When I think of memorial day I can't help to remember my Grandpa Ed. One of the fondest memories I have of him was when I was assigned a "Interview" essay in my first college history class. I got to sit down a listen to so many amazing stories and through them I learned so much more about my Grandfather.
Every once of me had to restrain myself from serious editing lest my entire day be consumed. However I let my self off the hook so long as I included the disclaimer that I was only 16 when I wrote this and I think any grammar that I had was totally directed at the English class that I was also taking at the time. So please excuse this grammatically challenged portion of my old essay.
I sat at the foot of my grandfather's chair as though at the foot of a storyteller in the midst of spinning a tale. The lovable tactics and morning trips to McDonalds that I knew him for were forgotten and a new part of him was revealed as stories of his time in World War II were related to me down to the exact detail. I forgot to take notes as I became wrapped up in the stories he told and I saw my grandfather in a slightly different light than ever before.
Ed Daulton, Husband to Bessie Daulton and father of twelve children, was one of the many draftees in World War II Though he agreed in the countries decision to go to war, as he believed “We had to stop Hitler before he took over the world”, he simply couldn’t fathom the idea of taking another mans life. “I wasn’t a killer.” He said so plainly to me. Having accepted Christianity at the age of 26, the same age he was drafted and sent to war, his faith was new and possibly weak but in the end you will learn that it was his Christianity and trust in God that got him through the war. When I asked him what he thought about Conscientious Objectors and the ideals her answered, having already stated that he had not formally been a Conscientious Objector. “I thought they were mislead, and weren’t taught right. And if its just killing somebody when you’re put in the army, you can avoid a lot of that. And I thought, if he’s a Christian, God will take care of him.” He also believed that many of those who went in for Conscientious Objector status did so out of fear to go and fight. In 1944 Ed was 26 and married with three children when his county called him to war. He trusted fully that God would keep him out of a position that would lead him to kill. His eldest daughter, who was only 5 at the time, remembers him leaving in his uniform while her mother and sibling went to live with their grand parents until their father’s return.
Ed hit a quick barrier in his health examination. Statistics show that “One-third of the men examined by the Selective Service were rejected. Surprising numbers were refused inductions because they were physically unfit for the military service.” Ed recalls “The doctors said I’d never go to war.” But every day he got stronger and healthier and later tells that the war was the best thing that happened to him as it got him back on his feet. “I’d run when fifty would fall out.”
Finally he shipping out with 7,000 other men on a ship called the Amsterdam (an English ship) headed for the shores of Scotland. In the midst of their journey while they were on the sea a storm rose up and they learned of a submarine that was lying in wait beneath the waves. He tells of the shocking escape from their plight. “ The Amsterdam did a 180 and took off and out run it. 7,000 souls aboard and torpedo would have put us all to the bottom.”
After landing in Scotland the got on a train and came down through England and unloaded in London where they got back on a boat. “I never seen nor heard no more till I got to France and there was bombing and everything else.”
Finally after he got into Germany he was placed according to his reference and as he was a welder and mechanics they placed him in the Light Maintenance and Ordinance as a Mechanic. All the while he never told another person his views on killing, that in itself proving his absolute faith and trust in his beliefs. “I had already decided that if they put a gun in my hand and expected me to kill another human, I would walk in front of enemy fire and let them take my life. You see, I completely believed that no one could take my life unless it was the will of God.”
During the War Ed served under General Patton and Colonel Malessy. He started behind the lines guarding Germans at a water tower and as he didn’t wish to kill he told of how he held his gun ready to “Pop them under the chin”. Soon the Lieutenant came back saying they had no papers on Ed and he had to go back up to the front, hitchhiking all the way. He recalled with a chuckle his image of “thumbing a ride” in his soldier attire.
“Its a wonder where you’re put in the war, there’s place you can be put, buddy its a dangerous place”. At one point Ed was suppose to go up “Where the bullets were flying”, What he called the “Very front” to check the equipment in the last move in Austria but his name never got on the list. A Sergeant Finnigan told him, “Daulton, You know why you never had to go right out on the tenth run? Cause I took your name off the list.” Finnigan viewed Ed as more valuable in the Mechanic corps but Ed believed that it was once again, the work of the God.
From Holland Ed moved on to Manila where he was called upon to do a very difficult task, this was building the showers for the soldiers. When ordered to this task he didn’t have any materials or a single tool for the job and his Lieutenant replied “Thats why I elected you. Chose any man you want and get the job down.” Ed looked out the window at a man who was under military arrest and as punishment was carrying huge bags of sand on his bare back. He pointed and said, “Give me that man right there. He’ll work harder to help me than any soldier in this camp.” The Lieutenant said, “ I can’t give you him, He’s under military arrest” But Ed persisted “ You said I could have any man I wanted. I want him.” Finally the Lieutenant gave in and Ed got his way. They collected tools here and there and made the showers out of empty gas tanks dropped from p38s, cans, pipes, and other odds and ends.
Surprisingly, Ed’s time in the military ended, while he was in the middle of his latest chore, building and ice plant. Back home his wife took action. In 1946 Bessie Daulton got up one morning, dressed in her Sunday best, left the children with the grandparents, and started out on the ten mile walk into town to talk to the local judge. Her struggles had become too much to bear as she was trying to run a gas station and tobacco field to support four children, he father and invalid mother, and her aunt and uncle. It was her determined efforts that brought Ed home on a hardship discharge. Three weeks after she talked with the judge Ed made it home, actually leaving behind a letter from Bessie that hadn’t quite reached him in Manlia. He returned to America without having to take a single life while on the front lines during two years of war.
After hearing the testimony of Clarence Edward Daulton, the endless filling out of status papers, qualifications, compensation, and compromises of achieving a Conscientious Objector status seems pretty ironic. After all the main bases for Conscientious Objectors is the religious beliefs that forbid them from taking a life, and supposedly make war and the loss of life during a war a direct opposition to their beliefs. But in Eds Testimony it was religion, faith, and belief that took away his fear of taking another life or losing his own. His actions prove that he truly put his faith in his beliefs knowing that if it wasn’t God’s will for him to kill then he could make it through the war, on the front lines, without having to take another life. He accomplished this with silent faith, not faith that had to be announced and claimed to all so allowing the government to direct his actions. He entered the war trusting and believing in God. Was Ed Daulton a Conscientious Objector? I guess one would have to truly define what being a conscientious objector meant. Filling out a paper until the government deemed you qualified for conscientious objector status. Or promising to yourself and your God that you would conscientiously object to taking another life and trust in him to help you keep your promise, whether on the front lines of battle, or safe on the shores of your own country.