From Publishers Weekly
Chosen from among the more than 30,000 oral histories collected by the Library of Congress's Veterans History Project, these first-person impressions of some 60 men and women who took part in the U.S.'s most salient 20th-century conflicts—WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam and Desert Storm—come together to form a meaningful narrative. The object, editor Weiner notes, was "not to cover every engagement in each war, but rather to offer an impressionistic and intensely felt portrait of the ground-level soldier, slogging through the mud of France, the jungles of the Pacific, or the desert of Kuwait," and many other places in between. The book contains scores of brief entries organized by topic ("Under Fire"; "Coming Home") and war, enhanced by 175 color photos. Sometimes the flow constricts as narrators shift from doughboys in European trenches to Kevlar-helmeted infantrymen in the Kuwaiti desert, but the editors have chosen their testifiers well. As with any oral history, what we get are personal reflections, not historical syntheses. And with a foreword by Rep. Ron Kind, an introduction by former Sen. Max Cleland and an afterword by Sen. Chuck Hagel, there is plenty of veteran elected representation here, too.
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This useful volume, profusely illustrated with personal and informal photographs, showcases the Veterans History Project, which is intended to involve the average citizen and average veteran in recording what veterans did in America's wars while there is still time. For World War I and many World War II vets, time has already run out, but what they left in writing here stands beside the oral reminiscences of the veterans of Korea, Vietnam, and the Gulf War. Women are well represented, mostly as nurses but also as USO entertainers and, more recently, in Gulf War logistics. Their brother soldiers helped organize the first African American parachute unit, commanded small landing craft on D-Day, flew and sometimes escaped from B-17s, suffered horrendous wounds in Vietnam infantry combat, and altogether ran the gamut of the century's American military experience. Not all of these narratives are polished, but all are the respectable testaments of Americans who stepped forward when called. Roland GreenCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved