DEAREST ONES by Rosemary Norwalk


A True WWII Love Story
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It wasn’t all blood and guts—coffee and doughnuts played a part in the story of WWII, as related in these letters and journal entries from an American Red Cross worker based in England during that war. Norwalk joined the Red Cross in May 1944, only a month before the Allied invasion of Normandy (D-Day). The volunteers were issued helmets, uniforms, and instructions on what to do if they were captured by the enemy. Their day-to-day lives involved fighting shortages of personnel and equipment and the British propensity for stopping everything—including troop movements—for tea. But also, says Norwalk, “We were expected to be the friend, the girl next door, the kid sister, the funny aunt” to the US troops en route to France and Germany, even as Nazi bombs destroyed military and civilian targets in England. In less than five months, her Red Cross crew saw two million American soldiers debark from South Hampton, England, to Europe. This book is also a love story—or more precisely, several love stories, as one by one, she and members of her crew fell in love with young servicemen. She chronicles her romance with the blue-eyed major who was such a good dancer; they married and lived happily ever after in Seattle, recently celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. After WWII, the Red Cross volunteers with their ubiquitous coffee and doughnuts were often parodied. This story recalls that their cheerful faces, willingness to sing, dance, listen, write letters, and lend a hand with personal problems was invaluable in what was then called the “war effort.” No Saving Private Ryan drama and mayhem here, but a low-key story of courage and dedication to duty whose reward was this: “We were vitally alive, living at full speed, working together for a cause we believed in.” (28 b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: March 12th, 1999
ISBN: 0-471-32049-8
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Wiley
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1999