In Our World War II Heroes, John T. Reardon undertakes the admirable task of collecting and sharing some of the personal experiences of seven soldiers during World War II. Unlike other collections of primary sources which often contain polished and heavily edited versions of these firsthand accounts, Reardon sticks to the largely unpolished first- and second-hand accounts of these soldiers’ experiences. These memories range in subject from POW survival to an inside glimpse of D-Day itself.
Reardon’s focus on frank conversation provides a refreshing opportunity for readers to connect with the individuals in both an endearing and accessible way. Each of the seven accounts has a different style, length and tone but are unified by the singular focus on one aspect or event during World War II. These experiences are further enhanced by the book’s use of personal photographs that accompany the end of each story. Readers should have no trouble connecting with every section of the book even if they are unfamiliar with some of the military terminology used. The overall message of this book is to demonstrate the power and heroism of the individuals who experienced the war. The author achieves this with considerable success.
Unfortunately, the unfocused structure of the book has its faults. There is no overarching theme or concept that guides each story into a cohesive whole. The author does a good job of introducing the book, but does little to help control the direction of the content that follows. Each chapter is a separate unit unto itself. For example, the first section covers a prisoner of war’s experience, while the second chapter describes life during the war on the American home front, which is followed by an account of D-Day. No attempt is made by the author to tie the stories together. Increased organization and connection of the individual stories through a stronger authorial presence would go a long way to improving the flow and organization of the work.
Despite this lack of overall structure, the book is still an incredibly powerful and engaging read on individual heroes that made up World War II. Military enthusiasts and casual readers will each appreciate the frank and honest conversation from the soldiers’ experiences “in the field” and their understanding of the world at the time. With a little more organization, this book can become an even greater testament to the heroic stories of thousands of men and women who sacrificed so this country could be what it is today.