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War Letters: Extraordinary Correspondence from American Wars Audio, Cassette – Abridged, Audiobook


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Product Details

  • Audio Cassette
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio; Abridged edition (May 15, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743508424
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743508421
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 4.1 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.7 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,127,453 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"I've cast out my razor, divorced my soap, buried my manners, signed my socks to a two-year contract, and proved that you don't have to come in out of the rain." So wrote Corporal Thomas P. Noonan from Vietnam, proving that humor doesn't fail even in war. Noonan's letter is just one of over 50,000 that letter-enthusiast Andrew Carroll (Letters of a Nation) received after Abigail Van Buren publicized his Legacy Project in her Dear Abby column. Out of this treasure trove he selected 150, spanning 130 years of warfare from the Civil War to Bosnia. While there are letters from such notables as General William Tecumseh Sherman and even Julia Childs, most were written by uncelebrated but dearly loved soldiers from barracks, trenches, and flooded foxholes and by combat journalists, nurses, and family members on the home front.

While the letters are not unrelentingly grim, there is ample description of the rending agonies of war and the pain of separation. For instance, a recounting of horrors found in a Nazi concentration camp, or a tender letter to a just-born daughter who may never be seen. Private First Class Richard King describes the death of a Catholic chaplain blessing the foxholes: "An artillery shell cut him in half at the waist." Staff Sergeant Joe Sammarco tells how he crawled, wounded, across streams and into hills in order to escape the Chinese, propelled by the thought of his wife and his babies. Many of these are "last letters," often received after the news of the writer's death. Lieutenant Tommie Kennedy, a POW on a Japanese "hell ship," wrote his farewells on the only thing he had--the back of two family photographs, which were smuggled back to his parents.

These are, as Carroll writes, "the first, unfiltered drafts of history." His rich sample testifies to the universal and poignant themes of love and honor, courage and rage, duty and fear and mortality. The playful and heartfelt voices grant us the personal perspective all too often lost in news reports and government statements. Taken together, they remind us that, despite the playful good cheer, the human cost of war is far too high. A remarkable contribution to the understanding of war and its impact, and a powerful tribute to those undone by it. --Lesley Reed --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Carroll founded the war letter-collecting Legacy Project when his Washington, D.C., home burned down in 1990, taking his family letters with it. A "Dear Abby" announcement of the project led to 50,000 responses. Now, at 31, Carroll follows up 1999's bestselling Letters of a Nation (which spans 400 years and myriad walks of life) with this cull of dispatches. Chapters are limited to the Civil War, WWI, WWII, "The Korean War & The Cold War" and "The Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, Somalia, & Bosnia" making for an incomplete survey of American wars. Of the more than 150 letters, three are from African-Americans, though Carroll remarks in an afterword on efforts to locate more. Perhaps most striking is how many letters are written by the soon-to-be-dead, or concern the death of a close relative; any reaction to them other than personal sympathy seems impossible. Yet the power of these voices from various fronts including an Asian woman held in an American internment camp is undeniable, and the sentiments and observations they record have a compelling immediacy. (On-sale: May 15)Forecast: Carroll was the subject of a New York Times feature in 1994 for his role in cofounding (with the late poet Joseph Brodsky) the American Poetry and Literacy Project, which put books of poems in motel rooms alongside Bibles. His media experience should make his seven-city author tour and appearance on PBS's American Experience (on November 11) successful. Expect strong sales and a showing on bestseller lists for the weeks before and after Memorial Day. Browsers could be reminded that the New Yorker published a selection of the letters in January 2000. All author earnings will be donated to nonprofit organizations.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Afterall, they are all very personal letters.
Amazon Customer
I read these letters, almost feeling like I was peeping into another's life, and felt my heart wrench.
Gina L. Capaldo
For those of us who have been affected by war, this book will touch your heart and soul.
Ruth Lukkari

