This book originated from a conversation at a wedding reception in May 2013. A familial exchange with an older gentleman at my table progressed into a captivating dialogue in which he eloquently shared episodes of growing up in the 1920s and being at war in the 1940s. His portrayals carried me through admiration, laughter, and heartache, and compelled me to volunteer to record them onto these pages for his family, friends, and future generations. Two months later, I travelled to his home in Long Island to begin our journey together. Over many visits, we came to know each other and symbolically bridge the gap of generations between us. In September, I travelled the Trans-Siberian Railway from Moscow to Beijing. I returned to New York City and spent the next ten months writing in the 42nd Street Library, striving to vividly portray this man's story and the values that define him. We maintained periodic visits throughout this time, examining his extensive memoirs, wartime letters, and personal artifacts. The experience of hearing his story firsthand was the gift of a lifetime, and one that I am honored and humbled to now share with you.
- Steven Attanasio
Wandering up to the second floor of that two-story Kings Park home, there is an indistinct room to the left, clad with black-and-white photographs of a different kind than those in the living room: memorabilia, medals, and awards from a global conflict of which there are less and less living survivors each year; pictures of friends and soldiers smiling in their prime during training at Fort Bragg, many of whose lives ended prematurely and abruptly in a foreign land. The room reflects an experience that is so different from those of ordinary citizens, and all too similar to the experiences of veterans from wars throughout time; some who survived their wars, and some who did not; others who survived, but never really came home; and the stories of any of them that were never told.
- Chapter One: Present Day (2014)
In his words, “My stomach flipped and my heart started to beat loud enough for my family back home to hear it. Chills ran up and down my spine and I prayed real hard. I thought to myself, 'How can the two hundred men of my company be expected to stop this onslaught when thousands are moving back away from the fighting?’ As we moved forward, we heard the men leaving yell, 'Good luck and God help you all!’ They shouted as if a ferocious lion was racing towards us that could not be stopped. The German Afrika Korps were highly trained with superior combat experience and superior equipment. And here they outnumbered us. I was truly frightened to death.”
- Chapter Five: First Landing