It occupies a couple of acres on a steep slope on the north side of US Route 2, isolated from nearby houses.  Summers on the hillside are verdant and sweet, but under the arctic winds of winter the same hill must be desolate and bone-chilling; but why would that matter?

My first recollection of visiting this cemetery might have been when I was eight or ten years old.  But no doubt I had been there when I was quite young as well.  Just a couple of years ago some friends and I took a northern route on a long-distance fishing trip to Lake Ontario, and as we crossed into Vermont I realized that we would be passing the cemetery, so I asked their indulgence to stop and let me look for something.

I remembered that there was a marker high on the slope, near the back of the field, and in probably less than a minute I found it:

Wesley R. Woodbury, Pvt, US Army, July 20, 1930 – November 22, 1952.

My friends gave me a respectful quarter hour to walk around and take in the silence, the loneliness, the finality of it all.  There was something else on his headstone about which unit he was in: the 40th Infantry Division, 223rd Infantry Regiment.

He was one of two from the 40th Division killed on November 22.  Before the combat ended, 155 more from the 40th have given their lives.  Really, though, now that you may have read a little of his story, what difference is there between Woody Woodbury, my father’s younger brother, and all the rest who have died in uniform?

FIRST, MORE ABOUT HIM
It was August, 1952, when Woody was able to spend a few days at home with his wife and newborn daughter before returning to duty.  He crossed the Pacific on the General W.M. Black.  After some delay in Japan, he landed in Korea.

In a November 5 letter to my father, Woody wrote: “Letters are pretty hard to write up here.  When I write the folks I have to smooth things over so they won’t worry.  That leaves me practically nothing to write about.  I don’t feel that is necessary with you however.  I’ll just tell you facts and you can keep them to yourself.  The second day I got in Korea I got a good look at the things that are really happening here.  The train that brought me to the front stopped right beside a hospital train.  I watched them putting wounded men on the train.  The ambulances were bringing the men down faster than they could get them onto the train.  It was a sight that made me so sick I had to turn away and vomit.”

In that letter he went on to describe how three members of his unit had been killed.  And he added: “I guess our outfit will be on line until about May.  If I can keep my ass in one peace that long I’ll really be lucky.”  (He spelled poorly.)

And in the same letter, he wrote, ominously, prophetically: “Once in a while we go out into no man’s land and take up mines.”

What was there left of him after a land mine lifted him and half a ton of dirt twenty feet into the air in a split second?  Is it the concussion that kills, or maybe the hundreds of pieces of gravel piercing like bullets?  Does it lift you so suddenly that your joints pull apart all at once?  Or does it literally tear you to pieces?  Do you see your guts fly past your face before you black out forever?

Just before I turned two, Uncle Woody gave me a stuffed animal — a copper-colored dog.  My oldest daughter has it now and knows its provenance.  His widow, Dottie, re-married and had two more daughters, Gail and Cindy Shippee.  I saw my cousin, Brenda, on a few brief visits in my younger years, lost touch for most of our adult lives, and in 2007, when she was 54 and I 56, she died of a heart attack.

Did she ever hear the stories of her father’s troubled youth?  I wish she were still around so that, in our old age, we could meet again and reminisce.

wesley-june-1952

HERE’S THE DIFFERENCE
What’s different about Woody is this: It makes me mad.  And I hope I can make more people mad.

Woody didn’t die for his country.  He died for Korea.  Just about every American military casualty since the Civil War did not take place in defense of the United States but was a sacrifice for another country.  Woody gave up what should have been another sixty years of doing what the rest of us have been doing all the while he has been chilling his bones on a Vermont hillside.

He could have been raising his daughter and having more children.  He might have enjoyed rock-and-roll, but he never heard a note of it.  He might have liked to try out a Corvette when it first appeared.  He didn’t get to see Neil Armstrong step onto the moon.  He never saw a computer.

May 30, 2018, will the sixty-sixth Memorial Day since Woody bit the dust, or maybe more precisely, since the dust bit him.  We are asked to remember those who gave everything so that the rest of us might have something.  OK, remember this: From 1950-1953 there were 36,516 who did not return from Korea alive, and 4,759 are still missing in action.  From 1959-1975 there were 58,272 who did not return from Viet Nam alive, and 2,489 are missing.  And since 2003 when we set out to defeat terrorism-in-the-name-of-Islam, more than 7,000 have given their lives, and there are at least 3 missing.

