PW: Why does the title of your new memoir refer to WWII as "our" war?

Stella Suberman: I think that has a couple of references—to my husband and me, my little family's war. And I don't believe a book has been written by a service wife about WWII.

PW: I had the sense you felt a need to tell this story for a new generation far removed from that war.

SS: That was certainly one purpose of the book. It has its inception in the terrorist attacks, and I was amazed how little this generation knows of WWII. I don't think they had a book that talks to them about how it is to have a husband in combat, what the home front was—we don't have a home front today the way we did in WWII.

PW: Is there a specific lesson for them to take away from your tale?

SS: As I began to write the book, I realized how many themes I was covering. I had meant to write just from the point of view of a mainstream soldier's wife, but then as I wrote, I realized that more and more I was having to deal with things I hadn't thought of when I started out. I hadn't thought of the kind of bigotry and prejudice that were abroad at that time. And writing as a member of a minority [Suberman is Jewish], more and more I was finding I had to tell the story of the Jews of that period, how they had to deal with the Holocaust, with their experience in the service, which was not always pleasant, and discrimination wherever I found it. The story is about going from air base to air base, finding prejudice and bigotry wherever we went. I was also finding the other side of the coin—much friendliness and kindness.

PW: One thing that struck me is that you describe your own prejudices as a young woman without judging yourself harshly.

SS: Well, I guess that was the situation for many of us, Jew and non-Jew. But I forgive myself, because I was so young, and it was all around me. I did forgive myself. I did change my mind, I did have a whole change of outlook, and I said, I was too young to fight any of those prejudices when I was growing up. In my little town of Union City, Tenn., there were no enlightened people as to racial issues, and my family fell into that because they had to make a living. These were immigrant Jews trying to make their way. The tyranny to conform was terribly important. It was not till I met my husband and got out into the world that I began to see things a little differently.

PW: You write of the importance letters had during the war, and you wrote profusely. Did you save all your letters and use them to write the memoir?

SS: Everybody was someplace. The letters were really what kept us together. But most of the things I use in the book are from notes that my husband wrote and kept while he was overseas. The quotes you see in the book are directly taken from his notebook, and from his contributions to the in-house newsletter of the Boeing Air Company. I have some letters, not as many as I should have because when my husband and I left [after the war], when he returned to college, I left them all at home, and they disappeared.

PW:When It Was Our War is a kind of sequel to your first book, The Jew Store. Will there be another sequel?

SS: There is a kind of sequel that flows naturally out of this book, which is to say, the story of those returning veterans who went to school on the GI Bill, and I'm thinking about it.