And this is what happened.  Told not in David’s journals, but implicit in the action he referred to in them later.  In his writing and reflections years after it happened.  After he had time to think about.  And if he had written it then, as it was happening, maybe it would be different.  His feelings on it would be different, and the story wouldn’t come out the same way.  The hero would be different, and so would the villain…  Johnny Tribout told it different, in what he had to say about the siege of Bastogne—in seeing David again, and playing music with him, in the waiting they did together as the remnants of American forces trapped there December, 1944.  He tells a different story even though most of the facts are the same.  Johnny has his own take on the myth of David defeating the Goliath, on how he saved the people in the church Christmas day, 1944, and on how David saved his life:

I guess it was like a nightmare where you really aren’t scared.  And you know those kinds of dreams when you wake up from them.  Because you’re not sure what you want to stay in—the dream, or what you wake up to…  He told me about the woman.  When he came back from that reconnoiter Christmas Eve night, he told me about the children he saw through the window.  He told me about the mother and her search for a grave.  And he asked me the same question.  The same question he asked later in his journals, when he reflected on what happened then, what happened during the war.  And I’ll be the first one to tell you, tell you his journals aren’t all true.  You folks want a biography of him, but you can’t just go by his journals.  Because that’s just like his songs, and like his songs they are merely expressions.  You can try to get to him in listening to him, in reading him, but they will always fall short of who he really was.  They are only part of his love, part of his hate, and they are not really his doubts, for his doubts are what created them in the first place…  He did save me—when I took a bullet in the leg.  He did save that church, but I don’t know and I don’t think he knew if he saved them—those children he saw through that window, if he saved that woman he took a walk with.  After the German offensive, after the attack on Bastogne Christmas day, he went back to that window.  He went back to see if they were still alive—the children and the woman’s family.  But they were gone.  The home was gone—destroyed.  Just rubble from artillery fire.  And in the hectic days that followed, in Patton’s reinforcements arriving and the evacuation of civilians, David didn’t know if they were alive or dead, and I think that silence haunted him—like a nightmare—and don’t think even he was sure what he wanted—if he wanted what he remembered from the dream he had of them and the pain it caused him in sharing what they shared, or the reality that they would always be missing, missing from his life, because they were never a part of it.  And what he did, what happened, the other families he saved that day stopping the Goliath from destroying the church—didn’t matter.  It didn’t matter because he didn’t know if he saved them.  If he saved those children he watched through a window.  He didn’t know if their mother ever found that grave of an old friend.  He didn’t know if they were in that church.  And it was personal, his own personal remorse of that memory, that dream—that’s what haunted him and what caused him to write about it later…  But I guess that’s what a musician does—you know.  Because there ain’t no winners in a war.  There are just degrees of losing.  And the best of you, the best of music, the best of anyone—comes from losing.  If you can put that in a song you win in the only way you can… 

–Johnny Tribout, from a PBS interview, September 1971

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