January 8, 2001
Note from the Editor: Rush to your book store. Buy this book!
After three months of combat, my sureness of why I was there and why we were fighting completely disappeared. I had seen too many dead enemy boys, the color drained from their faces, which, even in death, too closely resembled my own; and as time went on I could not kill them for words. Not for democracy, nor freedom, and certainly not for religion. No one I knew fought for these words. (p. 74/75)
I killed to keep from dying. I killed to protect the boys in my squad. The history books would eventually say that I killed for the ideals of human liberty. But the history books would be dead wrong. (p.75)
Thirty million Russian people died in the Second World War. Not soldiers--families. Thirty million people. Mothers and grandmothers, fathers and children. They burned and bled, littering the landscape. Their bed burned, and their toys. Their wedding pictures and their babies' carriages.
In Dresden, Germany, our own Allied planes firebombed the city for hours, incinerating everything. Entire blocks were reduced to fine ash. It is difficult to guess how many died. When everything is ash, how does one count? Eighty thousand? A hundred thousand? Children burn to death and leave no traces of themselves. No trace of their glasses of milk, their picture books. (p. 88)
And in the city of Hiroshima, Japan, more than one hundred thousand people died instantly when an atomic bomb--what was that? no one knew at the time--was dropped from a B-29 flying lonely in the sky. People looking up wondered what that bomber was doing there all alone. The children finished their breakfasts. The mothers wrapped up their sleeping infants. And they all died in a three-thousand degree oven. (p.89)
After the war ended, America made Germany its friend, Russia its enemy, and it helped rebuild Japan. We soldiers had been right all along. The enemy is always interchangeable. Only the boys in the field remain the same, no matter the war. Boys will do the fighting because they are young and still possessed of the best faith. Only the young can be persuaded to die for each other. Only the young can be persuaded this is the only way. (p. 90)
Cynthia Rylant is the acclaimed author of more than forty books such as Appalachia: The Voices of Sleeping Birds and Missing May, winner of the 1993 John Newbery Medal.
These two short excerpts are published under the provision of U.S. Code, Title 17, section 107.
I Had Seen Castles is Copyright © 1993 by Cynthia Rylant
Publisher: Harcourt Brace & Company
ISBN 0-15-200374-6 (paperback)
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