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Nations at war
Rogers, Michael H. Answering Their Country's Call: Marylanders in World War II. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002
Foreword; Acknowledgements; Introduction; photos; Index
Michael Rogers, after a chance encounter with a veteran who mentioned that no one had ever been interested in his World War II service, set out to gather war stories from sons and daughters of the state of Maryland. He located and interviewed Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine veterans, and here he presents what he was told by thirty-one Marylanders about their wartime experiences.
Most of the stories run about five or ten pages including a couple of photos and an introductory paragraph by Rogers. The book also includes about ten sidebars from wartime newspaper clipping, magazine articles, speeches and other sources; all tell about individual Marylanders or situations they encountered during the war.
The accounts from the interviews cover a wide spectrum of service. Some of the highlights:
Robert R. Ayres, USMC, pilot with eighty combat missions in the Pacific
Daniel B. Brewster, wounded seven times with the Marines on Okinawa
Dorothy Steinbis Davis, a nurse in the ETO, whose hospital was bombed and served during the Bulge
Arthur J. Donovan Jr, USMC, who met his father while serving on Guam and, caught stealing a case of spam, was ordered to eat all thirty pounds
Joseph A. Farinholt, 29th Infantry Division, winner of four Silver Stars
Lorenzo Felder, one of the first African-Americans in the USMC, who suffered a seemingly endless stream of indignities while defending his country
Calvin S. George, Navy officer aboard the USS Peary, spent four years in Japanese POW camps
Philip A. Hannon, 106th Infantry Division, captured in the Battle of the Bulge
James A. Kane, medic with the 92nd Infantry Division, stepped on a mine and lost a leg while attempting to rescue a wounded man
William R. Keyser, Navy Corpsman who survived the landings on Saipan, Tinian, and Iwo Jima
William S. Kirby, wounded with the 29th Infantry Division in Normandy
Raymond V. Kursch, an AA gunner a few miles from Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941
Charles A. Serio, USMC, who shot a charging Japanese soldier on Iwo Jima and still owns the dead man's sword
John T. Sindall, B-29 gunner who completed twenty-five missions
Charles W. Slagle IV, a professional ice skater who volunteered for the 10th Mountain Division
Boris R. Spiroff, served with the OSS in the Dalmatian islands
Douglas H. Stone, a doctor who waded ashore in France on D-Day without surgical equipment or supplies and spent his first night asleep in the middle of a minefield
Eda C. Teague, a nurse serving in Australia, New Guinea, and the Philippines
Rogers guided each man and woman with a series of questions, but he prints their responses as seamlessly edited accounts that clearly bring out the depth of feeling that still remains after so many years. Some veterans recount the most horrible experiences while others emphasize the constant boredom or even occasional flashes of humor. In every case, individual personalities shine through. Here's an excerpt from a much longer story told by an airman in the ETO.
That story might have been enough for one day, but it wasn't the
only thing that happened on that mission to Berlin. Every crew had
its comedian, and ours was our tail gunner, Jabo. Jabo was constantly calling me over the intercom telling me he was hungry and
asking if I had a sandwich to eat. I would tell him that even if I had
had one it would have been frozen solid. As I said before, we were
having our own problems flying that day. We were on one engine
and not so sure we were going to get back home ourselves. Another
crippled ship called in to the squadron leader. "Red Dog Leader, I
have a fire on board and a fire under my number 3 engine, and we
may need to bail out." The squadron leader replied, "Try to get the
fire out, and stay under the formation, and you'll have fighter protection all the way back." There was a pause. The pilot replied, "No,
I can't get the fire out. We have to bail out." There was another
pause in the conversation. The squadron leader came back and
said, "Well, good luck, son."
With that another voice came on the radio. I knew it was our
class clown, Jabo. Jabo said, "Lieutenant, before you bail out I have
something to say." The pilot of the crippled plane responded,
"What is it?" Jabo said, "I hope you like weenies and sauerkraut!"
The pilot immediately told Jabo where he could go. A few seconds
passed, and the pilot called the squadron leader again. "Red Dog
Leader, we have the fires out, and I am going to be able to stay under the flight. I think we'll be able to make it back." There was a
pause. "But I have another problem." The squadron leader said,
"What is your problem now?" The pilot said, "Well, my navigator
has already bailed out." The squadron leader replied, "It's OK, son.
Let him go."
This was too much for Jabo. He comes back on the radio and
says, "Oh, Christ, that was smart!" The squadron leader immediately yelled for everyone to get off the air and keep radio silence.
Luckily for Jabo the squadron commander didn't know who was doing all the talking. Well, there was a pause, and Jabo comes back on
the radio in a minute and says, "Red Dog Leader, can the Germans
hear what we say?" The squadron commander was hot. "Yes, dammit, they can. Get off the air!" There were a few seconds of silence.
Jabo then said, "But don't you think they know we're here?" The
colonel leading the mission then demanded that the funny guy doing the talking identify himself. You have to remember, we had a
strict protocol to maintain radio silence during the missions, and
Jabo was messing around with getting a certain court martial if he
had been caught. There was a short pause, then Jabo said, "Hey,
Colonel, I may be dumb, but I ain't that dumb!"
Although these veterans sometimes stumble when it comes to the precise facts of the larger historical context, all these fascinating recollections of individual men and women at war come straight from the heart.
Available from online booksellers, local bookshops, or directly from Johns Hopkins University Press.
Thanks to Johns Hopkins for providing this review copy.
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Reviewed 9 February 2003
Copyright © 2003 by Bill Stone
May not be reproduced in any form without written permission of Stone & Stone