From Foxholes and Flight Decks

Rod Gragg, Author St. Martin's Press $25 (64p) ISBN 978-0-312-28715-3
This slim volume marks the latest advance in what might seem like an escalating battle among war correspondence collections. While recent histories have included facsimile epistles and other reproductions, this gathering of 20 letters, telegrams and official notifications-which readers can slide from pockets in the pages and unfold in their hands-ups the ante considerably within the genre. Beginning with a typewritten note from a young marine, Lieutenant Robert E. Smithwick, who enlisted in the patriotic surge that followed Pearl Harbor, Gragg lightly traces the developments of the war, with the letters adding color and heartbreaking detail. ""Have I ever known any thing else but this constant weariness and surge of conflicting emotion?"" soldier Walter Commander writes his wife. ""Never before have I had so much need of you."" A note inside the letter's pocket reveals that, not long after he wrote his tortured missive, Commander was killed in action. Though it can be hard to decipher some of handwriting, the heightened participatory effect is worth it. From longing epistles to sweethearts to a commanding officer's account of the last moments of a soldier's life, and from a horrifying description of the Dachau concentration camp to jubilant notes of victory, this is a compilation that brings a far away war very close to home. Color illus. throughout.
Reviewed on: 10/01/2002
Release date: 10/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction
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