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Archive for November, 2014

Jeff Carnes: Veteran in the Spotlight

Jeff Carnes in Kuwait.

Jeff Carnes in Kuwait.

As a military linguist, Jeff Carnes provided a critical link between American troops, foreign forces, and the local population, establishing trust in treacherous times. Fluent in Arabic, Carnes connected intimately with the local people during his tour in Iraq in 2003. He recalls a conversation with an Iraqi civilian named Muhammad who had undergone horrific torture at the hands of Saddam Hussein’s regime. “That night in late March 2003,” Carnes writes, “Muhammad not only gave me a crash course in Iraqi Arabic. He taught me that the human soul can endure and flourish under even the most trying circumstances.”

Jeff Carnes was born in Jefferson, Wisconsin, in 1977. He enlisted in the Army after two years at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and attended basic training in the fall of 1997 at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. He was first deployed to Kosovo in 2000, attached to the 1st Armored Division. The unit was charged with leading Task Force Falcon, a part of a NATO-led international peacekeeping force. He returned to the United States in 2001 and continued his field training at Fort Campbell, located along the Tennessee-Kentucky border. Two years later, he was deployed to Iraq as a military linguist with the 502nd Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division. There he provided interpretation on missions; assisted officers with matters of purchasing, transportation and security; and facilitated interactions with locals.

Members of the 101st Airborne Division while stationed in Iraq.

Members of the 101st Airborne Division while stationed in Iraq.

As one of the Army’s many specialized vocations, the job of the military linguist is notable for its high stakes and required expertise. Linguists use their foreign language skills to supplement military intelligence in translation, on-the-ground communication, cryptology, and other diverse operations. Whereas strategic linguists typically work remotely, tactical linguists like Carnes accompany troops in the field.

In 2004, after redeployment to Fort Campbell following his tour in Iraq, Carnes traveled to Arizona to serve as an instructor in the Army Reserves at Fort Huachuca. Since leaving military service in 2006, Carnes re-enrolled in the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in linguistics in 2008. He was awarded the Dean’s Prize as one of the top three graduates in the College of Letters and Science at UW-Madison. He has also been active in the veteran community, including volunteering at the Wisconsin Veterans Museum.

Carnes was a diligent documentarian of his time in the Army, toting home compelling relics and scores of photographs, particularly of his tour in Iraq. Many of these items are now in the WVM collection, helping to illustrate diverse day-to-day encounters and preserving his story for future generations.

Are you a Wisconsin veteran and interested in donating your collection? Learn more: http://bit.ly/1FqCksp

Holiday Greetings from the Field by Mary Kate Kwasnik

Card

Christmas card from the Marvin Fruth collection.

A wise man once crooned that this is the most wonderful time of the year. As the winter holidays roll in, cheer seems to surround us. Coffee shops break out their festive red cups , the radio croons out classic holiday songs and the city is suddenly frosted in tiny, little light bulbs. It’s everywhere. But what are the holidays like for our troops, especially those serving overseas? For those at war? There are classic stories about the 1914 Christmas Truce, when German and British troops ventured out from their trenches into no man’s land to share season’s greetings and cigarettes, or the annual Bob Hope Christmas shows during World War II and Vietnam, but what about the stories about the individual soldier? What was it really like?

We can imagine that holidays spent in the field are wildly different from those at home. Grandparents and cousins turn into sergeants and captains, while cozy, warm homes are replaced with mess halls and tents. Those special, annual holiday meals and dishes that you look forward to every year become just a story to tell your squad about Christmas back home. Upon searching the oral history collection for holiday stories, however, it seems that most veterans have fond memories of holidays in the service. Many have stories of hosting delicious feasts on base and inviting loved ones and locals to celebrate, while others have memories of returning home from the war just in time for Christmas.

In a 2003 oral history interview, C.J. Antonie, a Madison resident and aerial navigator who served in Africa and Italy in World War II, recalled a Christmas feast while stationed in Rome. Following the bombing of the city and the American invasion in 1944, many Romans were living in a state of hunger and poverty. Antonie remembered seeing families living in the rubble of their destroyed homes and encountering elderly Italian women waiting outside the U.S. mess hall with gallon cans to collect unwanted food from the American GIs. At Christmas, Antonie described inviting the young son of the family who did his laundry to the American holiday feast:

 

At Christmastime they said we could bring a guest. They had a little guy about your size, and I said, “Would you like to come for Christmas dinner?” “Oh,” they said, “sure.” So I went to pick him up and they must have had him in a tub and scrubbed him with a scrub brush because he just shone. So as we went through the line I told them this guy’s got a pretty good size family at home, give him a little extra. So, he had a plate that was heaped up like this (indicating). In the meantime he’s taking bread and putting it in his pockets. And he got a bag to put all this stuff in to take it home. He ate pretty good.

(C.J. Antonie, WVM Oral History Interview, 2003)

Roger Miller, a Silver Creek native, recalled holiday memories from inside the kitchen. As a newlywed and newly appointed Army cook at Fort Bragg during the Korean War, Miller was one of only two men in basic training who was not sent to Korea. Miller was able to bring his wife Sylvia to North Carolina where he began cook school and was soon making meals for over 200 soldiers. Miller described his memories of holidays in the mess hall in a 2003 oral history interview:

 

“Things that stand out in my mind from that time is, the spreads that you would put on for holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. Just out of this world. Cans of canned nuts, and all the materials to bake cakes, and cranberry sauce, and all that. On Thanksgiving it was then, they invited your wives to come out to share a meal. It was nice.”

(Roger Mill, WVM Oral History Interview, 2003)

Although most would prefer to be with their loved ones at home for the holidays, that often is not the case for our troops in service. Today, there are roughly one million troops in active duty in over 150 countries around the world. Organizations such as the American Red Cross and Trees for Troops have created programs in which civilians can send holiday cards, packages and Christmas trees to troops overseas. We can hope that when today’s soldiers tell us their stories from their time in service, they will also have warm memories of the holidays, those of festive days in an otherwise difficult time.

Learn more about the WVM Oral History program at http://bit.ly/1uzrCIr.

An Interview with Britain’s Foremost Military Historian and Defense Commentator by Michael Telzrow

Author and Historian Allan Mallinson.

Author and Historian Allan Mallinson.

Museum Director Michael Telzrow recently interviewed Allan Mallinson, one of Britain’s foremost military historians and defense commentators whose book, The Making of the British Army (2009) was described by Antony Beevor in The Times as the acutest study of the army in a generation. Serving for thirty-five years in the army worldwide, Allan Mallinson will be back in Madison to share his latest work, 1914: Fight the Good Fight, at the Wisconsin Veterans Museum on Friday, November 21, 2014 at Noon. This program is free and open to the public.

MICHAEL TELZROW: A lot has been written about British military history. Why did you feel you needed to write 1914:FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT?

ALLAN MALLINSON: The centenary of the First World War – 2014-2018 – is designated a national commemoration in Britain. Unsurprising when six million men were mobilized from a total population (including, then, the whole of Ireland) of 45 million, of whom over 700,000 were killed. Virtually every family in Britain whose forebears lived here in 1914 counts a great-grandfather, grandfather or even father who fought.

And a great many books have been written about the war. Most of them, however, focus on the trenches of the Western Front, and, naturally given the huge expansion of the army, on the volunteers who flocked to the colours in 1914, and, later, the conscripts. Too little has been written about the old regular army which “held the fought” in the first three months’ fighting in 1914, a period not of trenches but a war of movement. My book addresses that deficiency.

MICHAEL TELZROW: How did your military service inform your writing, or not?

ALLAN MALLINSON: In the same way that you’d expect a surgeon’s experience to inform his writing about surgical procedure. The soldier’s advantage is that he tends to be able to read between the lines better, and to have an instinct for when there’s something missing.

MICHAEL TELZROW: World War I is largely forgotten here in the United States, maybe not in Britain. Why do you think World War II has eclipsed World War I in our collective memories?

ALLAN MALLINSON: See the answer to the first question: it hasn’t been largely forgotten in Britain – the wearing of poppies each November, culminating in the Remembrance ceremonies on 11 November, the day the First World War ended, is an annual and very poignant reminder. It’s the commemoration of all servicemen killed in action in the past century; but it began with 1914-18.

MICHAEL TELZROW: Why did the British command miscalculate the time it would take to defeat the Germans in WWI, or is this mistake that all Generals make at the beginning of a war?

ALLAN MALLINSON: The question forms a large part of my book. Just about every mistake – political and military – that could be made was made. But in short, we believed it would be a short war because we didn’t have the resources for a long one. And not having provided resources for a long war before it started, we paid a very much higher price in the course of it. The American experience was rather different – about which I shall be addressing at The Wisconsin Veterans Museum in Madison on Friday, November 21, 2014 at Noon. Join me for this free program!

For more information on this event, visit http://bit.ly/1xAtvr7

The Wisconsin Veterans Museum is an educational activity of the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs.

Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs