Your account of Staff Sergeant John T. Dorsey, born, reared and early-schooled in Opelika (“A Humble Hero”—Opelika Observer, Nov. 23, 2016) is faithful to Dorsey’s feelings and views of warfare and his part in and recognition he received during WW II. That, I am quite sure, has not been easy for you since Dorsey’s take on being awarded the prestigious Silver Star Medal for bravery, believing that the medal was a glorification of war, and his assessment of military action in general, are contrary to the overwhelming consensus on these actions. You are to be commended for your forthrightness and honesty in presenting Dorsey’s views.
John Dorsey and I were in the same senior class at OHS (1943), were good friends and were inducted into the Army at the same time, ten days after graduation. We both had infantry basic training. (After the war John and I were in contact, including sharing a luncheon in Washington, which John initiated, with another ’43 classmate, Congressman Bill Dickinson.) It happened eventually that we both were sent to Southern France, he with a combat division and I (through no choice of my own) with a unit supporting with medical supplies the U.S. Seventh Army of which John’s division was a part.
I concur wholeheartedly that John’s actions, for which he was awarded the Silver Star, were heroic.
Some persons have a different spirit (a God-given insight), a special gift for discerning “the side of the angels.” I’m convinced John had that spirit. It was borne out in his earning a Ph.D. in political science, with subsequent professorships in that field at Michigan State and Vanderbilt. They provided significant platforms to press his views against armed force as the best means of overcoming human conflicts, and the military’s penchant for glorifying war in various ways, including awarding medals.
As the post-war battle for Civil Rights heated up, John was not content to stay on the sidelines. He took an active role in the hard and often dangerous struggle against discrimination of African-Americans.
John saw close-up what Lincoln called “the mighty scourge of war.” He could identify with Gen. William T. Sherman’s spot-on exposure that “war at best is barbarism . . . war is hell,” and took a stand against it.
John Dorsey deserves our gratitude and praise for his outstanding military service, a very careful and thorough appraisal of his views on warfare, at the least leading to the conviction that war should not be the first, but the last, resort, and emulation of his high civic example. His courage in peace, as in war, led him to be out front, ahead of his time. John’s ultimate medal will be awarded from a higher source.
James A. Langley