Sunday, January 20, 2008

A Conservative Viewpoint
- Robert Charles Weaver

"We shall never surrender. They will."

Article by Bob Steinburg
- Edenton, North Carolina: Cradle of the Colony





Is prior military service mandatory to be the president of the United States? Not necessarily. But it is a barometer for measuring character under fire.

Robert Charles Weaver, my mother’s older brother, was in his early twenties when he served in the Pacific theatre of operations during World War II. He was assigned to the Signal Corps under the command of Gen. Douglas MacArthur until MacArthur’s evacuation from the Philippines in February 1942.

Before Bataan’s fall to the Japanese on April 9th, my uncle was evacuated to Corregidor where he would serve under the command of Lt. Gen. Jonathan Wainwright. Uncle Robert worked in an underground fortress, tapping out messages for help to MacArthur’s military command in Australia, advising him of the plight of the 11,000 who remained bunkered down in the tunnels of Corregidor. They were in desperate need of food, water and ammunition. It never arrived.

Corregidor was under constant bombardment from the Japanese Navy. The Japanese established a beachhead. They would accept nothing less than complete surrender. Unwilling to see the 11,000 people under his charge needlessly slaughtered, Wainright sought and received permission to surrender, and did so on May 6, 1942.

For the next 28 months these American prisoners were moved from camp to camp, performing forced labor on air-fields, or harvesting rice or rattan from the jungles. Their Japanese captors were brutal. Many prisoners died from beatings, disease, and starvation.

On September 7, 1944, the U. S. submarine “Paddle” fired two torpedoes into a Japanese convoy hitting a freighter, the “Shinyo Maru.” The skipper of the submarine had no idea this was an unmarked P.O.W. “Hellship,” transporting prisoners to Manila. The human cargo had been crammed into locked holds below deck, where they had remained for nineteen straight days. The 50 year old tiny freighter quickly sank. My Uncle and 667 of his fellow prisoners went down with her.

My Uncle Robert had been assured an appointment to West Point at the conclusion of the war. He was a leader. He had the right stuff. So did many other prisoners on board the Shinyo Maru that ill-fated day. Perhaps one of them would have become a future president of the United States.

Thirty of our former presidents participated in some form of military or militia service. Names like Washington, Eisenhower, Jackson, Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, Truman, Lincoln, LBJ, Kennedy, Reagan, George H.W. Bush, G.W. Bush, Carter, Ford, Grant, Madison and Monroe.

Neither John Adams, nor his son John Quincy Adams, ever served in the military; nor did Van Buren, Taft, Cleveland, Wilson, Harding, Coolidge, Hoover, FDR or Clinton.

Military service does not guarantee a great president. Jimmy Carter was a Navy veteran and had a failed presidency. Franklin Roosevelt never served in the military, yet led our nation out of the great depression and to victory in World War II.

Discipline, courage, character and leadership are qualities that are developed and often called upon during the rigors of one’s military service. These skills have been beneficial to many presidents at times of crisis.

The current Democratic candidates today don’t talk much about courage, commitment, honor and valor on the field of battle. When they speak of the war, it’s usually in the context of extracting our troops from the battlefield. Somehow they project “just bring them all home and we’ll all be fine.”

Neville Chamberlain, a former prime minister of Britain thought that way too. He found out from Nazi Germany, that appeasement doesn’t work.

Winston Churchill, an army veteran and First Lord of the Admiralty, became Britain’s prime minister in 1940. His experience, iron will, determination and rhetoric were his greatest strengths. He was instrumental in rescuing England from the jaws of defeat.

Our nation is at a crossroads in our war on terror. The recent surge has shown progress. But we must acknowledge that we’ve made mistakes and they have cost us much in lives and treasure. We must also acknowledge that with or without retreat, this war will continue for many years on one front or another.

Our next president will be faced with choosing between continuing the fight on his terms without succumbing to the temptation of the prevailing winds of opinion, or possibly face having to one day deal with terms and conditions set forth by adversaries.

In the aftermath of the New Hampshire primaries, I paid close attention to the candidate’s remarks in either addressing their victory or defeat. One voice stood tall among them all. In a Churchill- like manner John McCain said, “We shall never surrender, they will.”

Addressing the House of Commons after the British deliverance at Dunkirk in 1940, one of Britain’s darkest hours, Churchill said: “we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, and we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender.”

Sen. John McCain, a former prisoner of war for five and one- half years, understands the consequences of defeat. Like Churchill, he also knows what it takes to win: courage, character and conviction. Our next President will need all three.


It is the strength of America that a great number of families have their own Robert Charles Weaver. We are a nation of men and women who will sacrifice their own lives that our nation remain free. Our youngest generation still has the same type of people. You have to be in awe of the young men and women who are defending our freedoms in the battlefields of the middle east. They have answered the call like so many before them.

When I hear stories of people like Robert Weaver my first reaction is to say, thank you. My next is to remember the words of General George Patton on a similar occassion. He said, "Don't mourn that men such as these died. Thank God that men such as these lived."

God bless America and all who hold her freedoms dear.