Hollywood heroes? I don’t have any. I never did. In the aftermath of World War II I grew up on John Wayne movies. There was a host of Hollywood heroes to choose from, like Van Johnson, Gary Cooper, James Stuart; the list goes on and on. But the main one was John Wayne. As an actor John Wayne had about as much emotional range as a sphinx. If sad he’d furrow his brow. If angry he’d throw a hay-maker punch or break a balsa wood chair over somebody’s back. He never shed a tear. In a gunfight he was fearless – and he could well afford to be fearless as he never, in his entire life, ever once had a shot fired at him in real anger. It’s easy to be brave knowing beforehand that your enemy is only firing blanks and the fighting stops when the director hollers “Cut!”
I received some tactical infantry training while stationed at Ft. Rucker, Alabama. We went on a patrol (M-14’s with blanks) through some southern Alabama swamps and hills. I was tasked as a left flanking rear guard, moving some distance from the main body of the patrol.
Along the way the Instructor accompanying us would repeatedly remind the men to keep their interval (so they wouldn’t all be killed at once).
As we entered a quiet vale he fell silent as we were now entering enemy territory. We had to be on the alert for hidden enemy soldiers – movement – boobytraps – the snap of a twig.
Off to the left of the main body of the patrol and half-way up a steep hill an enemy machine-gun opened up. They all rushed uphill toward the sound of the machine-gun fire.
Since I was some distance away and had played many a game-o’-guns as a kid I figured I’d try to outflank the machine-gun nest.
The machine-gun was still firing when I heard the Instructor yelling:
“GET DOWN! GET DOWN! GET DOWN!”
“WHO THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU ARE, JOHN WAYNE!?”
By the time I got above and behind the machine-gun nest the shooting had stopped and the patrol was declared dead.
Hollywood heroes? I don’t have any. I never did.
When someone shoots at you in real life you duck just as you should. It’s not cowardice – it’s instinct. As a student of history I’ve examined many a hero both fictional and real and I say unequivocally that there is only one man I still admire for courage and bravery – and that would be Jesus.
Hollywood heroes? Not me.