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

84 of 87 people found the following review helpful By Robert Leahy on May 18, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Let me start this review by confessing that I am biased. One of my letters from Vietnam is included in the book. I therefore view the book differently from the average reader.
I also got an advance copy of the book a week before the official release date, and have been able to read it.
Andrew Carroll produced this book by reading through almost 50,000 letters and selected roughly 200 that best show what everyday life in the military - and in war - are like from the viewpoint of the average soldier, sailor, marine, and airman.
Andy was able to get these letters by persuading Dear Abby to publish an appeal in her column on Veteran's Day in 1998. The column urged readers to contribute these letters so that the sacrifices of the writers would not be forgotten. The result was a flood of 50,000 letters - some faded, some muddy, some blood-stained, and one pierced by a bullet. One letter was written on Hitler's personal stationary by an American sergeant who worked in Hitler's personal quarters in Germany just after WW II. What could be a better symbol of justice?
The letter writers' views are very different than the views you will get by reading the memoirs of a general or an admiral. When I was in the Army, there was a wonderful comment that explained life in the Infantry:
"The general gets the glory, The family gets the body, and We get another mission."
Your view of the military - and of war - changes depending on your position in this food chain.
Overcoming an enemy machine gun is an interesting technical problem when you are circling a firefight in a helicopter at 1,000 feet. You take a very different view of the problem when you are so close to the machine gun that your body pulses from the shock wave of the muzzle blast.
Read more ›
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48 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Robert Leahy on May 22, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Let me start this review by confessing that I am biased. One of my letters from Vietnam is included in the book. I therefore view the book differently from the average reader.
I also got an advance copy of the book a week before the official release date, and have been able to read it.
Andrew Carroll produced this book by reading through almost 50,000 letters and selected roughly 200 that best show what everyday life in the military - and in war - are like from the viewpoint of the average soldier, sailor, marine, and airman.
Andy was able to get these letters by persuading Dear Abby to publish an appeal in her column on Veteran's Day in 1998. The column urged readers to contribute these letters so that the sacrifices of the writers would not be forgotten. The result was a flood of 50,000 letters - some faded, some muddy, some blood-stained, and one pierced by a bullet. One letter was written on Hitler's personal stationary by an American sergeant who worked in Hitler's personal quarters in Germany just after WW II. What could be a better symbol of justice?
The letter writers' views are very different than the views you will get by reading the memoirs of a general or an admiral. When I was in the Army, there was a wonderful comment that explained life in the Infantry:
"The general gets the glory, The family gets the body, and We get another mission."
Your view of the military - and of war - changes depending on your position in this food chain.
Overcoming an enemy machine gun is an interesting technical problem when you are circling a firefight in a helicopter at 1,000 feet. You take a very different view of the problem when you are so close to the machine gun that your body pulses from the shock wave of the muzzle blast.
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By "jonesy69" on May 21, 2001
Format: Audio Cassette
This set of CD's runs well over six hours, and I don't recommend doing it all in one setting. I did one a day, a felt like I got a wonderful- if that's the right word- walk through some of the most brutal wars our country has been involved in. I listened with my son, who is just starting to study the civil war in school, and found it to be a wonderful study aid- it brought up questions and perked his curiousity in certain areas that a simple textbook could never hope to do.
The readings themselves are quite wonderful. Harry Smith narrates, and then you hear the actual letters read by a group of some of the best actors I've heard on audio books- Joan Allen, David Strathairn, Eric Stoltz, Campbell Scott and Edward Hermann. Apparently Rob Lowe also read some, but I couldn't tell which voice was his. In any case, the readings are simple and heartfelt, letting the words themselves sink in, and it's just terrific.
If you want your children to get an understanding of the true horrors of war, listen to this with them. It doesn't glamourize it like so many war movies, but explores a personal side that most kids never even consider.
I give it the highest rating possible.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on June 30, 2001
Format: Hardcover
There can hardly be anything more personal and poignant that WAR LETTERS. Love letters come close but the emotions that a person taps when remembering some buddy blown away, nights of fear from being under fire, or some family member far away, result in an outpouring of oneself onto paper that is the essence of humanity. The letters here run the gamut of human emotional expression: fear, anger, grief, joy, love, faith, hope, courage, humor. They are from every major war or engagement that the US has been in from the Civil War through to the Gulf War and finally Bosnia and Kosovo. Soldiers, their family members, journalists, doctors and nurses, all have something to say to someone else that suddenly seems very important in the shadow of war.
If you step back from the emotional impact for a moment and look at this book objectively, the the appeal of these letters and the willingness of the writers or recipients to make them public, may seem a bit puzzling. Afterall, they are all very personal letters. The mystery is removed when you realize that it's not a coincidence that these letters are singularly American; I doubt there would be such an equivalent public sharing from citizens elsewhere. Our openess is sometimes called American bravado and exhibitionism by others, but as these letters of humanity plainly show, they are more properly seen as simple testaments to honesty and truth.
I for one am proud of a country that appreciates such human expressions but am even more proud of the many men and women who served or waited for those who did, and whose stories are told here. They, more than most of us, can appreciate the following sentiments.
"Everything that I have written is closely related to something that I have lived through." (Henrik Ibsen)
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