I’ve enjoyed several of these shorter books featuring World War II veterans and their memories. They would be terrific gifts even for high schoolers.
After interviewing 250 WWII vets during the past decade, Kayleen Reusser, a 25-year writing professional, has written several books about those veterans and the war, as well as many stories about veterans in magazines and newspapers. She is a military spouse/mother.
After completing a 10-day WWII Tour of Europe, Reusser has put together a talk with photos of places vets served, including Omaha Beach, a foxhole in Belgium used during the Battle of the Bulge, Paris, Hitler’s retreat called Eagle’s Nest, Dachau, etc. She has spoken to dozens of groups of all ages.
A former middle school librarian, Reusser has written 17 non-fiction books for that age group for Mitchell Lane and Purple Toad Publishing. Titles include biographies on Meghan Markle and Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala; STEM books on Big Ben and Golden Gate Bridge, Indonesian and Cuban cookbooks, and 3 books on Greek mythology.
I especially liked these short books:
My thoughts: During WWII, 120,000 Americans were held as POWs, in Europe and in the Pacific. A devastating 40 percent of the ones held by the Japanese died in captivity–from cruelty, diseases, malnourishment, even killings.
After some background about the war, there are stories about two foot soldiers, one navyman, and five airmen. The airmen were POWs of the Nazis, the other two prisoners of the Japanese. The timeline of the war is at the end of the book.
The author interviewed seven former POWs for these stories, and was given access to the journal of another. These are important stories to contemplate, to remember. One man lied about his age, entering the army when he was only 15. Even when he was released after 41 months, he was still a teenager.
There are compelling Book Club Questions at the end, which would also be good for a high school history class to contemplate. Kayleen Reusser’s short books of stories of WWII veterans would be fine additions to school and other libraries. History through the eyes of those who lived it.
My thoughts: I wish I’d had books like Kayleen Reusser’s Witnesses of War Books when I was a schoolgirl. As an adult, I finally discovered that history is people. In this heartwarming slim book, there are stories of eighteen people who witnessed WWII as a child or young adult–everything from being whisked out of London’s nightly bombing raids by Germans in Operation Pied Piper to fleeing from Germans and Russians becoming refugees.
Accompanied by several photos, some by the survivors themselves, two stories are about Resistance Fighters. One girl became a WREN working with top secret codes at Bletchley Park. Another was trapped in rubble with younger siblings after a bombing. Most of the stories have ties to the State of Indiana, but any school children would get a good idea of what it was like to be a child during wartime, and how it affected these individuals as adults.
The book includes Discussion Questions and a World War II Timeline, as do other books in this delightful series.
My thoughts: This short book is packed with background history of the war and of D-Day, then begins introducing the stories of seventeen veterans she interviewed for the book. Their sketches begin with a chapter on Fighting on the Ground and continue through one about a chaplain, the inventor of the “Higgins boats,” Fighting in the Air, a POW, Treating the Injured, etc. Several National Archives photos are used in the book, as well as personal ones of the veterans themselves. Toward the end of the book or photos of several of the men recently, holding framed medals and photos or memorabilia and comments about the war.
The last chapters give More Facts about D-Day, a timeline of WWII, and a D-Day Glossary. The Author’s Reflections of D-Day and Normandy are from traveling to Normandy and other war sites. Kathleen Reusser has preserved important history for the rest of us, including the memories of veterans who lived it.
This is her latest, Women of WWII Coloring Book, which is only $5 on Amazon.
Kayleen Reusser has longer WWII books, also. Check out her Amazon Author Page.
The described author’s work seems to be a lot like that of a newspaper writer in Southwest Florida (can’t remember his name). He interviewed my father-in-law a couple of years ago about his service with the Navy in the Pacific theater during WWII and wrote a length article that was published in his paper (one of the Port Charlotte papers). He had interviewed a large number of the area’s WWII veterans and compiled a book of their stories. My father-in-law had served as a range finder in a 5-in. gun aboard the heavy cruiser USS St. Paul, including the invasion of Okinawa. He still suffers from claustrophobia from being cooped up in that small gun mount during the numerous kamikazi attacks during that invasion and never being able to see what was happening outside it.
I’m thankful for the newspaper man you mentioned. Memories of what that generation was called on to endure must be remembered. I especially like it that the veterans and those who went through it as children can see their memories in print and be appreciated.
Thanks for reviewing her books. She’s left a great gift to adults as well as school libraries. We need more students to realize THEY can do oral histories of all of life. I lean towards veterans and their families interviews and was very moved by Leora’s Letters. I hope the future generations continue to embrace the enlargement of the study of history. What used to be defined as “primary sources” was too narrow 50 years ago when I was in college and watching the history academic field. Now some have oral histories as Field Course work. Hope the trend continues. Every argument I’ve had with a narrow history academic is usually over when I remind them the biggest single impact in film history appreciation for D-Day was not The Longest Day but the first harrowing but wrenchingly accurate first 30 minutes of “Saving Private Ryan”. Spielberg had Dr. Steven Ambrose as technical advisor for the film. I’ve visited the office for the WW II museum’s collections of his oral histories for D-Day in New Orleans over 20 years ago. Reading those transcripts of D-Day oral histories convinced me it was as good or better than the printed “primary sources” of the narrow academics. He popularized oral histories; helped it gain acceptance with the conservative (they’d hate being called that but they are) historical academics.
I’m amazed at how many she’s still able to interview! I especially liked the one where she met people who’d come from areas where they grew up personally affected by war. I’ve still not been able to watch “Saving Private Ryan.” I sure appreciate your unique perspective on all of this! One thing I like about Kayleen’s books is how accessible they are. She adds some structure to the war as a whole, so I think that they’d ben such a good introduction to WWII for students.
Saving Private Ryan was very difficult to watch. I think it would be doubly so for you.
For me, oral histories have always been pure gold for understanding historical events and the people who lived them.
I’m thankful there are several people still trying to capture those from WWII veterans.