My War

Andy Rooney is well-known through his commentaries at the conclusion of each 60 MINUTES episode. Readers will recognize the style instantly: crisp and wry, a combination of humor, carefully selected anecdote, and common-sense wisdom. This is a history that one reads slowly, not because it is difficult, but in order not to miss an amusing aside.

Drafted out of college, Rooney was not certain whether he was a pacifist, a socialist, a communist, an American-Firster, or only what modern Americans would call a jock. He was opinionated, feisty, mischievous, and interested in writing; he was also a teetotaler and somewhat of a puritan about sex and the other mysteries of life (in those days). Accident led him through training in artillery, marriage, London and the Eighth Air Force, Normandy, and the race across France and Germany to meet the Russians on the Elbe.

The highlight of his life was the liberation of Paris. What a time to be a teetotaler and faithful to his wife. It was also the moment when it became obvious that his laconic sense of humor suited radio.

Rooney shares his likes and dislikes freely: admiration for Eisenhower, hatred of Patton; the merits of individuals in the press corps; the concept of greatness. At Buchenwald, he learned what the war was really all about. With his typical ironic wit, Rooney says that he does not like the term Holocaust, genocide will do nicely. Only it wasn’t nice.

By that time Rooney knew what he was, and it involved none of the adjectives listed above. He had become worldy wise without losing his decency or sense of humor. He had become and American.