HOW DO YOU THINK YOU FEEL when you wake up in a hospital and find out you killed your own mother?
JUST WHAT DO YOU DO in that moment when your plane’s been hit, and you are about to crash far from home?
— “I spent a lot of time in hospitals. I had a lot of trouble reconciling how my mother died after reading the telegram she opened, saying I was shot down and missing in action; I didn’t explain to her that ‘missing in action’ is not necessarily ‘killed in action’, you know? I didn’t even think about that. How do you think you feel when you find out you killed your own mother?” —B-24 bombardier, shot down, taken prisoner
Dying for freedom isn’t the worst that could happen. Being forgotten is.
— “I was in the hospital with a flak wound. The next mission, the entire crew was killed. The thing that haunts me is that I can’t put a face to the guy who was a replacement. He was an 18-year old Jewish kid named Henry Vogelstein from Brooklyn. It was his first and last mission. He made his only mission with a crew of strangers.” —B-24 navigator
Maybe our veterans did not volunteer to tell us their stories; perhaps we were too busy with our own lives to ask. But they opened up to a younger generation, when a history teacher taught his students to engage.
— “The German fighters picked us. I told the guys, ‘Keep your eyes open, we are about to be hit!’ I saw about six or eight feet go off my left wing. I rang the ‘bail-out’ signal, and I reached out and grabbed the co-pilot out of his seat. I felt the airplane climbing, and I thought to myself, ‘If this thing stalls out, and starts falling down backwards, no one is going to get out...’” —B-17 pilot
As we forge ahead as a nation, do we owe it to ourselves to become reacquainted with a generation that is fast leaving us, who asked for nothing but gave everything, to attune ourselves as Americans to a broader appreciation of what we stand for?This is the second book in the masterful WWII oral history series, but you can read them in any order.
— “You flew with what I would call ‘controlled fear’. You were scared stiff, but it was controlled. My ball turret gunner—he couldn’t take it anymore… I guess he was right. He’s dead now. But he had lost control of the fear. He never got out of that ball turret; he died in that ball turret.” —B-24 bombardier
It's time to listen to them. Read some of the reviews below and REMEMBER how a generation of young Americans truly saved the world. Or maybe it was all for nothing?
— “A must-read in every high school in America. It is a very poignant look back at our greatest generation; maybe it will inspire the next one.”
Reviewer, Vol. I
-- "A must-read in every high school in America. It is a very poignant look back at our greatest generation; maybe it will inspire the next one." Reviewer, Vol. I
A selection of comments left by Amazon reviewers:
- "Volume II. This book is told from the men that were there. The men of this generation are leaving us all too soon. If you are like me and are hungry for more info and stories about what happened during WWII you need to read this series of books You won't be sorry you bought this or any of the series of these books."
- "This book is full of wonderful history of some B 17 and B 24 heavy bomber crewmen telling their stories... I read this book in two days, was hard to put it down to go to bed last night, or I would have read the book in one sitting."
- "Author's style is comfortable and easy to read. Disturbing but true description of the sheer madness of sending hundreds of bombers, with crews of 9-10, on missions in which 30%-60% did not return. Even a cursory reading reveals the guts, patriotism, and sense of manhood that so many of our citizens displayed during and after WW2."
- "An excellent book, with the right touch of humanity."
- "Very insightful book. Well worth the read. Could we do it again?"
- "We tend to forget that The Greatest Generation were just every day Americans who responded to their nation's call to fight. Some were good, some bad, some rebellious, but they served and did their part with the goal of not letting their friends down in the heat of battle."
- "This series of books tells it as it was through the eyes of the men themselves, no glossing up, but in their own words. This is important to me because in this way the true history, the pure history, is preserved without bias."
- "What an eyeopener! I learned so much about WWII!"
- "I am amazed by these personal stories about our citizen warriors who walked into the jaws of danger and death seemingly undaunted day after day after day. Just regular guys (and ladies, too) doing a tough job."
- "This book meant a lot to me as my father was a WWII bomber pilot, but like so many of his generation, he never talked about the war. This book gave me insight into what he would have experienced from pilot training through his overseas bombing missions. The little I know was information my mother shared after dad died. I'm so happy I read it!"
- "I love Matthew Rozell's books. Each with interviews from those who served in World War II. I've read all of them, and it is like being in the room and listening in. If you love history and World War II era in particular, you can't go wrong with these books."
- "This book was excellent. I read it in two days and am buying his other WWII books. It's important that we hear the story of the war from the people that were in it. It's the only way to know what they went through. This book gives these veterans a voice and I want to know what they have to say."
- "I loved reading the stories of each man. I truly believe they were the greatest generation. Just average men who allowed this country to be a great country."
- "The stories are real and read as if the person was speaking with you. The stories are very personal, and detailed. This is highly recommended for those who appreciate historical essays, and diaries. I will purchase the other volumes soon. Loved it!"
- "What an eyeopener! I learned so much about WWII!"
- "So far I have read three of Matthew Rozell's books and have yet to be disappointed. Hearing the stories of the men who had the courage to fly into combat really puts life itself into perspective. If you love WWII you'll find this an excellent read."
- "We owe all those heroes a debt we can never repay. Put yourself in the place of the ball turret gunner who "couldn't take it anymore" but continued mission after mission until eventually being killed while doing his job in that turret. How scared he must have been, and what an awful way to die. Such a debt we owe!"
I don't know how to explain the feeling of sitting down and going back to re-listen to and edit these conversations, which in many cases took place years ago. As the writer/historian you spend days if not weeks with each individual, researching their stories, getting under their skin. You really have the feeling that you are doing a kind of cosmic CPR,taking their original words and breathing new life in a readable format that places readers at the kitchen table with that person who had something important to say. The reader shares the intimate moments with them as he/she gets absorbed in a real story being told. As an interviewer it happened many times to me directly with our World War II veterans, in living rooms, kitchens and dining rooms all over 'Hometown USA', in the classroom, and at reunion'hospitality rooms' and hotel breakfast tables across America.
But memories are short. A World War II memoirist once wrote, 'Ignorance and apathy are the greatest dangers to freedom.' I agree, but as a lifelong history teacher, I contend that it begins with people simply not being exposed to the history to begin with. For how could one not be drawn into these stories, the human drama, the interaction and the emotion that goes into putting an ideal first? After sitting at their table, how could you not give weight to what they have seen, and where they think we are going, as a people, as a nation? I saw this spark kindled time and again in my classroom, when we got to hear from real people who had a front row seat, who acted in the greatest drama in the history of the world.
Perhaps now I ramble. Now it is better to have them tell you themselves, about the world they grew up in, the challenges and obstacles placed on life's course, and how a generation of Americans not only rose to the challenge, but built the country and the freedoms that we enjoy today. They truly saved the world. Be inspired. Share their stories; give them voice. Lest we forget.
MATTHEW ROZELL is an award-winning history teacher, author, blogger and speaker. He has been featured as the ABC World News 'Person of the Week' and has had his work filmed for CBS News, NBC Learn, the Israeli Broadcast Authority, the New York State United Teachers, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Visit his blog at TeachingHistoryMatters.com.