If you read European history you learn about something called the “Hundred Years War.” Wikipedia gives a succinct summary; “The Hundred Years War was a series of conflicts from 1337 to 1453, waged between the House of Plantagenet, rulers of England and the French House of Valois, over the right to rule the Kingdom of France. Each side drew many allies into the war.”
(In Shakespeare’s time his most popular and performed play was Henry the Fifth, which celebrates part of that war.)
In 1937, the year I was born, Japan conducted war against China and Adolf Hitler became commander-in-chief of the German armed forces as well as German war minister. In the years since then—you do the math—war has been waged somewhere—constantly.
In other words war—military conflict—has been in the background of my life as long as I’ve lived—and long before that. In truth, it has always been part of human history.
I never served in the military, but I’ve known plenty who have. I have early memories of my father in his Coast Guard uniform (World War II) and my uncle’s brother who was a fighter pilot. During that war we kept wall maps that tracked the fighting, engaged in scrap drives, experienced black outs, had ration books, offered up what money we kids had to buy war bonds. When I went to the Saturday movies (for kids) there were always newsreels of the war (“Time Marches On!). Some of those memories are incorporated in my book, Don’t You Know There’s a War On?, the title echoing a common expression in the day.
The Button War is based on a story my late father-in-law shared with me about his experiences during World War I.
I have memories of my grandmother telling me tales about her life during the Franco-Prussian war (1870)!
I lived for many years in New Jersey, a state where there are many public markers which inform passersby about incidents which happened the locally during the Revolution. The Fighting Ground was inspired by one such marker. Not far from where I lived in New Jersey, there was (it may still happen) an annual reenactment of Washington crossing the Delaware River to attack Trenton.
In other words, war—even at a distance—has been part of my life’s history. Indeed, there is not a person alive in the world today who has not been touched by war in some way.
It is part of our lives, our deaths, our history.
I once heard Paula Fox say, “The writer’s job is to imagine the truth.”
That’s what I’ve tried to do—even about war.