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The Other Veterans of World War II: Stories from Behind the Front Lines

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For decades, the dramatic stories of World War II soldiers have been the stuff of memoirs, interviews, novels, documentaries, and feature films. Yet the men and women who served in less visible roles, never engaging in physical combat, have received scant attention. Some of these service members may even have been reluctant to discuss their experiences, as combat soldiers For decades, the dramatic stories of World War II soldiers have been the stuff of memoirs, interviews, novels, documentaries, and feature films. Yet the men and women who served in less visible roles, never engaging in physical combat, have received scant attention. Some of these service members may even have been reluctant to discuss their experiences, as combat soldiers often referred to them derisively, calling them pencil pushers, grease monkeys, or cowards--suggesting they had shirked their duty. Convinced these views were far from the truth, Rona Simmons embarked on a quest to discover the real story from the noncombat veterans themselves. She sat across from 19 veterans or their children, paged through their brief memoirs and exhaustive autobiographies, read their letters and journals, looked at photos, and touched their mementos: pieces of shrapnel, a Japanese sword, a porcelain tea set, a pair of wooden shoes, and a marquisette wedding gown. Compiling these veterans' stories, Simmons follows them as they report for service, complete their training, and often ship out to stations thousands of miles from home. She shares their dreams to see combat and their disappointment at receiving noncombat positions, as well as the young men and women's selflessness and yearning for home. Ultimately, Simmons finds the noncombat veterans had far more in common with the front line soldiers than differences. Simmons's extensive research gives us a more complete picture of the war effort, bringing long overdue appreciation for the men and women whose everyday tasks, unexpected acts of sacrifice, and faith and humor contributed mightily to the ultimate outcome of the Great War.


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For decades, the dramatic stories of World War II soldiers have been the stuff of memoirs, interviews, novels, documentaries, and feature films. Yet the men and women who served in less visible roles, never engaging in physical combat, have received scant attention. Some of these service members may even have been reluctant to discuss their experiences, as combat soldiers For decades, the dramatic stories of World War II soldiers have been the stuff of memoirs, interviews, novels, documentaries, and feature films. Yet the men and women who served in less visible roles, never engaging in physical combat, have received scant attention. Some of these service members may even have been reluctant to discuss their experiences, as combat soldiers often referred to them derisively, calling them pencil pushers, grease monkeys, or cowards--suggesting they had shirked their duty. Convinced these views were far from the truth, Rona Simmons embarked on a quest to discover the real story from the noncombat veterans themselves. She sat across from 19 veterans or their children, paged through their brief memoirs and exhaustive autobiographies, read their letters and journals, looked at photos, and touched their mementos: pieces of shrapnel, a Japanese sword, a porcelain tea set, a pair of wooden shoes, and a marquisette wedding gown. Compiling these veterans' stories, Simmons follows them as they report for service, complete their training, and often ship out to stations thousands of miles from home. She shares their dreams to see combat and their disappointment at receiving noncombat positions, as well as the young men and women's selflessness and yearning for home. Ultimately, Simmons finds the noncombat veterans had far more in common with the front line soldiers than differences. Simmons's extensive research gives us a more complete picture of the war effort, bringing long overdue appreciation for the men and women whose everyday tasks, unexpected acts of sacrifice, and faith and humor contributed mightily to the ultimate outcome of the Great War.

35 review for The Other Veterans of World War II: Stories from Behind the Front Lines

  1. 5 out of 5

    Clint Smith

    Rona Simmons has compiled a well-researched, heart-warming and entertaining book that features nineteen patriots who deserve recognition. Their contributions to the war effort were instrumental to the eventual victory of the Allied Forces. Success in defense of freedom requires the sacrificial contributions of many from all walks of life. As the veterans and family members share their memories, stories, and anecdotes, the reader gains a great appreciation for their service. I highly recommend th Rona Simmons has compiled a well-researched, heart-warming and entertaining book that features nineteen patriots who deserve recognition. Their contributions to the war effort were instrumental to the eventual victory of the Allied Forces. Success in defense of freedom requires the sacrificial contributions of many from all walks of life. As the veterans and family members share their memories, stories, and anecdotes, the reader gains a great appreciation for their service. I highly recommend the book. Clint Smith Novelist and Historian

