Monday, June 21, 2004

Why History?

At least one person has expressed an interest in me talking about history a bit more. I appreciate his input and want to present to my readers why I became a historian. First, a bit about me so you know where I am coming from when I discuss issues of historical import.

I graduated with a bachelors degree from Boise State University in Boise, Idaho in the Spring of 2004. My degree in History with an emphasis in Secondary Education. My historical specialization is in Chinese and Japanese history, though I am pretty well versed in European and U.S. history. My favorite time periods to study are Tokugawa Japan (think the previous 200 years before the movie, "The Last Samurai"), World War II, Colonial American history, and 19th and 20th Century Chinese history. Why do I like Asian history? Because when I was about four years old I saw Big Bird and Snuffleufiguss (sp) touring China on Sesame Street and have been hooked ever since. See, sometimes television does have a positive influence on children. :)

My grandfather was also a huge influence in my studying history. He was a WWII vet and like so many vets, he loved to tell stories. This is going to be kind of a long post but I am going to tell you a story that my grandpa told me before he died. This is why I think history is cool.

When my grandpa volunteered for military service after Pearl Harbor he was sent to Germany. His job while in Germany was to be an inflantry escort for the Sherman tanks. His unit was tasked with making sure that the tanks got up to the front without getting shot at by anti-tank fire. They were to walk ahead of the tanks while in enemy territory and take out any snipers or panzerschreck (anti-tank) troops before the tanks fell prey to them.

One day while walking along, my grandpa felt a sharp pressure in his chest and then heard a gunshot. He fell down and thought to himself that he was as good as dead. There would be no way for a medic to care for a severe chest wound in the field and so my grandpa lay on the ground waiting for death to come. He waited for several seconds and death still hadn't come. He got up a good deal of courage and put his hand to his right breast where most of the pain was emitting from. He drew his hand away to see how much blood he was losing but to his great surprise there was no blood to be had.

My grandpa's hands scrabbled around his chest, feeling for any moisture that might be blood but they found none. Perplexed my grandpa hefted himself off the ground and put his hand into his breast pocket. He withdrew his old pocket watch, the german sniper's true victim. Though his chest was badly bruised and his ribs ached and were stiff. My grandpa had been saved from certain death by his pocket watch.

Now you may think that my grandpa was an extremely lucky man, which he was, but the story does not end there.

Several months since his last run in with a sniper, my grandpa was again walking out in front of the tanks. Unbeknownst to him, another sniper lay in wait in the bushes ahead of him and to his right. A shot rang out and again my grandpa hit the ground. Upon surveying the damage, my grandpa probably wished that the first sniper's bullet would have killed him. My grandpa had just been shot in the worst place a man could be shot in, his crotch.

The pain was immense but again he found no trace of blood coming from his nether region. After the first sniper incident, my grandpa mourningly retired his faithful pocket watch and bought a replacement. On the day of the second shooting, pocket watch number two was in that small pocket just above the main pocket on the right side of his pants. It looked as if my grandpa was going to have to buy a new pocket watch when he returned to town.

For the longest time I did not believe the story I just told you. How could a man be shot twice and saved twice by a duo of pocket watches? It was just too much chance and not enough solid evidence. And then one day while sitting and my grandparents' house, my grandpa came from the back room with two round and silver objects in his huge hands. He had kept the pocket watches all this time and one still had the bullet lodged into the housing of the watch.

History is an amazing entity. It should not be viewed as a thing filled with old guys and events so far removed from the present day that no one needs to care about it. History should be viewed as a collection of stories. The tale my grandpa told me was history, it was HIS STORY. Everyone has stories, some stories are just more famous and have a greater impact on how we live today than others. Nonetheless, all stories are important to keep and share. History is important to share as well. This is something I hope to do with all of you as this blog progresses.

BTW if you were wondering what happened to my grandpa after the second shooting, a grenade landed within his vicinity a short time later and lodged a piece of shrapnel into his shin. Nothing life threatening but enough to get him home to my grandma again.


At 7:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's an incredible story. I've heard tales of people saved from bullet wounds by their Bibles, etc., but this takes that to a whole new level. :)

- HungSquirrel


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