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Heartening Reviews for Love & War!

September 10, 2015 Leave a comment

Although I edited my book, Love & War:  The World War II Letters of Arthur Smook primarily for my family, the story is really interesting, so I sent a press release to a number of people and publications.  I am thrilled to share two reviews with you:

The first appeared in the August 10, 2015 edition of the Register-Star Newspaper, written by Katie Kocijanski;  and the second in the on line publication of the New York Book Society, written by Catherine Kirkpatrick.  Both are really thoughtful discussions of the book and I am grateful for the care taken by the writers.

Here are a few more of the photographs in the book:

Dad_with_plane_9-5-45_webMy dad in postwar France

 My mom_ n her Red Cross Women's Motor Corps Uniform webMy mom in her Red Cross Women’s Motor Corps Uniform

January 8, 1946January 8, 1945

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I Have Published a Book and it is on Amazon!!!

September 7, 2015 4 comments

Front cover for web

I am proud to announce that Love & War: the World War II Letters of Arthur Smook, which I edited is now available on Amazon in print and for Kindle. This has been a labor of love for me as I have edited 450 letters that my father wrote to my mother during World War II down to all or part of 150. There are also two wonderful letters that my mother wrote to her parents when she visited my dad in Paris, Texas, just before he was shipped to Europe.   Here is a link to the description on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Love-War-World-Letters-Arthur/dp/1508406502/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1433355769&sr=1-1&keywords=diane+smook

Throughout our childhood, my brother Richard and I were aware that our mother saved all the letters that our father wrote to her during his service in the 395th Regiment of the 99th Infantry Division during World War II. Periodically, she considered throwing them away during a house cleaning, but the letters always remained in the box in the attic. If I mentioned wanting to read them, she was doubtful, saying that they were mostly love letters, repetitive, and not that interesting.

During dinnertime, Dad sometimes told us stories about the war – usually the same old yarns about taking a farmhouse and getting to sleep in a bed, or liberating a cow that was then slaughtered by one of his men who had been a farmer so that they all could have a meat dinner after weeks of rations. As a First Lieutenant who attended Officer Candidate School and trained troops in various camps in the American South before he was shipped overseas, my father was clearly devoted to the men under him. He fought on the front lines of the Battle of the Bulge and earned a Bronze Star and four Purple Hearts. Yet he never attended post-war 99th Division reunions, and never traveled to England, Belgium, Germany or France on vacations. As annoying baby boomers, my brother and I groaned at the stories and knew all the endings. Mostly, I quarreled with my dad about his overly strict rules that governed my teenage social life. My brother was disappointed that he and Dad never did the things that other boys and their dads did together, like going to ball games.

My dad died in 1984 from an aneurysm, at the age of 65. When my mother died at 74 in 1996, I retrieved the letters, but it was a couple of years before I put them in order and read them. When I read them in order I was stunned. They told a distinct story with a real arc.   They were written by an articulate, passionate man who was not the man with whom my brother and I battled.

In addition to detailing military life, these letters bring to life a true love story. They begin as Arthur writes to his buddy Sylvia when he is preparing to leave Cornell after final exams to travel to Camp Croft in South Carolina. My parents never dated at Cornell, but became friends when my mom dated a couple of his fraternity brothers. We follow their friendship as Dad is stationed at several army bases in the south and has a few home leaves in New York. Then, after one wonderful leave, they become engaged. The correspondence becomes passionate. He tries without success to convince Mom to marry him before he is shipped overseas, tells her over and over how much he loves her, and she does visit him in Paris, Texas. Sadly, only two of my mother’s letters survived. Both were written to her parents; one describes her trip to Texas by train, and the other describes her stay at the Gibraltar Hotel and what she observed about military life in Texas. They are gems. As an infantry soldier, Dad could not keep any of the letters Mom wrote to him when he was overseas. He was constantly on the move.

Both before and after shipping out to Europe, Dad writes about army life and his feelings about what he is doing. His letters portray pride in his promotion to First Lieutenant and his good grades in courses in tactics and hand to hand fighting; his eagerness to go overseas; his dislike of having to censor his men’s mail; courage and the lack of courage he observed; and how he copes with the horrors of war. He describes daily activities in the states, on the ship sailing to Europe, in foxholes, on maneuvers, on passes to Paris, in the hospital in the rear, and in running post-war prisoner of war stockades. The letters also reveal a great deal of his love for my mom, and his deep desire to be reunited.

As I now review the letters, I am struck by the parallels between his experiences and impressions, and those of the men and women returning from the wars in Southeast Asia and the Middle East during my own lifetime. I wonder about the scars that my dad carried home with him when Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was undefined; when soldiers returning from horrific experiences in battle were expected to slip right back into civilian life without missing a beat. Their abilities to do this, after fighting a war in which they believed, are the reason they are known as “the greatest generation.”

It’s a real page-turner!!