Davis: Honor past; learn from it, too

On the New Jersey coastline, nearer to the New York area than it is to the Cape May area, there’s an old light house and, beyond the lighthouse, there’s an old battery station which was, during WWII, coastal artillery.

We found it one summer afternoon/evening when we had gotten off duty from Fort Monmmouth, which lies just a few miles south, relatively speaking, of the old coastal artillery area. One has to get off of the beaten paths, though, to find both the lighthouse and the artillery station, which was put there presumably, among other missions, to guard the light house.

Clyde Davis

Clyde Davis

Remember that 70 years, in an area of frequent rainfall and often temperate weather, can produce quite a bit of overgrowth, unlike the area in which we live, where little might have changed other than wear and tear. So we hacked our way through some fairly dense brush, as once you have gotten past the lighthouse, most people presume that there is nothing more to see.

It is about a mile, and the ocean is very near on one’s eastern side. The night being calm and quiet, the ocean reflected the same stillness. We knew the battery was there only because we had been so told; until we were within about 50 yards of it, there was no sign of the presence that had once guarded our coast.

Bunkers. Four of them, showing all signs of the abandonment that must have occurred fairly swiftly, once the threat of German Uboats was gone. But during the height of the war, that threat was still very real. Our coasts, vulnerable, were often and largely under blackout.

Not a large unit, but one which no doubt could have been effective, or, perhaps, was effective. I am sure that others like it were located at close intervals up and down the coast, especially near major cities, as this was proximate to New York.

I have been part of a privileged generation, a privilege of a type which is still available. That is the privilege of visiting with men and occasionally women who served in WWII. I know that every time my grandchildren visit my dad, they want to talk about what it was like being in the WWII Navy, and about the plane on which he flew.

I have had the privilege of visiting, while doing hospital duty as a chaplain at Fort Benning, Georgia, with men who helped to liberate the concentration camps. That privilege is not entirely without negative, for those elderly men who were young men in 1945 still become unable to speak for sorrow at the memory of the condition which those whom they rescued were in.

I have had the privilege mentioned in my opening story, of visiting those seacoast bunkers before the rough coastal weather tears them down.

If we forget where we came from, or those who helped us to maintain that freedom, we do so to our peril, for when we do not honor the past, tyranny may sneak unawares in our back door.

Clyde Davis is a Presbyterian pastor and teacher at Clovis High School. He can be contacted at:

clyde_davis@yahoo.com