Man’s Inhumanity To Man

A few days ago, 100 years after the war to end all wars came to a close, an Israeli missile missed an assigned target and killed several children in Gaza.
Fifty years ago, with England under fire from a flood of V1 German guided missiles, then Prime Minister Winston Churchill reported to the nation: “One landed near my home at Westerham, killing by cruel mischance, 22 homeless children and five grownups collected in a refuge made for them in the woods”.
It was late 1944 or early 1945 when the war by unseen ballistic missiles was running a six months course of silent terror, a mere 26-27 years after the 1918 end of the war to end all wars.
In June of 1944 Germany had launched its first unmanned aircraft against Belgium, Holland, France and England. Hitler named them Vergelthungswaffen – weapons of reprisal. The British called them V-1’s nicknamed “buzz-bombs” because the pulse-jet engine powering the craft carrying high explosives made a distinct, pulsating, buzzing sound as it flew.
When it reached is roughly designated target, the engine would cut-out. In the few seconds of silence that followed the bomb – with a 1,870 pound warhead would plummet to earth and explode. Those of who were there still remember the dreadful catch-breath seconds of silence.
The first V1 fell from the sky a week after June 6, D-day. It has been estimated that during the first wave of the buzz bomb campaign one fell on London every hour. Unlike aircraft used in the “blitz” of earlier years the V1’s were capable of flying in any weather, night or day – and, most important, no German pilots were lost once Allied fighter pilots discovered they could be tracked and destroyed en route the their targets.
At 11.20 on Sunday morning June 18, 1944 the home church for the Brigade of Guards on Birdcage Walk, London, was crowded with military and civilian worshipers. The choir was singing the Sung Eucharist when a V1 plunged through the roof killing 121 military and civilian worshippers and seriously injuring 141. Rescue workers were amazed to find the silver altar cross still standing and altar candles still burning.
It is estimated that more than 6,000 civilians, many of them children, were killed and 17,000 injured before the V1 threat was brought under control by Operation Crossbow. Crossbow targeted the V1 production plants and launch platforms in Europe. The operation cost the lives of 2,000 Allied airmen – but by September 1944 Germany was ready to launch its next ultimate weapon of retaliation – the V2.
The V2 was terrifying in dark of midnight or noonday sun. It was programmed to be travelling beyond the speed of sound when its 2,000 pound warhead struck earth – the first warning a V2 attack was underway.
The V2 attacks continued until the German army was pushed back from their launch sites. In their short lives as weapons of retaliation the V1 and V2 killed 9,237 civilians, many of them mothers and children, and seriously injured 23,333
I mention it all here as a reminder that while fatal missile blasts in Gaza may be shocking to today’s generations; they are not new battlefield tragedies. Nor will they be the last. As civilized human beings we gather on a multitude of memorial days to remember and a promise to never forget. And immediately do.
“Man’s inhumanity to man continues to “make countless thousands mourn” a hundred years after our fathers promised: ”No more”. In the past century we have done much to create better, more efficient, civilians be-damned, killing weapons. But nothing to eliminate them.

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