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Charles Yale Harrison: We have learned who our enemies are


Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

Charles Yale Harrison: Selections on war


Charles Yale Harrison
From Generals Die In Bed (1928)

We have learned who our enemies are – the lice, some of our officers, and Death.

Of the first two we speak continually, the last we rarely refer to.

Strangely, we never refer to the Germans as our enemy. In the week-old newspaper which comes from the base we read of the enemy and the Hun, but this is newspaper talk and we place no stock in it. Instead we call him Heinie and Fritz. The nearest we get to unfriendliness is when we call him “square-head.” But our persistent and ever present foe is the louse.


Six days in reserve near the light artillery, six days in supports, six days in the front trenches – and then out to rest. Five or six days out on rest and then back again; six days, six days, rest.

Endlessly in and out. Different sectors, different names of trenches, different trenches, but always the same trenches, the same yellow, infested earth, the same screaming shells, the same comet-tailed “minnies” with the splintering roar. The same rats, fat and sleek with their corpse-filled bellies, the same gleaming gimlet eyes. The same lice which we carry with us wherever we go. In and out, in and out, endlessly, sweating, endlessly, endlessly…Somewhere it is summer, but here are the same trenches. The trees here are skeletons holding stubs of stark, shell-amputated arms towards the sky. No flowers grow in this wasteland.

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