Altogether, since I was born — after World War II, over 100,000 Americans have not returned from undeclared wars on foreign soil.  And I am acutely aware that, wherever our guys died, untold thousands more humble humans of those other countries have died as well.

We can’t honor these war dead by holding a barbecue on the Monday nearest Memorial Day.  We can honor them by derisively interrogating anyone calling for more of the same senselessness that killed Woody — prolonged entrenchments with no commitment to ending things immediately and decisively.  Does that mean we should not defend ourselves?  Not at all.

IT’S ABOUT WAR
As a naïve 19-year-old I joined the Army during the Viet Nam war.  But you can call me a pacifist, because it’s not in my nature to want to hurt anyone.  You can call me a war monger, too, because it’s not in my nature to submit to getting hurt, and I believe the only way to stop the killing is to stop the killer fast.  I joined up in 1970 because, if I had not done so, my draft number was next to be called, and then I would have had no say in where I would be sent.

I have this idea about war.  It’s like, if the bully punches you once, but you’re not prepared to resist, then you’ve been warned, and you’d better be prepared for the very next punch.  If, sooner or later, the bully punches you again, and you’re still not prepared, by default you have decided to accept whatever he decides to deliver, because life isn’t fair and the strong decide how the rest will live.

Once a bully hits you, though, he has forfeited all his rights: the right to choose your response, the weapons, the setting, the timing and intensity of your response, and whether he survives or is reduced to dust.

If the bully is a kid on the playground, you can surround yourself with protective friends or go to the principal.  If you’re a nation and the bully is another nation, you have no one to run to.  It’s up to you, and you had better not be ducking around and trying to find your escape route and protecting you nose while he rearranges your internal organs.  You’re sure as hell an idiot if you’re trying to talk peace while he dislodges your teeth.

If you’re a nation, and a bully hits you, I think you should lay him out flat, suddenly, and with everything it takes to forever prevent the next punch.  I know America doesn’t start wars, but when America gets sucked in by some tinpot dictator with a bad haircut and a pet word for God, (P. J. O’Rourke’s words, not mine), I cannot comprehend why we tiptoe around with so-called diplomacy and feed our soldiers to their bullying.  If the bully punches first, I think he ought not have time to draw another breath before he gets knocked out cold instantly.  The United States has had the ability to do that ever since the end of World War II.

If we’ve blundered into a treaty to protect some little foreign country, then we need to do the same, because the bully which is North Korea is still there, and still just as evil 65 years after Woody was killed.  And we still have troops on the ground there.  What the hell is that all about?  What will we do when the North resumes where it left off in 1953: negotiate or annihilate?

Our reason for going into Korea in 1950 was all about making the so-called United Nations look important and had nothing to do with protecting the United States.

Therefore, because we’re still playing war games in Asia, we have announced to the rest of the world that the United States is willing to march another 100,000 enthusiastic young American lemmings over the same precipice over the next, say, 65 years, so that diplomats can continue pretending to work for peace.  In the words of Lewis Forester, “while Congress is patting each other on the back and referring to themselves as the honorable Mr. So-and-So, men still die.”  These are the politicians in pressed suits whose motives need to be questioned, who argue that civilian casualties of a decisive response would be too high, who believe it is fitting and proper to kill 100,000 more Americans in the name of peace during one more lifespan.

Here’s a radical thought: Armies are comprised of civilians.  Read up on Article I, Section 8, Clause 12 in the Constitution.  The last time Congress declared war on an enemy was World War II.  Drafting civilians, especially in the absence of a declared war, does not make them professional soldiers.  It makes them frightened civilians who want to go home.  The uniform that Woody was wearing did not make him a sinister threat to world peace.  It made him dead.

Instead of crushing the bully before he knows what hit him back, we put troubled kids from backwoods places like Livermore Falls, Maine, on the ground in places like Inchon and Pleiku and we tell them that, if they just hold the ground for a few more days or weeks, our diplomats will have this all solved and they can go home to the mom and baby they left behind.  This is what makes me mad.

When I visited his grave on that recent trip through Vermont, there were fresh flowers lying at the base of Woody’s headstone.  His widow, Dottie, then alone and in her seventies, still lived in Vermont.  She might have known about the flowers.

