I Am Happy with My Time

Frank, Pat


  • Pat Frank describes his experiences as a war correspondent with Edward R. Murrow during World War II; explains how his interactions with Germans, Japanese, and Italians give him hope that people share a fundamental humanity; and notes that the chance to watch history unfold is a great opportunity and responsibility, despite the uncertainty of the era.
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And now, This I Believe. The living philosophies of thoughtful men and women presented in the hope they may strengthen your beliefs so that your life may be richer, fuller, happier. Here is Edward R. Murrow
This I Believe. During World War Two my colleague Pat Frank, in addition to covering the military and political events which now form the materials of history books, was gathering the impressions and insights which he has since fashioned into three novels. At the same time he was accumulating the ideas which form the basis of the reasoned creed Pat Frank expresses.
In 1945, I followed our armies in their final thrust through Italy, and then flew to Berlin to cover the Potsdam conference. The American correspondents in Berlin were housed in the suburb of Zehlendorf. I was billeted in a typical middle-class house on a shady street. My roommate was Ed Murrow. We were the only Americans in the house.
The Russians had occupied Zehlendorf before us, and they had stripped this house of linen and blankets, but we had our bedrolls. The elderly couple that owned the house lived over the garage. At first, these two old people were frightened of us. They had been told the Americans were barbarians. We would wreck their house and take what the Russians had overlooked.
We told the couple to come back and live in their own house. And because Murrow and I had traveled long and far, we carried with us the staples that, in those days, correspondents did not overlook—chocolate, coffee, soap, tea, K-rations, and canned meat and butter. We gave these things to the old people and told them to run the house, and take for themselves whatever they needed. They were pitifully and almost incoherently grateful. The next night, we found flowers in our room, and I knew we had made two friends. In the ruin and bitterness of Berlin, still stinking of death, a vase of flowers was a wondrous thing. I have seen and talked with the three enemy peoples of World War II—the Germans, the Japanese, and the Italians.
It has always been my belief that people everywhere are fundamentally alike, and I think that this is proved by the fact that these three peoples are now our allies, actual or potential. It is fundamental that kindness will be repaid with kindness, and hate repaid with hate.
We live in what Toynbee, the great British historian, calls “a time of troubles.” But I am happy with my time. Our generation has been bloodied by two wars, and perhaps faces a third, even more frightful. But I would not have lived in another time, for there have been compensations, as small as flowers offered in friendship, and as inspiring as the birth of the United Nations.
If I live in a time of troubles, I also realize that I live in a time of great opportunity. As a reporter and foreign correspondent, I was privileged to watch history being made, to see events which have helped to decide whether civilization shall stand or fall. I have seen again and again how tremendously important the character of ordinary individuals can be in determining whether our children will live and whether they can be proud of our generation.
I know that I cannot escape my responsibility to put the lessons I have learned into action. With all my faults and frailties, I have a duty to myself and to the world I live in. Perhaps I will never know just how important it is. Yet, I must so live as never to be ashamed of how I fulfilled the duty.
Those are the beliefs of Pat Frank of Atlantic Beach, Florida who has been a reporter, magazine writer and foreign correspondent and is now a successful author. His latest novel “Hold Back the Night” has been widely praised as a warm and moving tribute to the spirit, courage and integrity of American boys in Korea.