In the fall of 2007, I sat down with a long-time family friend and newspaper man in my hometown of Seaford, Delaware, and we began discussing the idea of profiling many of our local war heroes. We did just that – over the course of the next 50 weeks, we dug into stories about Iwo Jima, about Pearl Harbor, about D-Day and about the Battle of the Bulge.
But we also profiled veterans who remained stateside during the war and even featured a couple of women who did their part to support the war effort. Through it all, Bryant Richardson and I made a concerted effort to tell these stories with emotion, with accuracy and with the pride and dignity they deserved.
Over time, I became emotionally attached to these stories and to the men and women who told them. These are first-hand accounts of a troubling time in American history, a time when the country’s very existence was at stake.
Have you ever stopped to consider what the world would be like today had the Japanese and the Germans been on the winning side during the war? These men and women did their part to make sure that didn’t happen – thanks in part to them, it didn’t.
When conducting these interviews, I got to really know these wonderful souls. Many times during the interviews, emotions took over and breaks were needed. A number of veterans even turned me down; I remember one, in particular, telling me he’d love to share his story with me but that “there were some things in life you just can’t un-see” and he didn’t think he could.
I was disappointed many times over, but I understood. I told the stories I could and I told them to the best of my ability; these first-hand accounts will soon be lost forever and I wanted to document as many as I possibly could.
This book is filled with stories of men and women who served the United States of America with pride during one of the country’s most tumultuous times – they were indeed members of the “Greatest Generation,” as Tom Brokaw so eloquently stated in 1998.
World War II was a troubling time for the United States, and for the world. But thousands of young men from coast to coast answered the call and went overseas to fight for Uncle Sam, to protect the liberties and freedoms we all enjoy today.
Read these stories, soak them in and try to realize the immense sacrifices these men and women made, sacrifices made so that you and I can live today in the greatest country in the world. Without their efforts, life would not be as it is today.
We owe them all a great debt of gratitude. I thank each and every one of them for sharing their stories with me; I only hope I have done them justice in these pages.
James Diehl is an award-winning journalist who has covered Sussex County, Delaware for various media outlets since 1998. Since 2007, he has owned and operated a freelance writing company based in Seaford, Delaware and is also a partner in a Lewes, Delaware-based public relations and marketing firm. He is the author of one other work of non-fiction – “Remembering Sussex County, from Zwaanendael to King Chicken,” published in 2009 by The History Press.
He lives in Seaford, Delaware, with his wife and two daughters.
You can visit his website at www.ww2-heroes.com.