As for my own easy time in the Army, during the Vietnam war, I am reminded of the line in Milton’s short poem (On His Blindness): “They also serve who only stand and wait.”  I served my time.  Yes, while I was enjoying myself in California and Europe, I was available for any other assignment the Army might have thrown at me, any new goof by the politicians, any new field that needed to be cleared of mines.  But I was only called upon to wait, (and decrypt Russian radio communications).  Then I was sent home and permitted to lead the life that my uncle was denied.  I don’t begrudge the Korean people Woody’s life.  Perhaps, though, the sadness told in this collection of letters and the brief history of this troubled youth and proud daddy will reach just one future politician who is tempted to negotiate treaties obliging our senseless sacrifice or who is tempted to politeness when responding to bully regimes.

-David A. Woodbury, March 12, 2017-

DotShippee

POSTSCRIPT
DOROTHY G. SHIPPEE – JERICHO – Dorothy G Shippee, 84, of Jericho, went to be with the Lord on Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014, in the Williston Respite House.  Dorothy Rutledge was born on Nov. 19, 1930, in Concord, Vt., and her parents were Henry and Dorothy Aldrich.  She was predeceased by her daughter, Brenda J. Woodbury of Underhill; and a son-in-law, Douglas Kill of Orono, Maine.  She was also predeceased by her brothers, Roger of Ocala, Fla., and Rodney and Rupert of St. Johnsbury; and sister, Marilyn Palmer of Ferrisburg.  She is survived by two daughters, Gail Kill of Orono, Maine, and Cindy Hardy of Essex Junction, Vt.  She is also survived by six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, residing throughout the country.  The family is having a private celebration of her life, per her request.  Her complete obituary can be found at www.awrichfuneralhomes.com.  In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to The Respite House, Williston.

=David A. Woodbury=

Brenda Woodbury

Brenda W

BRENDA J. WOODBURY, JERICHO — Brenda Joyce Woodbury, the admired actress and playwright, died on St. Patrick’s Day at a great but mysterious age. Known for her emotional generosity, swift intellect, and astonishing creative power, she found the world a beautiful, if disordered, place, and left the planet much improved. Her talents as an artist were surpassed only by her gift for being a mother; at that good art, she was genius itself. Brenda is survived by her mother, Dorothy Shippee; her sisters, Cindy Hardy and Gail Kill; and by Michael Merriam, her son. A funeral service will be held Saturday, March 24, at 1 p.m. in the Ready Funeral & Cremation Service South Chapel, 261 Shelburne Road, Burlington. To send online condolences to the family, please visit http://www.readyfuneral.com.

[Brenda was 54 when she died.]

Brenda Ann

In the candid picture above, Brenda is about 18 (with long necklace), same age as my sister, Ann Woodbury, seated in the foreground.  The others in the picture are Brenda’s mother, Dorothy Shippee in back of Brenda, and her other daughters, Gail on the left and Cindy on the far right.  I surmise that the picture was snapped in Shippee’s house in Vermont on a visit that I may not have participated in.  (I would have been in the Army at that time.)

Woody start page – (previous) WRW letter 15 – next page (A Parting Tribute)

=David A. Woodbury=

WRW letter 15

[Ten years after her father, “Woody”/Wesley, was killed, 12-year-old Brenda wrote this letter to her grandmother.  The script is clear enough that a transcription should not be needed.]

WRW15a
WRW15b
WRW15c

Woody start page – (previous) WRW letter 14 – next page (Brenda Woodbury)

=David A. Woodbury=

WRW letter 14

[Written by Clarice, mentions many names but not all are familiar.  Dot in the greeting is Dorothy (Miller) Woodbury, Victor’s wife.  Victor is Woody’s brother.  Mother on the first page is Clarice’s mother, Goldie (Sweet) Jensen, also referred to as Grammie on page 3.  David and Ann are Victor’s first two children who were ages two-and-a-half and one at the time of this letter.  Dot on page 4 and page 7 is Woody’s older sister Dorothy (Woodbury) Kinney.  Ginnie (Woodbury) Norris is Woody’s next-older sister.  Grammie C. is Bertha (Curtis) Woodbury, Woody’s grandmother and first wife of George Woodbury who is mentioned in the previous letter, WRW letter 13.  Bertha remarried after her marriage to George and is Bertha Cochrane in this letter.  Dad on the last page also refers to George Woodbury, who had just died in February.  Dot in the very last paragraph is Woody’s widow, Dorothy (Rutledge) Woodbury.  Others remain unidentified.]

