The year was 1957. I was not quite 15 years old as I stepped out of the 14th Street National Guard Armory with my book bag in one hand and my rifle in the other. The streets were crowded with rush hour traffic and pedestrians heading home from work. I crossed the avenue to wait for the eastbound bus on 9th Avenue.
It never ceased to amaze me that no one particularly noticed me carrying a gun. Perhaps it was because it was covered in a padded green felt carry case but by shape and size it was obviously a rifle. I was always self-conscious when I carried it to school and back home. After all, I was just barely a teenager.
When Brother Augustine came around to each classroom to recruit members for his freshman Rifle Club, I was immediately interested and intrigued by the idea. There weren’t many sanctioned after-school activities at St. Bernard’s, the Manhattan freshman annex to the Bronx-based Cardinal Hayes Memorial High School. It would be good to get involved in something. This could be fun if I could surmount some minor hurdles. Specifically, I didn’t have a gun and I had no idea how to shoot one.
Most of the twenty students whom the good brother recruited fell into the same category. However, old Brother Augustine had the answers. First he made a deal with the local Marlin Firearms Company distributor to provide basic rifles at a deep discount. Next the National Rifle Association would provide the safety course and certify and sponsor the team as well as provide safety literature, ammo and targets. Brother Augustine, a lifelong NRA member, would show us how to care for and maintain our rifles and how to shoot them. This sounded like a pretty good deal.
The Avenue D bus to Alphabet City pulled up and I got on along with a few other people. It was empty as this was the turnaround stop. After showing my bus pass I humped my heavy book bag and rifle all the way back to the rear seat. Still, no one seemed to notice. Trying to remain inconspicuous, I propped my rifle up by the window and opened a book to start some reading homework.
Joining the Rifle Club meant getting my parents permission as well as footing the bill for the equipment. We were poor and I knew it would be a strain. The single shot, bolt-action .22 Marlin could be bought for $15, a month’s tuition at Cardinal Hayes. Besides, we lived in a tough neighborhood and I figured Dad would turn me down thinking it would make me a target. After all, a .22 rifle was much more valuable to a gangbanger than a homemade zip gun. But Dad surprised me.
The bus began to fill up at the next few stops. A policeman got on at Union Square and began walking the aisle scrutinizing each passenger. I furtively turned my rifle case around to show the NRA patches. By that time I had already earned the Safety Course patch and two Marksman patches that Mom had proudly sewn on the flap. The NRA patches, along with metal badges, were awarded as shooting scores increased and certain proficiency milestones were met.
Brother Augustine turned out to be an excellent teacher and I seemed to have a “shooters eye”. We shot at a distance of 50 feet at 3-inch targets over open sights from prone, sitting, kneeling and standing positions. I really wanted those Expert and Sharpshooter badges and dedicated myself to becoming better.
The ammo was strictly controlled and range safety rules were scrupulously enforced, initially by the bear-like Irish Christian Brother and eventually by the self-governing actions of the students. He divided us into 4 teams of five each. We rotated through the weekly routine he posted conspicuously at the range and while one team was shooting, the other teams were performing other tasks. We knew that any serious transgression or accident would spell the end of the team at best and seriously injure someone at worst. By then we had all bought into the program and enjoyed it immensely. We were doing something very special; we knew it and we relished it.
The officer shot a glance my way and for a moment I thought he would question or challenge me. I pretended not to notice and braced for the embarrassing third degree. I always carried my Hunter Safety Training Program certificate, issued by the State of New York Conservation Department, in my rifle case. I also carried my membership card for the NRA-sanctioned St. Bernard’s Rangers, the name we chose for our team. It could have been the patches, the Cardinal Hayes book bag or my tie and sport coat that convinced him there was no problem. He got off the bus at the next stop.
Mom was probably behind the “great compromise” that bought me the Marlin. All I needed to do was keep my grades up and get a haircut. I got the better of the deal. With a little extra effort, my grades would not be a problem, even for me coming from a public to a parochial school. Insofar as the haircut, my long hair and DA back would never have passed inspection when I went to the main Bronx building the next year, anyway. So I got the haircut! Dad even threw in another $3 for the sling, which was essential for steadying the rifle on the center of the target. He remarked that the NRA certification is what sold him. I still think it was the haircut.
