For years people have been telling me that my interviews with war vets published in The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa., should go into a book.
War Stories in Their Own Words: Pennsylvania Veterans Tell of Sacrifice and Courage went on sale Sept. 15. You can order it on the newspaper’s website at https://secure.mcallcommunity.com/store/pages/war-stories.php or by calling 610-508-1517. The price is $14.95.
The book has a soft cover and 176 pages. It contains first-person accounts from the World War I era, World War II, the Cold War, the Korean War and the Vietnam War – all interviews I’ve done since the series War Stories: In Their Own Words began running in The Morning Call in 1999.
The stories appear with photos of the vets taken by the newspaper’s photographers, the vets’ own pictures of themselves in wartime, maps and
epilogues on the veterans’ post-war years.
There are 34 veterans in the book, about a third of all the interviews that have appeared in the series. It wasn’t easy choosing whose story to include – I like all of them. But generally we wanted to represent each of the major American wars of the 20th century, and to have a mix.
So they aren’t all blood-and-guts. One of the vets was a clerk on Eisenhower’s staff. Another was a Navy cargo pilot in the Pacific who didn’t have to contend with Japanese fire. One woman was an Army nurse who tended to the Chinese building the Ledo Road in Burma.
The enemy is represented as well, by a man who was born in Pennsylvania, taken by his mother to Austria while a baby and drafted into the Germany army as a teen. He talks about his service in an anti-tank battalion on the Eastern Front and in Italy, where he was machine-gunned in the legs.
Of the veterans in the book, 15 have since died – nearly half of the total. That is in a span of only a dozen years, pointing up the need to have war veterans tell their stories before they go to the grave. We need to know what they saw and did. Future generations will want to know as well.
That’s what this book is about. I hope you like it.