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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remembering the Good War, December 27, 2006
This review is from: From Campus to Combat: A College Boy Becomes a WWII Army Flier (Paperback)
James Alter was 20 and a student at Purdue University when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Like most other able-bodied young Americans, he soon found himself fighting what Studs Terkel called "the good war." Alter became a bombardier in the United States Army Air Force and flew thirty-one missions in Europe before he was discharged with the rank of first lieutenant in 1945.

With an astonishingly good memory as well as a great sense of humor-- he indicates that he recently found a box of his letters to his parents that helped his recollection-- Alter recalls events of 60 years ago. His first encounter with a bidet, his giving a souvenir cross to a date (although Mr. Alter is Jewish, he and a Catholic buddy had gotten a blessing from Pope Pius XII at the Vatican) for non-religious reasons, his innocent visit to a rundown Hollywood mansion, after a night of drinking with friends in bars, where most of the guests were men will amuse you.

Mr. Alter in straightforward prose conveys what the times were like during World War II, both inside and outside the military. The entire country was behind the war efforts; gas, coffee and sugar were rationed; and women, in great numbers for the first time, went to work in factories. It is impossible for the reader not to contrast the United States Alter remembers with the present when we have an all-volunteer army engaged in a war that has dragged on longer than World War II, citizens who support the war effort by adorning their SUV's with yellow "support our troops" stickers and a Commander in Chief who admonishes those of us at home to go shopping.

Mr. Alter is skillful at drawing the reader into his story, particularly his account of the missions he flew. His fears, as well as those of his comrades inside the B-24's, are palpable. "Fear was always around us." He is not gung-ho on all things military, rather someone willing to do what he had to do. He kept flying, he says, not because he liked it, or because he didn't want to let fellow fliers down, but "because quitting was even worse than going on."

Some things about the U. S. military do not change. Alter spent a good deal of his time while on RRR getting a tan, drinking and chasing women. (He is always careful to tell the reader the ratio of women to men, thereby making his quest easier or more difficult, depending on the numbers). His complaints about the bad military food including S-O-S, "mickey-mouse" details, and the oxymoron "military intelligence" all sound familiar.

In the closing paragraphs of this both well-written and accessible memoir, Mr. Alter says that he wrote this book because "I worried that the sweep of our country's role in the most colossal war in history might someday be reduced, or even worse, forgotten by those who came by later." His hope is noble: that today's combat veterans will be the last and, quoting the American Indian leader Chief Joseph, "'We will fight no more forever.'"
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A surprise read for this 'support the troops, bring them home' kind of guy, August 12, 2007
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This review is from: From Campus to Combat: A College Boy Becomes a WWII Army Flier (Paperback)
Honestly, i would have never picked this book up but it was passed on to me by a friend. I'm generally of the crowd that so easily dismisses the humanity of the armed forces but this book attaches a real face to a soldier's story during war. Being that I have no real familial or direct connection to the military this was a really insightful and compelling read. What I also loved about this book is that I'm admittedly bad with US and World history, especially pre '80's (doh), but the narrative of this read actually made me really interested and *gasp* I learned more about WWII. This is a story about war, the military, and humanity told in one of those proverbial great-story-telling-grandfather ways, the kind where wide eyed curiosity fills the gender gap.
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From Campus to Combat: A College Boy Becomes a WWII Army Flier
From Campus to Combat: A College Boy Becomes a WWII Army Flier by James Alter (Paperback - May 22, 2006)
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