Review – Forever a Soldier
Every war is a tapestry woven of the individual stories of millions of men and women thrust into a violent world where simple survival acquires a new, often permanently life-changing perspective. Forever A Soldier captures this personal side of war in 37 extraordinary narratives that relate the American soldier’s experience of battle from the First World War to the ongoing struggle in Iraq.
These unforgettable personal accounts are culled from letters, diaries, private memoirs, and oral histories collected by the Library of Congress Veterans History project and offer a fascinating, frequently poignant group portrait of America’s armed forces, enlisted and officers alike. Here are tales of frontline action, from doughboy Hillie Fanz’s 1918 baptism of fire to battleship gunner Ray Brittain’s duel with Japanese planes at Pearl Harbor to medical officer Rhonda Cornum’s capture by Iraqis when her helicopter is shot down during the Gulf War. Here too are quiet periods of relief and reflection, off-duty interludes like furloughs in liberated Paris or Korean-era Tokyo, and countless brief yet deeply intimate episodes: tow badly wounded soldiers, one German and one American, clasping hands in wordlessly eloquent humanity as they wait to be treated; a downed pilot’s faith sustaining him under torture by North Vietnamese interrogators; a GI’s lifelong regret at his best buddy’s death by friendly fire on the last day of World War II in Europe.
An indispensable contribution to understanding war and its impact on us all, Forever a Soldier presents famous incidents like the sinking of the Indianapolis and her survivors’ terrifying four-day ordeal in the shark-infested Pacific, famous battles like D-Day or the Tet Offensive, and famous names like John McCain, but it is the heroic ordinary Americans whose accounts put a familiar face on the universal realities of war: courage and fear, horror and exhilaration, sorrow and triumph. Each story speaks powerfully for all American veterans, a family forged in fire whose experiences are seared into our national memory.
This book was very readable. Although some of the incidents are graphically true to the events, nothing comes across as in your face trauma, so most veterans will be able to read this book with empathy. If you are following my column, you may recognize this review as one in a long line of books which are various collections of memoirs, diaries, and photographs. The difference in this book lies in the amount of story told by each narrator. The pictures are good. The subject matter gives equal voice to all ethnicities and services.
Forever a Soldier, Unforgettable Stories of Wartime Service is another Library of Congress Veterans History Project book by Tom Wiener and introduced by Andrew Carroll.
The book lists its price as $26.00. I bought my copy from a overstock store for $3.00. One of my favorite bookstores offers the originally priced edition of $28.60 to its members for $25.74. A popular online bookstore offers copies ranging at $26.00 for new down to $1.26 for used.
More information may be obtained from
National Geographic Society
1145 17th Street N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20036-4688 USA
This book would make a good addition to any veteran’s personal library.
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