1.
Dear Dot and Vic:
Monday and I’m home have many things to do and its raining but I’ll answer letters first or I’ll never get it done —
Received your letter when I got home Sat.  Tell the children I thought their Easter card the prettiest one I got.  Mother is in F. [Farmington] comes home tomorrow so I’ll give her hers and I know she’ll like it.  Tell David he wrote a nice letter and I understood it much better than I do most letters I get —
I have a bad case of the blues today so shouldn’t be writing at all but it’s raining so I

WRW14a

2.
thought I’d get caught up on all my back letters — I owe so many probably never will
I thought from Ann picture she was much larger then David.  I have some pictures to send up if I ever can remember to pick thru them —  By the way what is Ann’s birth date I know she didn’t come when you expected her and I’m not good at remembering anyway?  I sure feel ancient regarding how Vic feels about me — my eyes have failed so fast I had to have double vision glass and that with every thing else the years are sure doubling up on me —

3.
Guess you forget Grammie [Goldie Jensen] does her own driving now, but you would never get her that far from Nick [her daughter by second marriage to Walter Jensen].  I’ll see how I come out financially before I plan any trips I find one has to have a little cash to eat and sleep now days and I blew myself to a pair of glasses which I have needed for five years.
Elsa [dog] and Minie [?] went to Farmington with Mother so I expect they had the time of their lives —
What a crowd you had Easter but how nice to get together it i hard now days to do that sort of thing with autos and

WRW14b2

4.
all no one has time to visit it seems —
Got a nice letter from Ginnie today hasn’t heard from my Dot for a long time something must be bothering her.  That’s why I hate to write letters seems as if someone is always trying to make something of them I never can put on paper what I think and feel —
I expect they’ll be putting Woody to rest again soon I so wish it had been done befor.  I hope I know in time to go up — He also is

5.
to be awarded the Bronze Star don’t know as I’ll get an invite to that or not. time will tell —
We have had rain nearly every day for so long its so depressing I’m just looking forward to some sun —
When we have a winter without much snow we make up for it somehow —
That snap of David in the kitchen was so cute. I’ve seen him look like that so many times They were all cute —  They grow up too fast believe me I know —
Next time I write I’ll try being in a better frame of mind —

WRW14c

6.
I see Pat Pauletts mother once in a while Pat is married and works in the Globe office (laundry) —  Have seen Johnnie K. one since Woody went —  Saw Adams she looks bad hear that Bill is tipping the bottle too much (thats probably the reason) but she should know she went with him 22 years before is wife died.
Hatch baby sits for Eileen so she is working + going to get a new car has been working since baby was eight weeks old.

7.
Anyway it keeps Hatch out of mischief.  She was in shop Sat. as E. had the day off.  Boy I’m glad shes working I don’t want her around my neck all the time —  I don’t know any news about the rest of the people you know as I don’t go much have been to F. just once since Nov. and wasn’t sure as Dot was pleased to see me or not.
Miss Quigley (Belmont) wrote me a nice letter when she heard about Woody — She must be very old by now — I hope

WRW14d

to look her up sometime I go to Boston also Grammie C.  I haven’t been up since Dad passed way — Dont know when I’ll get courage again.
Hope I’m in a better mood next time I write.
You planted the seed we’ll see if it grows — anyway thanks for the invitation —

Lots of love to all
Mother

Included is a card I should have sent it in Feb. but had hoped Dot would send me one for a keepsake I didn’t put my name on as I didn’t feel a brother expects thanks he is on the thanking side

WRW14e
WRW14f
WRW14g

Woody start page – (previous) WRW letter 13 – next page (WRW letter 15)

[In this as with other letters in this series, I have attempted to transcribe the written text while faithfully retaining the writer’s peculiarities and errors of spelling and punctuation.  Sometimes, though, the aggressiveness of spell-check prevails and a correction gets past me.  The errors in preserving the errors are strictly my own.  -DAW-]

=David A. Woodbury=

WRW letter 13

[Not quite three months after Woody was killed, his grandfather, George Hugh Woodbury, died in Belgrade, Maine at age 79.  This was written by Nellie (Sanborn) Woodbury, his second wife (not Woody’s grandmother.)  Walter was her son with George.  His death only added to the confusion and tumult in the family at the time.]

