Dave Lange’s moving editorial which was featured in the Plain Dealer, from November 12, 2018, and U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown’s letter in recognition of Dave’s and his father’s military service:
Here is the column in full:
Remembering my father’s service and a time when German-Americans were targeted in America
Dave Lange, Guest Columnist
MALVERN, Oho — In late October 1990, I wrote a eulogy to my father, Charles M. Lange, who had just died at the not-so-old age of 71. I titled it, “Veterans Day tribute has to run early.”
Forty-five years earlier, he was an infantryman with the famed Rainbow Division that fought in the Battle of the Bulge, overcame the mighty German 6th Mountain Division, pushed through Nazi strongholds and finally liberated the Dachau concentration camp.
Along the way, my dad was sidetracked by severe frostbite. Despite unrelenting torment to his lower legs, he returned to the front lines and was awarded a Bronze Star.
The pain never left him. He endured it for 37 years on the floors of an Allegheny Valley Alcoa mill and Ford Motor Co.’s Cleveland Stamping Plant, often for 60-hour weeks, to pay the mortgage and put food on our table. Soon after his retirement in 1983, one of his circulation-deprived legs was taken above the knee by a surgeon’s saw. Subsequent surgeries salvaged the other leg and kept him alive until his overburdened heart couldn’t take it anymore.
But Charlie Lange was a lucky man.
He was born to an unmarried mother in the spring of 1919 in a small town near Essen, Germany. The country of his birth was physically shattered by war, its economy in ruins, 10 percent of its territory extracted by conquering allies and food shortages so bad that its inhabitants ate dogs, crows, zoo animals and rodents.
With a bit of good fortune, his mother found a husband, Carl Gustav Lange, whose uncle had emigrated to the United States prior to World War I. With cheap labor in demand by American factories after the war, Gus Lange also found work in the western Pennsylvania mills and saved enough money to send for the scrounging wife, stepson and baby daughter he had left behind.
America never was overly welcoming to immigrants, certainly not aliens from a foreign adversary.
During World War I, German books were burned, Lutheran schools were labeled as subversive and German-Americans were taken to internment camps, tortured and even lynched, “patriot murder,” as the defense attorney in an Illinois acquitting court called it. Hearst newspapers reported “that the modern German population was actually descended from Asiatic barbarians.” Intolerance directed at German-Americans was justified by The Washington Post, which said, “In spite of excesses such as lynching, it is a healthful and wholesome awakening in the interior of the country.” President Woodrow Wilson’s Committee on Public Information depicted Germans as savages and called them the Huns.
Even so, the 1930 U.S. Census counted more than 1.6 million German-born immigrants, second only to about 1.8 million Italians. My grandparents, father and aunt were among them.
Thankfully, my father was on the right side of World War II. His designation as a rifleman and interpreter played a role in defeating the right-wing scourge of Nazism that was determined to eradicate Jews, especially, but also communists, socialists, religious minorities, homosexuals and invalids from the face of the Earth. After it was over, thankfully, my dad was able to rescue my mother, another German refugee, from the rubble of World War II.
I’m a first-generation American. Like my father before me, I’m a lucky man. I, too, am proud to have served my country in the military.
I am cognizant of my ethnic and immigrant history. But, unlike many of today’s immigrants, because of my race and my religion, I’m not treated like a savage, barbarian or Hun.
Unlike the parents of U.S. Army Capt. Humayun S.M. Khan, a Muslim immigrant who died heroically in Iraq, I’m not ridiculed by a president who dodged the draft during my war. Unlike disabled Army veteran Ricardo Pineda, I did not suffer worry about the threatened deportation of my wife to Mexico by a heartless regime.
On this Veterans Day, I pray for fellow Americans like them.
Dave Lange’s work has been recognized many times over his 40-year journalism career for editorial pieces and column writing. A few comments by awards judges are reproduced below, as well as a recent press release for “Virginity Lost in Vietnam.”
There is also a press packet available which includes images, captions and more information for use in review and promotion. Click here to download the zipped archive (19.3MB)
Golden Dozen Awards, 1981:
“Dave Lange shared with the readers … his thoughts about the Vietnam War and influence on the current debate over draft registration.”
International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors
Osmond C. Hooper Community Service award, 1990:
“Out of a small notice concerning a gathering of Vietnam-era veterans, the Times developed a series of articles that helped lead to the formation of a local chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America. Interest from veterans nearly tripled, no doubt due in part to the Times getting the word out on the chapter. One story about a counselor dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder led to her offering free assistance to the VVA chapter. Another story covered the meeting of a local Vietnam vet with a Soviet vet from the Afghanistan conflict; it brought into focus the worldwide problems that ex-fighting men and women from unpopular conflicts have faced. Reporter Dave Lange puts a real feel for his subject into the stories.”
