A Hometown Went to War, by Rolland E. Kidder, Sandy Bottom Press, Chautauqua, N.Y., $21.95.
If you are tired of reading about the grand strategies and the big picture of World War II, about massive land, sea and air battles and their geopolitical significance, then this is clearly a book for you. A Hometown Went to War brings the war back to a personal level, as experienced by 28 direct participants who survived the war, most of whom are still living in the country they fought to preserve.
This book is fascinating because the reader is able to visualize the individual stories being played out simultaneously all over the world. None of the stories are connected or intertwined in any way except in the sense that the persons included were all joined together by their common effort to win the war. Officers and enlisted men are included, as well as one female nurse. While there is a significant amount of combat action, there are also many accounts of service that heretofore have received little or no notice. Another thread connecting the stories is that none of the participants ever really knew or understood until years later how their contributions, each in its own way, made the V-days possible.
Rolland Kidder follows each piece with an explanation of how and where each story fits in and what else was going on at the time. This is necessary both to give the reader perspective and to fill in gaps left by the participants’ limited knowledge of the overall events taking place. Most of the Marines who assaulted Iwo Jima, for example, did not know why they were there until the first damaged Boeing B-29 Superfortress made an emergency landing on its way back from Tokyo. Kidder has done a masterful job of re-creating a positive aspect of World War II–the people of an entire nation working together to achieve a clear goal.
John I. Witmer