19. March 2010 · Comments Off on A 21 Story Salute · Categories: Ain't That America?, General, History, Memoir, Veteran's Affairs, War, World

Take a look at this

Looks nice, doesn’t it? Finally, in February, Alice and I finished the latest book project from Watercress Press, the tiny specialty subsidy press bidness which affords the both of us some kind of living and a fair amount of amusement, as well as entrée into what passes for the literary scene in San Antonio. Alice does the fine editing and some of the admin stuff, I do the rough editing and the author-wrangling, and keep the website updated. We hire an independent contractor to do the book design and layout, to ours and the author’s specifications; I must say that when the pocketbook permits, we can do some very nice, high-end books indeed: History, Texiana, memoirs, some poetry – that kind of thing.

A 21 Story Salute combines two of our favorites; history and memoir. Barbara Bir, the author/editor went around to twenty-one World War II-era veterans and a couple of spouses, and interviewed them about their experiences during the conflict, and about their lives afterwards. All were pretty interesting, in themselves, but a good few of them were downright fascinating; it depended, I think, on how good a story-teller they were.

Bob Ingraham, for instance: he had some great stories. He survived being shot down flying a Spitfire over Dieppe in 1942, and a round of imprisonment as a POW in Sagan, where he helped to dig the Great Escape tunnel. There were three American diggers, helping with Tom, Dick and Harry – he is the only one still living.

Clara Morrey Murphy, and her friend, Aleda “Lutzie” Lutz – Clara and Lutzie were two of the very first Army air-evac nurses – there is a picture of them in the book, trying out their flight gear, while in special training in 1942. They went on to air –evacuate patients during the campaigns in North Africa, Italy and France. Clara Murphy’s military uniform is now on display at the Brooks ‘Hanger 9’ aerospace medicine museum, in San Antonio. “Lutzie” died in 1944, when the air-evac flight she was on crashed into a mountainside in Southern France.

Eddie Patrick? He was the kid genius, when it came to radios and electronics: he wound up as a senior NCO at the age of 19, in charge of the comm gear, serving at a Flying Tigers airbase in China, well behind the Japanese lines.

Litzie Trustin was Jewish and born in Vienna. She escaped to England on one of the last Kindertransports, just before the war began in Europe in 1939. Returning to Europe to work with the American forces as a translator, she married a transport pilot and came to Omaha to settle down and raise a family – and to work for civil rights.

Bob Joyce kept a diary, all through his tour of duty as a B-17 radio operator, flying a series of nerve-wrackingly dangerous missions from Italy. He carried with him on those missions a pair of regular Army boots, his father’s rosary, a good-luck bracelet from his home-town girlfriend, and a $2.00 bill, so he would never be broke.

Ignatio “Nacho” Gutierrez never saw snow until he went into the Army for basic training. He and his unit came ashore on D-Day in the early evening of June 6th, 1944 – and he painted signs – and sometimes stapled them to trees himself – for the constantly-moving XIX Corps, First Army headquarters, all through Normandy and into Belgium and Germany.

During the war, Marshall Cantor directed the building of runways and scratch airbases on Ascension Island for Air Transport Command, and then moved on to do the same in New Guinea and in the Philippines. He met Ellen Berg, who was a nurse serving at a forward hospital in Papua, New Guinea. They married in 1944.

More excerpts and a few more pictures are at a section of Barbara’s website, here.

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