  2. 5 out of 5

    Gary Sosniecki

    Full disclosure: Rona Simmons is a fellow author for The Kent State University Press but with more experience at writing books. She has helped me with ideas for promoting my own upcoming book. I felt the least I could do was order her new book. But I wasn't sure how interesting it would be considering it was about noncombat veterans of World War II. I grew up in the 1950s and '60s. Most fathers in our neighborhood fought in World War II; one brought home a Japanese flag that we 10-year-old boys Full disclosure: Rona Simmons is a fellow author for The Kent State University Press but with more experience at writing books. She has helped me with ideas for promoting my own upcoming book. I felt the least I could do was order her new book. But I wasn't sure how interesting it would be considering it was about noncombat veterans of World War II. I grew up in the 1950s and '60s. Most fathers in our neighborhood fought in World War II; one brought home a Japanese flag that we 10-year-old boys thought was just awesome. For a friend's birthday party, we went as a group to see "The Longest Day" on the day it came out. In later years, as a reporter, I interviewed men who had fought at Normandy and had survived the Battle of the Bulge. Well, I shouldn't have been worried. Rona's book is first-rate and held my interest from Page 1. Rona tells the story of 19 veterans -- men and women -- whose World War II service was behind the scenes. I learned about veterans who kept our fighting forces supplied, who kept them trained, who kept them fed, who patched them up when they were injured, sometimes risking their own lives to do so. Each story was fascinating. In the epilogue, Rona explained that she believed that "if somebody took the time to listen to a noncombat veteran's story, to probe beyond the surface, they would find stories worthy of being told." Indeed, she was successful. It was fitting that I finished "The Other Veterans of World War II" on the 75th anniversary of VE Day.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

    Rona Simmons's "The Other Veterans of World War II" covers the services we don't see in films like "The Longest Day" or "Saving Private Ryan." Simmons covers, compassionately but objectively, the wartime careers of regular men and women from all walks of life who contributed to our war effort without killing. Her interviews, research and prose are stellar - wonderful writing as well as an unmined subject.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Judy

    This book will give you insight to what went on behind the lines. These folks are the hero’s we don’t normally hear about. These men and woman prove there is no unimportant job. Many had dreams of doing something totally different than what their assignments were. They gave their all to the jobs assigned to them and were proud to be serving their country. I enjoyed reading and learning about these wonderful veterans. I was lucky enough to attend the launching of this book at the Dahlonega Litera This book will give you insight to what went on behind the lines. These folks are the hero’s we don’t normally hear about. These men and woman prove there is no unimportant job. Many had dreams of doing something totally different than what their assignments were. They gave their all to the jobs assigned to them and were proud to be serving their country. I enjoyed reading and learning about these wonderful veterans. I was lucky enough to attend the launching of this book at the Dahlonega Literary Festival in March. If you ever get a chance to hear Rona Simmons tell the background of her research and meeting with the families of these wonderful veterans, do it. I think you will find it as fascinating as the stories you’ll read in this book. I hope you enjoy learning some very interesting history about what our veterans have done to keep our country free and safe.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mary Sanchez

    The author has a great premise showing noncombat service men and women's efforts serving our country in WWII. We are indebted to these unsung heroes. The author researched heavily and interviewed various veterans like one who "designed and building cemeteries only hours after a battle," and shares details of their stories. I was particularly interested in the role minorities had in these noncombat jobs and their feelings about their jobs. One highlight was learning about the Double V Campaign, wh The author has a great premise showing noncombat service men and women's efforts serving our country in WWII. We are indebted to these unsung heroes. The author researched heavily and interviewed various veterans like one who "designed and building cemeteries only hours after a battle," and shares details of their stories. I was particularly interested in the role minorities had in these noncombat jobs and their feelings about their jobs. One highlight was learning about the Double V Campaign, where blacks said the symbol meant they fought for "victory over the Germans and Japanese and one for their own victory for civil rights at home." But I was disappointed that no Hispanics were interviewed. Granted, I skimmed the book and may have missed their stories. Some of my family members were cooks during WWII, and to their dying days were proud of serving their country. I regret that I did not interview them to learn more about their experiences during the war.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sean

