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My Private War: Liberated Body, Captive Mind: A World War II POW's Journey Hardcover – December 17, 2008

4.6 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Bussel, a B-17 crewman just turned 19, was shot down over Germany in the spring of 1944. He spent the rest of the war as a POW and returned home suffering from what is now known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In the cases of POWs, the major cause of PTSD was the helplessness of their situation, aggravated by privation. For Bussel, the costs of PTSD were alcoholism, a broken marriage, claustrophobia, and a constant struggle with nightmares. He fought back by becoming involved in organizations helping PTSD sufferers and eventually by writing this eloquent book, which is full of information and quite devoid of self-pity. It is hard to think of a better recent book on the POW experience from the inside, and it is also a notable addition to the PTSD literature for lay readers and helping professionals. --Roland Green


“An important book. Norman Bussel has performed one of the most vital acts of war--which is to remember. --Hampton Sides, author of Ghost Soldiers and Blood and Thunder

“A tremendously valuable account. Norman than it was back then. --James Patterson, #1 New York Times bestselling author”

“An honest account of matters once considered embarrassing--and more common than we realize, as a new generation is now discovering.”

“Eloquent…it is hard to think of a better book on the POW experience...A notable addition to PTSD literature.”

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Pegasus Books; 1 edition (December 17, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1605980153
  • ISBN-13: 978-1605980157
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,290,755 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
By pure chance I came across an article about a local Hudson Valley resident who'd written a memoir.

Norman Bussel had been a nineteen year old on a B-17 over Germany in 1944, when his plane was shot down. He was a POW for about 13 months. The memoir is about his wartime experiences and his subsequent decades-long battle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

It sounded very interesting, so I ordered his book from amazon, and read his absorbing and emotional tale.

In the first chapter, Mr. Bussel describes being shot down; he parachuted out through the bomb bay, and was the last crewman to get off the plane alive. Four of his fellow ten man crew died.

The first two-thirds of this 300 page memoir describes his joining the Army Air Force, his training, and then his experiences as a POW. I found it really quite riveting.

There are 25 short chapters, and chapter nine, describing his bailing out and capture in Germany is aptly entitled "Germany: A Descent into Hell". As he was in his parachute descending he wisely tossed away his dogtag, which had the letter "H" for his religion. He is Jewish. Bussel was then nearly lynched by German farmers, before being picked up by soldiers.

The treatment of POW's in Germany was beyond brutal. Denied medical care, denied food, denied warm clothes, along with witnessing the murder of some prisoners. And a few beatings thrown in for good measure. Bussel lost 65 pounds during his imprisonment, weighing only a bit more then 100 pounds when the camp was finally liberated by the American army.

The last one third of the book deals with Bussel's post-war career and struggle with PTSD. His alcohol problem, quickness to anger, claustrophobia, a failed first marriage. Mr.
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Format: Hardcover
Disclaimer: I opened "My Private War" with a soft spot for the author as my father was also a veteran of WWII, but I did not anticipate that the book would help heal my relationship with my father who passed away twenty years ago. Or that I would learn something new about post-traumatic stress, as I have been researching it for seven years. But the bravery with which Mr. Bussell wrote his memoir of the experience and its fallout of being shot out of the skies over Nazi Germany and becoming a prisoner of war is remarkable. Unlike the great majority of his fellow WWII veterans, he tackles his PTSD head on, describing and exploring it in illuminating detail.

I thought I understood how my father's experiences in that war had affected him, and through him, me. But last night, as I was reading Chapter 24, honest, painful observations helped me see that so much more of what I knew of my father were manifestations of his PTSD rather than expressions of his true self. "My Private War" helped me understand how my father's s moodiness that followed sudden incomprehensible bursts of anger indicated remorse and self-deprecation for not being able to control his emotions. For allowing the pain to surface.

"My Private War" is an invaluable gift not only to veterans- from WWII to Korea to Vietnam and now Iraq and Afghanistan, but to the children of veterans who all these years felt the all but unbearable barricade between ourselves and our fathers but, having no idea of the separation's cause, often took it personally. Mr. Bussell provides us with the insight that can enable reconciliation. And maybe we can then not only heal past wounds but gain the motivation to oppose the resolution of conflict through violence.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
They have been called the "Greatest Generation" but there was more than nobility and courage, there was sacrifice and death. This is the account of one flier who's war was cut short when he was shot down on one of his early missions over Germany. What helps this account stand out is that it is written by a professional writer so the narrative comes thru stronger than in many books by people who have a story to tell but aren't as skilled at telling it. We owe a debt to men like Norman Bussel who carried the consequences of the war with them the rest of their lives. Bussel would probably be one of the first to say don't feel sorry for him, there were other POWs that were burdened even more by their experiences, as well as his comrades-in-arms that missed out on life by being killed in battle.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I think there is a very durable myth which suggests that the great majority of young men who returned from combat in WW II effortlessly readjusted to civilian life. This excellent book makes clear that for many of them , the war continued in their minds long after the guns fell silent.
One of my favorite relatives logged 374 days in combat from Operation Torch until the German surrender in Italy in May 1945. I now recognize many of his subsequent behavior patterns as indicators of PTSD. Based on this book, its' hardly any wonder. I found the author's narrative very compelling, and I appreciate the greater understanding it has given me for several WW II veterans who influenced me profoundly as I grew up.
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By Johs on January 19, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I just finished reading Norman Bussels' book My Private War, and what a great read this book was.
Norman's story from basic training to being shot down over Berlin, and ending up in a German POW camp is truly fascinating. Although a serious subject matter, Norman's sense of humor is never far away when he tells his story.
His struggle with guilt and post traumatic stress disorder after returning home is not only an interesting read, but an inspirational story.
I highly recommend this book.
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