A Bittersweet Find

Today I went to the local transfer station to dump our trash and recyclables, and as I always do, I looked around at the freecycle area for new “treasures.”  Someone had left a box of 20 books, almost all of them published memoirs of American soldiers fresh from the WWII battlefields.  All of these are out of print today, so for anyone interested in WWII military history, it was a real find.  These books were not recollections written 60 or 70 years after they happened; most were published within a year or two of the war’s end and so they provide an intimate look at soldiers’ experiences.  Many of the books were moldy with age due to poor storage, but I did take home three clean but worn copies that sounded interesting:  one about a field surgeon; one written about the European front; and one from the South Pacific front, where my father fought.  For many years now, I have been struggling with publishing my own father’s memoirs of that time.  (You can see an abridged version by clicking here.)

Seeing those discarded books swept me with sadness:  surely they belonged to a veteran who was probably now dead and gone; the mildewed, dusty collection thrown out by well-meaning relatives.  I like to think that by reading these books, I am honoring those who wrote and fought so that we could live in freedom and giving meaning to their battles.  Indeed, without their bravery, heroism, sacrifices, and victory, I, a Jew, would not have been born, because had the “other side” won, my parents and grandparents would not have been deemed worthy of existing at all.  We only need to look at the world today to realize how precious our freedom is, and how much we take for granted.

Memorial Day is upon us.  I plan to call a vet and thank him or her for their service.  Sadly, there are too many soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice that cannot receive my call.

3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Sara Ani on May 29, 2016 at 9:42 am

    This is amazing! I wish you had taken all the books and then even though they were moldy, scanned them to save for posterity. Seems like digitizing them would be a way to preserve these veterans words. My father too was a veteran of World War II and I just received 100 pages of his military records from the National Archives in St. Louis. His story was written up in the Saturday Evening Post in 1944 and also in several books. We really do need to thank the greatest generation for their service. My Aunt who is 95 and a veteran of World War II is most likely going to be knighted this summer by France for her service on French soil during the war. Hopefully I will be able to write up her story someday.


  2. Posted by m. f. la on May 29, 2016 at 7:06 pm

    you are always so, “spot on” in your posts; “meant to be” also comes to mind, vis-a-vis the books being found by you; surely a pity for those unsalvageable volumes (one has to hope relatives of the respective authors have copies). (yes, Memorial Weekend)
    I can see all those American flags waving in the wind there mf la


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