A Hometown Went to War, by Rolland E. Kidder, Sandy Bottom Press, Chautauqua, N.Y., 1996, $21.95.
Those interested in reading about more than the grand strategies and the big picture of World War II will find this book refreshing. A Hometown Went to War brings the war down to the personal level as experienced by 28 people who survived it.
The book is fascinating because it allows the reader to visualize the individual stories being played out simultaneously all over the world. None of the stories included are connected or intertwined in any way, except that the subjects were joined together by their common effort to win the war. Officers and enlisted men are included, as well as one nurse. While there is plenty of combat action, there are also many accounts of types of service that heretofore have received little or no recognition. For example, there were U. S. Army units that did nothing but load and unload ships. There was also a massive supply line from the Persian Gulf through Iran delivering war materiel to the Soviets. Although the stories are not directly connected, they all have a common thread: None of the participants ever really knew or understood, until years later, how they fit in or how their contributions made victory possible.
Happily, Rolland Kidder follows each piece with an explanation of how and where each story fit in and what else was going on at the time. That gives the reader perspective and fills in gaps left by the participants’ limited knowledge of overall events. Most of the Marines who assaulted Iwo Jima, for example, did not know why they were there until the first damaged Boeing B-29 bomber made an emergency landing on its way back from Tokyo. Kidder has done a masterful job of re-creating the good side of World War II–the people of an entire nation working together to achieve a clear goal.
John I. Witmer