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Consider the Queen Mary, now a floating museum in California. This great ship was built as a luxury liner, and it served the wealthy with lavish comforts. Part of the ship has been restored to show the way it was outfitted in all its regal glory, with grand dining rooms set with china and gold utensils and large, elegant staterooms. Three thousand people could travel the seas in the grandest luxury accommodations.

But if you move your eyes across the partition, you will see the way the ship was refitted for WWII: “The wartime austerities present a sharp contrast. One metal tray with indentations replaces fifteen plates and saucers. [Single beds are replaced by] bunks, not just double but eight tiers high.” No longer are 3,000 well-to-do socialites vacationing in comfort; now 15,000 are ferried to war. What would cause the owners of one of the most beautiful, elegant, luxurious ships ever made, to paint it dingy grey and submit it to the indignities of being stripped of its glory and filled with filthy soldiers? Nothing less than the survival of a nation depending on it.

Have we been lulled to sleep by the comforts of our wealth and forgotten we are at war?

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