Veterans fear future wars

September 13, 2017

Mooroopna World War II veterans Roger Cruse and Alan Akers' lives were changed by war, and, with current tensions, the pair worry for the future.

Alan Akers and Roger Cruse were in their late teens when war arrived on their doorstep without so much as a warning.

It was the late 1930s and they believed conflict was concentrated in Europe and the Mediterranean and Australia was out of reach.

But both, along with other young Australians, were thrust into the carnage which quickly became the deadliest war in history, marked by up to 85 million fatalities.

Almost one million Australians served in the armed conflicts, effectively fighting two wars at once, Germany and Italy in Europe and North Africa and Japan in South-East Asia and the West Pacific.

But despite the multiple conflicts, both veterans, who served in infantry and maintenance respectively, in New Guinea, believe the world was in more of a mess now than it was back then.

‘‘We were young, but it all happened suddenly, and everyone became very worried because the war in Europe was now on our doorsteps,’’ Mr Akers said.

‘‘After the bombing in Darwin I remember my parents saving the silver coins because they were frightened the Japanese would take over and put their currency about, so they buried these jars of coins in the back garden.’’

As fighting continues in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, parts of South America teeters towards anarchy and leading Filipino figures oppress and murder the vulnerable, Mr Cruse said questionable world leaders and tensions building with North Korea made the world appear on par with issues which led to World War II.

Mr Cruse said it was easy enough for the winds of war to blow to Australia and he was frightened by the increasing tensions.

‘‘It has been squirmy, it seems every country is at war, and what’s going on in Asia and Korea and the Middle East, there seems to be a more frightening future than what it was in 1939,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s not as frightening for me and Alan because we’ve lived our life and we’ve seen the best of the world, but what about the school children today? What future are they facing?’’

Both men in their mid-90s, now live in the Goulburn Valley and said after the war, settling back into their old lives as an orchardist and baker took a number of years.

Mr Akers suffered through four years of bouts of Malaria when he returned, waiting for the disease to leave his system.

Mr Cruse for years would go to work, then to the pub and did not know where he would end up.

‘‘It took a while to adjust, I’d say it took nearly four years before you got the war out of your system,’’ Mr Akers said.

‘‘Anyone who has been to war previously realises that anything could happen at any moment, and with everything that’s happening at the moment, it’s something that’s on your mind every day.’’

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