Henry Lasoski, an officer in the Polish army, was there on the first day of World War II, thrusting his bayonet awkwardly into a German soldier hours after Hitler’s army invaded his homeland in 1939. And Jacques Smith was there on the last, a member of the honor guard aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay when the Japanese signed the documents of surrender in 1945. From start to finish, this chronicle of fifty-three personal testimonies illuminates the Second World War in a way no mere accumulation of facts can.
In a journalistic tour de force, Elizabeth Mullener found eyewitnesses to virtually every major event of World War II, and she found them all in one American city — New Orleans. The people she writes about are not grand heroes or prime movers. They are young men shaking in their foxholes, young women stitching up wounded soldiers, and children facing a world gone topsy-turvy.
And they saw it all. They witnessed the London Blitz and the siege of Stalingrad; the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Bataan Death March; the battle of Iwo Jima and the Nuremberg trials; the Normandy invasion and parties at the USO. Their memories are powerful. Harold Eck recalls sharks grazing his legs as he treaded water for four days after the USS Indianapolis sank in the Pacific Ocean. Anthony DeLucca saw bodies stacked like cordwood at Buchenwald. Christine Strevinsky slid a knife through the neck of a Nazi commandant at the age of nine. Frank Rosato played “The Missouri Waltz” for Harry Truman at Potsdam.
All poignantly related through Mullener’s graceful and compelling prose, the episodes in War Storiesprovide an unusually intimate history of World War II and a direct, visceral connection to the central event of the twentieth century.
Stephen E. Ambrose (1936-2002), was Boyd Professor of History at the University of New Orleans and author of many biographies and histories, including D-day, June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II and Upton and the Army.
Found an Error? Tell us about it.