During his quarter century of editing three weekly newspapers in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, Dave Lange won 47 Ohio Newspaper Association Osmond C. Hooper Awards, including first place 23 times for editorials and original columns.
First Place, Best Columnist in Ohio, 2011:
“Lange forcefully takes the rich and powerful to task for failing in their commitments to the public. His use of irony is masterful. Beautifully done!”
The Press Club’s Ohio Excellence in Journalism contest and the Society for Professional Journalists honored Lange with 16 statewide awards, including Best Columnist in Ohio in 2000 and 2011.
From Bomb Threats to Real Explosions
PRESS RELEASE May 22, 2018
Dave Lange, then a freshman architecture student at Kent State University, was on top of the world as he sat with his girlfriend on March 26, 1968, in the audience of Cleveland’s Music Hall. It was his first rock concert, and Jimi Hendrix had the crowd rocking and rolling.
Suddenly, the music stopped, and Hendrix backed away from the microphone. Chuck Dunaway, the emcee, stepped up to it. He asked everyone in the hall to check under their seats. As legendary rock ‘n’ roll writer Jane Scott reported in the Cleveland Plain Dealer the next morning, three bomb threats had been called in. No bomb was found.
“Nobody but Jimi burns the house down,” Hendrix shouted, and the show went on.
Less than three months later, Lange was back in downtown Cleveland, near the top of the New Federal Office Building, where he took his physical for induction into the U.S. Navy. After falling a few quarter hours short of full-time enrollment, he had lost his student deferment.
Unlike the presumably bone-spurred Donald Trump, who later equated his sexual proclivities to Vietnam heroics and went on to denigrate prisoners of war like John McCain, Lange answered the call to service. Unlike war-mongering radio commentator Rush Limbaugh, Lange didn’t whine about anal cysts to weasel out of military service.
Soon after his 19th birthday, Lange was being treated to real-life explosions while serving with the Brown Water Navy along the rivers of South Vietnam.
Now retired, the award-winning journalist has written an autobiography, his coming-of-age account, “Virginity Lost in Vietnam.” It’s a story about war, but it’s not a war story. The pages are not packed with eye-popping accounts of flying bullets, mangled limbs and spilling blood in the jungles and rice paddies of that quagmire. But they do convey the courage of the men in combat. They explore the hearts and minds of those who served in Vietnam. They feel for the human relations that were indelibly impacted by the war – both at home and abroad.
Much of Lange’s early story is set in Cuyahoga Falls, where he grew up in a working-class bungalow, the son of a decorated World War II veteran and a war refugee. His youthful exploits on baseball diamonds and in competitive swimming pools gradually were overtaken by less reputable juvenile escapades.
Lange relates the adventures and frustrations of male pubescence during high school. They transcend to the distractions of extracurricular activities during his freshman year at Kent State and then to the anxiety of losing his draft deferment. He bears no tolerance for privileged “chicken-hawk” draft dodgers who cheered on the Vietnam War from the sidelines and, through duplicative obfuscation, activated subsequent military incursions.
“Virginity Lost in Vietnam” recalls the travails of boot camp. It reveals secrets of Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape training, which has been exposed as the origin of post-9/11 torture techniques. Lange brings readers up close and personal to the flesh-scorching consequences of the chemical weapon napalm. He takes them for a bumpy ride with Agent Orange, flies them over the Cambodian border, plunges them into the murky depths of infested rivers and huddles them undercover from a clandestine enemy night raid.
The author anguished over American boys killed in action, commiserated with battle-weary teenagers and looked into hollowed souls long before post-traumatic stress was called a disorder. As Lange demonstrates, Vietnam veterans were called “baby killers” and “losers” back then, and their sacrifice still incurs belittlement today.
“Virginity Lost in Vietnam” goes beyond the war in Southeast Asia, where the Soviet Union and China invested billions in weaponry that killed tens of thousands of Americans. The story deploys aboard aircraft carriers during the Cold War to engage the Soviet menace, whose remnants, the writer contends, now are a stealthy threat to American freedom.
Lange was in the Aegean Sea in May 1970 when he heard news about students shot dead by the Ohio National Guard at his beloved Kent State University. His grief turned to rage when vile letters to the editor clipped by his mother arrived in the mail.
Following the ill-fated culmination of his military service, Lange’s story follows an adventurous hitchhiking journey around the country. He became a union construction worker and then a union auto worker before finally earning a journalism degree at Kent State. He also studied political science in graduate school at the University of Akron.
No true story about the 1960s and Vietnam would be complete without the ingredients of drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. This book also is about race. It’s about a white kid from an all-white neighborhood who, through his military experience, came to know the brotherhood of all races.
Of course, this book is about politics. War is always about politics. War and politics always are overshadowed by lies, about power and privilege and about contempt for the powerless and underprivileged. Finally, it is about unlearned lessons that disconnect the present from the past.