When the bus pulled up at 6th Street and Avenue D I got off and crossed the street into the Jacob Riis Housing Project. We didn’t have a Starbucks back then but the few times I stopped at Rosie’s candy store for a newspaper or an egg cream, I never freaked anyone out. Rosie never asked me not to come back. It seemed like people looked more at the person and their demeanor than simply the gun.
My building was alongside Franklin Delano Roosevelt Drive and I walked the one block briskly toward home. I made this walk every day but it was on Tuesday, while carrying my rifle, I felt most self-conscious. I sauntered past the 2 Housing Authority policemen who seemed to be in the same spot every day discouraging the after school crowd from playing any kind of ball game. Invariably, a game would start up as soon as they left but for the moment I had to get by them without incident. They glanced over and let me pass without intercepting and questioning me. I nodded to my friends who were gathered on a bench but I would not linger to chat. We were advised to get home as soon as possible, without loitering, while transporting our rifles. It made sense to avoid any unnecessary encounter so we followed that admonition, most of the time. Finally, at home, I placed my rifle under my bed where it would stay until next Tuesday morning.
I really loved being part of the St. Bernard’s Rangers Rifle Club. We went on to become an extremely competent and disciplined group of shooters. Almost everyone shot the open-sight Marlin. Only a few more affluent kids had sophisticated target rifles with covered sights. One of them was the top shooter on the team. I was second. We only had one inter-school meet where our top 5 shooters competed against another high school’s top guns. We lost but were competitive, disciplined and respectful. Being held to the high standard of responsibility required to handle firearms built character, even for young teens. A lot was expected from us. We learned to handle that responsibility and didn’t disappoint.
The memory of those times and circumstances astounds me to this day so many years later. I, a young teenager, once traveled on public transportation in New York City, sometimes stopping for a drink and walked through a public housing project with a cased .22 rifle and never had an incident. Not one, for the entire school year. Has the world changed so much?
I was saddened when the school year ended. Tuesday became my special day and I always looked forward to that after school activity. The group of us learned the essentials about firearms, how to handle them safely, maintain them and enjoy the competition. It was a new and different set of skills. We also developed confidence in ourselves and learned to accept the responsibility that others had expected from us and entrusted to us.
The National Rifle Association enabled all of this with their safety training, skills development and support. There is no telling how many competent and responsible adult firearm enthusiasts exist today because of the help from the NRA. How many young men and women have thrived, grown and had character building moments because someone taught them and trusted them to handle firearms at a young age? It’s a sad commentary that New York City has become a hostile and unfriendly “gun free zone” and the NRA has been demonized and excoriated for supporting gun owner Second Amendment rights.
I suppose the world has changed that much. People now focus on the inanimate object, the gun, and not the person. Somehow, that doesn’t seem like progress to me.
I eventually earned those Expert and a Sharpshooter badges. And the level of expertise I achieved served me well years later as a soldier in the U.S. Army. But that’s another story.
Interview with John E. Nevola, author of “The Last Jump: A Novel of World War II”.
Feb 13, 2013
With all the interest in the new Kindle Online Lending Library and the discussions and debates flying around Cyberspace, I thought I’d change-up this BLOG content just this once and share a post about KOLL. I promise the next entry will get us back to The Greatest Generation
A debate has been raging in Cyberspace ever since Amazon announced the Kindle Online Lending Library (KOLL). What’s the issue? According to some, Amazon is throwing its weight around, trying to crush the competition with this new offering. If an author allows their e-Book to be “borrowed” by signing up for KOLL (for a minimum 90 day stint), the author must grant Amazon exclusive rights to distribute their e-Book. In exchange, Amazon will pay the author a certain sum of money for each time someone (Amazon Prime Members only) “borrows” his or her e-Book. Thus, the name Kindle Online Lending Library.
Some authors criticize Amazon for using its clout in an apparent attempt to drive out competition. Barnes & Noble (Nook) and Smashwords promise to be particularly hard hit if Amazon can control the e-Book marketplace. Some see this eventual domination by one company as bad for all authors. These authors would eschew this offering from Amazon and try to convince others to do the same. In some cases, an additional justification to ignore the KOLL is simply a matter of pride, as some authors prefer to see their book available from as many sources as possible.
