WW: What War?


“Buds will pop
Trains will stop

Folks will dance in the streets

Wine will flow
Cares will go

Next time we meet”

— Paul J. Gilligan, my grandfather and poet, on the war ending and reuniting with his love, my grandmother

War-time images of my grandpops and great uncle. Letters/writing are by my grandfather to my grandmother during the war. Image of my grandmother (along with a lock of hair you can't see) that my grandfather kept with him when he fought overseas.
Today marks the seventieth anniversary of World War II officially ending. It was on this day, August 14th of 1945, that the Japanese surrendered to the Americans, and though temporary, peace prevailed.

My grandpops and his friend at military training
in Hawaii, USA
   My grandpops was a Lieutenant Officer serving in the US Military in the Philippines and New Guinea. My great uncle, Jim Curran — my grandmother’s brother — also served in the US Military, but in Europe and Northern Africa. It was through them that not only I, but my family, have developed such a deep understanding and overall awareness for WWII. In fact, most likely due to them, both my father and his brother served in the US Navy after college.

My great uncle Jim
Great Uncle Jim

“I could order rain
To quench the thirsty plain
And flowers to bloom all

— Paul J. Gilligan

“You stay in my heart
All through the storm
You keep me warm and
I’m not afraid”

— Paul J. Gilligan

“Mad for you
Really got it bad for you
Don’t know what I’ll ever
If you won’t be mine

Mad for you
This is such a sad ado”

— Paul J. Gilligan

   Due to my family background, I have always been very rooted and entrenched in WWII and my family ties to it. I grew up listening to war-time favorites (Kitty Kallen, anyone?), memorizing the story of how my grandparents were reunited in New York City after the war, flipping through my grandparents’ wedding album circa the summer of 1946, hearing stories about my grandfather catching malaria from his time in the Philippines, reading the poetry he wrote — mainly about his longing and love for my grandmother — when he was overseas at war, and my great uncle Jim breaking into the office where the conscription records were held so he could change his shooting scores and go to war with all the other boys. I guess I’ve just always been fortunate enough to be surrounded by the history, hence why I can’t wrap my mind around people who have no care and awareness for our veterans and everything they did. For us. In fact, it’s quite astounding to see how many kids in these young generations just don’t know and don’t care.


“Just time to say goodbye
Gone are all fears
If we refuse to cry

No time for wondering
We’ll meet again
Give thanks that we are
We’ll love them

No Time For Tears
Life’s much too short
And sweet
When parting ways
Our dreams will be

We’ll have such beautiful
Memories to last for
So now give out with the
No Time For Tears”

— Paul J. Gilligan

Grandpops "Poppy" Paul Gilligan (the poet)
   When my grandmother and I talk further in depth about growing up during the Great Depression and WWII (she was born in the 1920’s), it never ceases to amaze me how they, as a whole generation, beat them — the 30’s and 40’s — and still could come out of it all without many complaints. I mean, sure, of course they hated the economy crashing and having to go to war, but everyone did what they had to back then. They just did it. And when they got out of it, they were grateful for what they had. They were just so damned grateful to be alive and productive. Nowadays? Generation Z ought to be called “The Entitled Whiners” (you too, Millennials). We’re resentful, and our productivity levels are embarrassing. Nothing is ever enough for the youth of today. Everything is our God given rights.
   When my grandparents’ generation was the youth of its time, guess what? They never really had a youth. It was stripped from them. They weren’t an entitled bunch, which is why they survived the early decades of the twentieth century. Now, we can’t even survive losing followers on social media, or not getting enough likes on profile pictures. We assume we’re entitled to just about anything and everything.
   People in my generation living in the western world will never know the grim and gruesome struggles of our ancestors. Don’t get me wrong — I’m eternally grateful that we’re not at war now, but we’re just so caught up in our own little worlds because we don’t know. We just don’t know, nor do we care. It’s all about our freedom and our own liberty to do as we wish, yet we all seem to forget about those who literally killed and died for our freedom. 

“Afraid of the dark
Since you’ve gone from me
Afraid of the nights
Spent alone

Afraid of the dreams I’ll dream
In the deep night
A glimpse of the heaven
That we had known

Afraid of the breeze
That will sing your name
The same careless moon
That touched off the spark
A shadowy you that comes
Back to haunt me
Must I be
Afraid of the dark”

— Paul J. Gilligan

   Now, I’m not here to praise the almighty US Army or support mass murder (on both sides). In fact, I’m a pacifist. However, being a pacifist — though descending from many who have served — has pushed me even more to respect our veterans and those fallen for us. To think that they thought we were worthy enough for them to sacrifice their lives so we can live is just heart-wrenching. We should never forget them and what they did; we should make what they fought for worth it. After all, it’s not the fault of soldiers that wars were started. They just went out and did all the dirty work. So if anything, please respect veterans for the fact that they had to give themselves up for world leaders’ horrendous “leading”.

Grandpops and his friend during the war

“April, wasn’t it?
When we found the glow
April, wasn’t it?
When we lost the glow
Spring will come here
April it will be
When we meet again”

— Paul J. Gilligan

   With these thoughts in mind, I leave you with my remaining ones: Please respect and learn from our veterans. Nothing good ever comes from war, except for, “coulda, shoulda, woulda.” Regrets. They often do many killings as well. 

“You were the best bet
I know it now

I passed you by — yet
I don’t see how

You were the dream I’d
Been waiting for”

— Paul J. Gilligan

   During WWII, I had family and family-friends on both American and Japanese sides who fought. And guess what? Both sides had tremendous losses. People died. So, it’s up to us to remember what happened and ensure a safe and secure future. We must be aware that there still are wars going on today, even if it’s not happening directly (#ISIS) to the western world. 
   And please, for the love of God, people in Generation Y and Z, get over yourselves.  

“Look up
And you’ll see our star
Shining bright as our
Dreams are”

— Paul J. Gilligan

Grandpops back home in Philly after the war
(Obviously not around Christmas, though...)


  1. Amazing article! Love the poetry and photos.

  2. Such a beautiful article ! I think Paul J. Gilligan is my new favorite poet :)