San Francisco Chronicle celebrates an unusual vet on Veterans Day: Lawrence Ferlinghetti





A famed and well-loved literary figure strolls streets and alleys of North Beach in San Francisco. Lawrence Ferlinghetti, 87, has pale blue eyes accented by a fringe of white hair. His tall, slender form is held erect with gentle, patrician dignity. If you didn't know this Beat poet and City Lights bookstore co-founder was a big star of the counterculture, you might think he has a military bearing.

Actually, he does. The crusading publisher of fiery cultural broadsides like Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" is also a World War II Navy veteran. He was a "Splinter Fleet" skipper, commanding one of the frail, 110-foot, wooden subchasers assigned to secure convoys and coasts from U-boat attack.

Veterans Day is a time to honor those who served our country. It's also a good time to study what that period of service taught them. For Ferlinghetti, whose tour of duty ranged from Normandy Beach to Nagasaki, the aftereffects of what he did and saw were considerable. His military service is usually summarized in half a sentence. But there was a lot more to it than that. Like other vets, his story deserves exploration.



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