WRW13a

Feb. 27th 1953
Dear Dorothy + Victor
This is a lonesome day it is snowing and I think winter is here to stay through March.  Walter stays nights with me but goes to Waterville to work early in the morning.  They would have me out there to stay but the water here would have to be shut off here and then on again.  They talk of moving here in the Spring and try raising chickens, farming, his wife would like that and he still keep the job he has now.
I feel bad not to have any late pictures of George.  [crossed out: Would you send me one of the snap shots you took of him here] and we will try to find something for you.  I just found some pictures you took here in 1951 they are good ones and I am so glad.

WRW13b

Guess you think this is a funny letter.  I do not like to write letters but do like to get them so please over look all the mistakes.  I got up this morning at 5:30 got Walter up and on his way now it is only 1 o’clock and he will not be home tonight.  I miss Geo. so much life is not worth living with out him.  He went to the hospital in ambulance Feb. 8 and lived untill the night of the 13th.
There is so much more to write.
I will close with
with love to you
Nellie

WRW13c
WRW13d

Woody start page – (previous) WRW letter 12 – next page (WRW letter 14)

=David A. Woodbury=

WRW letter 12

WRW12a

[Written by Clarice.  Donald, Dot, and Ginnie are siblings of Wesley and Victor]

Monday
1.
Dear Kids,
I’ve wondered why I didn’t get an answer to my last letter have looked every mail.  All the other children answered right away as to their plans.
Donald wrote that he wouldn’t be able to make it.  Dot + Carroll wrote they would go by car from Farmington so as to get here that night
Ginnie wrote she plans to go and so dar as I know now she will leave Portland on the 8:30 A.M. train of course she may change her plans In fact they may all.  Ginnie will have to get to Brunswick at 6:30 in order to make the train  I haven’t heard

WRW12b

2.

from her since she found that out but expect to tomorrow.
I do hope you let us know if you plan to come or not and if so what your traveling time will be etc.
I’m at shop and haven’t time for more now will mail tis on my way and hope to get an answer very soon —
Bee arrived unexpectedly from Boston last night has gone to Farmington and has to be back in Tewksbury Friday — I’ll have to mail this after I get home as I haven’t the new address here with me. Hope you all like your new home.  Love to all
Mother

WRW12c

3.
at home —
I do hope to hear from you my the morning mail.  So we will know if you are coming or not.
I also expect to hear from Ginnie again tomorrow.

Love to all

Mother–

WRW12d

Woody start page – (previous) WRW letter 11 – next page (WRW letter 13)

=David A. Woodbury=

WRW letter 11

WRW11a

[Written by Victor]

note new address
740 W. Spring
Lima, Ohio
1-12-52

Dear Don:
Expect you have heard from Mom by now.
Thought I had better write and inform you and your Missus, that we are in Lima, Ohio. (Look up on map.) About 60 miles from Fort Wayne, Ind. This is Dot’s home town and we moved here last August. I’m with Westinghouse here, Production Expediter.
Your Xmas card just forwarded to us — we had written a couple of times since Aug. but got the letters back.
The nature of this letter is to suggest a get to gather. (over)

WRW11b

2.
We sold our car when we left Florida.  So don’t have transportation at least not until summer.
When the date of Woody’s funeral has been decided I will take a leave of absence for about a week — and take a day too Vermont a day there, one day in Maine and a day to return.  Don’t expect to get fired for it and feel it would be worth anything as I wonder who will be the next one and don’t want to miss the opportunity to see all the folks I can – –
Was my idea that maybe you would go to Vermont with me — Concord just outside St. Johnsbury                    next page

WRW11c

3.
Plan to go by bus as it is cheapest and could make it in one day — 24 hours
Drove from Portland to Lima last summer, left Portland at 12:45 p.m. on a Friday and arrived Lima at 12 Sat. noon
Would not have been 24 hours but had 4 adults + 2 kids aboard and they had to pee pee or something most of the time also did some sight seeing —
I don’t intend to take my family as the expense and time factor would be prohibitive
Feel that Mom needs all moral support possible and know your presence would reaffirm her belief in God

WRW11d

4.
Please write anyway and I hope we can work out some arrangement by which we can get to Vermont when necessary together —
Have just moved last Sunday
Address is
740 W. Spring
Lima, Ohio,
tel. 98-182

Dottie will write Jayne when we get settled —
Write soon — Love
Vic, Dot, David + Ann

P.S. misplaced your address in moving hope this reaches you

WRW11e
WRW11f

Woody start page – (previous) WRW letter 10 – next page (WRW letter 12)

=David A. Woodbury=