Oral history and collection of short biographies of the residents of a distinctive retirement community.
Scharfen (The Dismal Battlefield, 1995), a retired U.S. Marine Corps colonel and a resident of Falcons Landing in Potomac Falls, Va., pays tribute to his friends and neighbors, all of whom have qualified for the continuing-care community because of their previous affiliations with the U.S. military. Most of the author’s subjects served in World War II, so the war stories, many related in the participants’ own words, derive mostly from â€œthe good war,” and Scharfen’s text rides the coattails of recent works such as Tom Brokaw’s The Greatest Generation. Despite the text’s relentless flag-waving, the accounts vary widely: Interspersed with stories of bombing raids over Germany are detailed narratives such as that of Air Force Colonel Clement I. Irons, shot down over Germany, apprehended and placed in a POW camp. Other profiles include that of Elmer F. Smith, who piloted President Truman aboard the Sacred Cow, then the equivalent of Air Force One. Some sketches focus on a subject’s post-military years, such as James McCullough and his accomplished dioramas, miniature reconstructions of distinct settings from various historical periods. (The author’s inclusion of numerous photos and diagrams help considerably in this chapter.) Scharfen departs from his homage to war veterans by including profiles such as that of Anjelina Likia Oneke, a recent refugee from war-torn Sudan and now a nurse at Falcons Landing. Although the variety of subject matter from chapter to chapter makes for an appealing collection, the inconsistent style halts the narrative flow. Long transcripts from interviews frequently interrupt Scharfen’s usually routine summaries, and the style becomes even more uneven when the author quotes ten pages of testimony from Senator Joseph McCarthy’s hearings in 1954.
Stylistically uneven and hyper-patriotic, but a necessary record of important stories.