A journalist’s anthology of interviews with soldiers from several American wars as well as other patriots.
In his latest book, Wheatley (The Trial of Phillis Wheatley, 2014, etc.) offers a collection of wartime remembrances, mostly told by American veterans. The author largely finds these soldiers close to his home in Scituate, Massachusetts, as many of them were respondents to an advertisement he’s run for years in local newspapers. In one instance, he spotted a sign in front of a house that read “Our Soldier is Home” and returned later to chat with Daniel Hanafin, a U.S. Marine who served in Iraq during the first Gulf War. Although Wheatley personally interviewed most of the soldiers here, he relies on historical records in circumstances in which it simply wasn’t possible; for example, in one welcome expression of historical breadth, he discusses both the American Revolutionary War and the Civil War. The range of Wheatley’s interview subjects is impressive. For example, Estelle Adler served as a volunteer for the Red Cross during World War II, and Mary Regan Quessenberry, who earned a degree in fine art from Harvard University, served in the same war in England as part of an intelligence unit. Ubaldo “Ubi” Di Benedetto was born in Italy and volunteered to serve in the Korean War in order to ultimately remain in the United States. Roger Pompeo is a medical doctor who served in Vietnam as part of the Military Provincial Hospital Assistance Program, which, in part, attempted to win over Vietnamese civilians by providing them with medical care; his perspective on the war is one that’s rarely represented in popular accounts. Maura McGowan Yanosick was never a soldier or volunteer in a war, but she did start a Massachusetts chapter of the Blue Star Mothers, a support group for mothers with children who have served or are serving as soldiers. This work, fashioned over 20 years, is a marvelous testament to the diversity of those who have participated in American conflicts and of their many and sundry expressions of patriotism. One minor quibble is the absence of any discussion of World War I. Nevertheless, this is a valuable historical record of martial valor that’s well-researched, intelligently organized, and lovingly offered.
An engaging journalistic account of American military and civilian service during wartime.