Book battles: Pick up a war-related book for Veterans Day
Several months ago, a man stopped by the front desk of The Daily Sentinel holding a book so worn the corners of the pages were soft. It was one of the best books he had ever read ... perhaps the best.
It was “The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors: The Extraordinary World War II Story of the U.S. Navy’s Finest Hour” by James D. Hornfischer. The Daily Sentinel needed to publish something about this book because more people should know about the battle detailed in its pages, he told me.
He was rather adamant, and I was unsure what exactly to do. The book wasn’t new — it was originally published in 2004 — and book columnists are hard-pressed to get to older books with all the new ones piling on.
I held onto the man’s write-up about “The Last Stand,” but my mind neglected to hold onto the man’s name. I shortly regretted that because less than five minutes after he left The Daily Sentinel, I had an idea.
War-related books hold great impact. Reading about World War I or II or Vietnam or the American Civil War or any number of others is educational as well as a way to honor the servicemen and women whose heroics and sacrifice have molded our nation.
The details of war depicted in nonfiction as well as fiction can build sympathy and empathy for members of the military and civilians caught in wars’ horrible turmoil. They allow us to admire the way men and women struggle and rise to great deeds, and they record the worst of humanity with the hope those actions are always condemned and never repeated.
And so on this Veterans Day, I ask, what is the best war-related book you have read?
Here are some titles sent my way via Facebook or email, and to lead them off is some of what was written by the aforementioned man about “The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors.”
Offer other readers your own book suggestions by leaving a comment with this story at GJSentinel.com or Out & About’s Facebook page.
“The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors: The Extraordinary World War II Story of the U.S. Navy’s Finest Hour” by James D. Hornfischer
This nonfiction book recounts how during World War II a small American flotilla designated the Taffy 3 “entered battle against a mighty Japanese armada comprised of the two largest battleships then afloat, accompanied by numerous other battleships, cruisers and destroyers, attempting to disrupt the American invasion of Leyte Island in the Philippines by destroying the American support fleet anchored in Leyte Gulf.”
Taffy 3 faced “overwhelming tonnage and firepower” on Oct. 25, 1944, off Samar Island in the Philippines. “However, with gutsy tactics and heroism beyond the call of duty, they so confused the Japanese behemoth ... that after a few hours, the Japanese admiral commanding the fleet, recalled all of his ships, turned tail and withdrew.”
“Salt to the Sea” by Ruta Sepetys
“My YA book club picked this up a few months ago. Towards the end of World War II, numerous refugees are eager to start a new life elsewhere. The novel takes place in East Prussia as Soviet forces are coming in. Told in alternating points of view, the story follows several young people to the Wilhelm Gustloff, a German ship that will transport civilians and the military away from the area,” wrote Sherry Ficklin via Facebook.
“This book touched me in way few others have, and with as much as I read, that’s saying a lot. It was alternately exciting and heart-wrenching and made me want to know more about the history it was based on. A definite five star read,” Ficklin wrote.
“Chesty: The Story of Lieutenant General Lewis B. Puller, USMC” by Jon T. Hoffman.
Puller was “the most decorated Marine in history. Blunt spoken and blunt in actions…plural cause he wasn’t a one shot wonder. ‘We’re surrounded. Now I can shoot in any direction and shoot the enemy,’” wrote Greg Merschel.
“Esterhazy: The Rabbit Prince” by Hans Marcus Enzensberger and Michael Sowa and illustrated by Irene Dische.
“The best war-related book I’ve read is ‘Esterhazy.’ It’s a children’s story about the Berlin Wall,” wrote Ann Hartter with Hartter Education. “The thing it did for me is expose the idea that you don’t have to actually be aware of a conflict, or the causes of the war, to be affected by it and the resolutions of it.
“When people say, ‘I didn’t know there was xyz going on in Some Country,’ what they don’t go on to discover is how the xyz is actually impacting them and how it would change their life if it were resolved.
“Conflict is woven into the very fabric of our lives, into our culture, and we don’t even have to know about it,” Hartter wrote.
“The War That Changed My Life” by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
“This book takes place in Britain during World War II. It is about a girl and her younger brother who are shipped out to the countryside to escape the bombing in London,” wrote Amanda Pittman, youth collections librarian with Mesa County Libraries.
“What is great about this book is that it is a story about how sometimes even bad things (such as war) can lead to good things. Ada is born with a club foot which her mother uses to treat her as a virtual prisoner in their apartment. Ada is able to sneak out with her brother and evacuate to the countryside.”
“The Tree In The Courtyard: Looking Through Anne Frank’s Window” by Jeff Gotesfeld
“I work in Youth Services, so I mostly read kids books,” wrote Trevor Adams with Mesa County Libraries. “I am especially attracted to WWII books that have to do with the hope and resistance that people were able to find during such a terrible time.”
“This is one of the best books I’ve read all year. I’m willing to bet that it will win awards,” Adams wrote.
“This book is told from the perspective of a tree that can just barely see Anne through a high window in the annex. Of course, this part of the story is fiction, but the non-fiction part of the story is that there really was a tree outside the annex and when it died, the seeds and saplings were transplanted all around the world as symbols of peace.”
“Backout” and “All Clear” by Connie Willis
“Connie Willis is not just one of my favorite Colorado authors, she is one of my favorite writers, period,” wrote Denise Hight, co-author of “Legendary Locals of Fruita” and “Images of America: Fruita.”
“Willis has won numerous Nebula and Hugo awards, but her writing transcends the science fiction/fantasy genre. Her novels ‘Blackout’ and ‘All Clear’ feature a group of scientists who travel in time from 2060 Oxford to the London Blitz in 1940 in order to study World War II firsthand. They experience blackouts and bombing raids and a rising sense of fear and panic as their attempts to return home are thwarted.
“Willis has such an ability to pull the readers into her meticulously researched fictional world that I almost felt as if I had traveled in the time machine with her protagonists,” Hight wrote via Facebook.