    I found this book because the author did an AMA on the WW2 history group page. Intrigued by the subject, I could not wait to expand my horizons on the war. I was not disappointed. This book taught me a lot without being heavy or dense. It was well executed. A quick read and thought provoking novel with a perceptive human element. Author takes on a completely different perspective on the war and I can only think how this could be much much longer. Moreover, this only covered US veterans “behind th I found this book because the author did an AMA on the WW2 history group page. Intrigued by the subject, I could not wait to expand my horizons on the war. I was not disappointed. This book taught me a lot without being heavy or dense. It was well executed. A quick read and thought provoking novel with a perceptive human element. Author takes on a completely different perspective on the war and I can only think how this could be much much longer. Moreover, this only covered US veterans “behind the lines”. Imagine what you could cover with British, German, Canadians, Russians, etc? After all, people tout the Battle of Britain as the battle won by “the few” when in fact hundreds of thousands of “the many” supported “the few”. This book closes the gap with regard to all the war theaters and provides recognition to the other half (or more than half) that was not in combat in WWII. Furthermore, it was awesome how causal the author noted the accomplishments of the females and African Americans she interviewed. It came off as natural in recognizing their accomplishments... when in the 1940s it was anything but casual. I appreciated this tone because after all, that is how it should be; they are equals. Although not written for the purpose of social progression I hope this books stands for how WE all contributed to the preservation of our way of modern life... combat soldiers, cooks, grave diggers, blacks, nurses, whites, women, men, ferry pilots, etc... this book is important for generations to come.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Rona Simmons

    Do you think you've heard all there is to know about World War II? What about the men and women who served behind the front lines, deep inside China, in the air delivering supplies over "the Hump," or organizing convoys to keep ships and their men safe? Hear from the veterans themselves in my latest book. For decades, the dramatic stories of World War II soldiers have been the stuff of memoirs, interviews, novels, documentaries, and feature films. Yet the men and women who served in less visible Do you think you've heard all there is to know about World War II? What about the men and women who served behind the front lines, deep inside China, in the air delivering supplies over "the Hump," or organizing convoys to keep ships and their men safe? Hear from the veterans themselves in my latest book. For decades, the dramatic stories of World War II soldiers have been the stuff of memoirs, interviews, novels, documentaries, and feature films. Yet the men and women who served in less visible roles, never engaging in physical combat, have received scant attention. Some of these service members may even have been reluctant to discuss their experiences, as combat soldiers often referred to them derisively, calling them pencil pushers, grease monkeys, or cowards--suggesting they had shirked their duty. Convinced these views were far from the truth, Rona Simmons embarked on a quest to discover the real story from the noncombat veterans themselves. She sat across from 19 veterans or their children, paged through their brief memoirs and exhaustive autobiographies, read their letters and journals, looked at photos, and touched their mementos: pieces of shrapnel, a Japanese sword, a porcelain tea set, a pair of wooden shoes, and a marquisette wedding gown. Compiling these veterans' stories, Simmons follows them as they report for service, complete their training, and often ship out to stations thousands of miles from home. She shares their dreams to see combat and their disappointment at receiving noncombat positions, as well as the young men and women's selflessness and yearning for home. Ultimately, Simmons finds the noncombat veterans had far more in common with the front line soldiers than differences. Simmons's extensive research gives us a more complete picture of the war effort, bringing long overdue appreciation for the men and women whose everyday tasks, unexpected acts of sacrifice, and faith and humor contributed mightily to the ultimate outcome of the Great War.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ronald V. Waitman

  9. 5 out of 5

    John Keating

  10. 4 out of 5

    Beth

  11. 5 out of 5

    Abbey

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jason

  13. 4 out of 5

    Dan O'Neill

  14. 4 out of 5

    Rino Hashim

  15. 4 out of 5

    Libby

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kelli

  17. 5 out of 5

    Julie Jaffarian

  18. 5 out of 5

    Casey

  19. 4 out of 5

    _Cat

  20. 4 out of 5

    Hailey

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy Simon

  22. 4 out of 5

    Andrew P

  23. 5 out of 5

    Klaatu

  24. 4 out of 5

    Emily

  25. 4 out of 5

    Zhenchao

  26. 5 out of 5

    Aileen

  27. 5 out of 5

    Marcello

  28. 5 out of 5

    Domenico

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jesper Jorgensen

  30. 5 out of 5

    Bridget Wiberg

  31. 4 out of 5

    DW

  32. 5 out of 5

    Sagar Yadama

  33. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

  34. 5 out of 5

    Kerry

  35. 5 out of 5

    Angela Pineda

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