On the other hand, getting ones e-Book “borrowed” can only increase exposure and provide the author with another source of revenue not available today. Proponents would suggest a financial analysis to determine if the additional “borrow” revenue offsets the lost revenue from other sources. In addition, Amazon will permit a free e-Book giveaway promotion for any 5 days within any 90-day period. If this doesn’t appeal to you, I get it! It certainly didn’t appeal to me when I first signed up but hang around to see how that turned out.
Insofar as the social, moral and philosophical aspects of Amazon’s play in this space, I’ll leave those esoteric arguments and judgment to others. I couldn’t care less how Amazon is leveraging its size to improve its market share. I looked at this opportunity solely on the basis of how it affects my book royalties since I donate part of those payments to charity.
The digital e-Book has created a revolution in our industry and all the old rules no longer apply. Authors are now much more in control of their own marketing, distribution and sales and are obligated to use this freedom to support their causes and further their aspirations as authors. So I preferred to analyze the Amazon offering from the viewpoint of a newly published author operating on a shifting landscape in a new and changing publishing world.
I decided to take the plunge back in December 2011 when Amazon announced KOLL after realizing that my Amazon sales were 10-15 times greater than all my other channels combined. It was also out of curiosity and I only needed to commit for 90 days. Why not?
After committing, Amazon had exclusive rights to sell my e-Book, The Last Jump – A Novel of World War II. I gave up NO other rights to my work but I had to un-publish my e-Book from all other channels which included Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Google Books and my publisher’s website. Amazon certainly didn’t take my word for it, as they must have launched a search-bot to verify they were the only seller. They found something out there, never told me what it was (it could have been my own website) but asked for a pile of additional information from me in a seriously threatening email. We eventually cleared this up but they certainly need some training on how to deal with customers and business partners.
Amazon originally announced they had placed $600,000 in an account for the first 90 days of the program. At the end of the quarter, they split the pot among all books borrowed (to get a rate per book) and paid each author that rate times the number of books borrowed during that 90-day period. Since then the have placed $500,000 in the pot and because the number of books, borrows and authors per 90 days varies, the rate also varies.
Here is how much Amazon has paid per “borrow” since December:
In my case in the first 90 days, the revenue for “borrows” exceeded the royalties paid by all other sources (besides Amazon) combined. I easily made much more per month lending The Last Jump than I made selling it through the other sales channels. From a math point of view, KOLL made sense for me. Therefore, after 90 days, I re-upped for another 90-day tour and those results were similarly successful. I’ve given it a reasonable trial period and I like the results so I’m sticking with it and I will as long as Amazon can keep paying in the $2.00 per borrow range.
My biggest concern was having The Last Jump in the KOLL would suppress sales. The interesting part of this analysis was my worst fear was not realized. I assumed that my sales might diminish by about the same rate as the “borrows” increased. I was surprised to find this was not the case. Sales remained constant at about the same level (before KOLL) while at the same time the additional “borrows” actually increased my monthly revenue.
Another feature of the KOLL is the author is allowed 5 days during each 90-day period in which they can give their e-Book away for free. Without royalties, of course. Obviously, at first blush, this didn’t interest me at all. But after noting that 2 other authors (who I knew) were promoting their own books with a free giveaway promotion, I decided what the hell, let me try it too. So we teamed up to offer free e-Books in honor of the fallen around Memorial Day. One of the authors built an “e-poster” with all 3 books featured and we collaborated to distribute emails and posts to our respective friends/families and social media sites. Again, I was concerned that this giveaway would impact sales but was willing to try the experiment and observe the results. I was astounded by what happened!
First off, The Last Jump received over 21,100 free downloads. Unbelievable! The other authors were in the same ballpark. At first I figured there goes 21,000 e-Book sales. But a strange thing happened. I sold as many books in the 3 days after Memorial Day as was sold in the entire month of May prior to Memorial Day. So far in June my sales are running about 8-9 times normal and my “borrows” are at roughly the same multiplier. I haven’t seen the same acceleration of hard book sales at this time but June results are still preliminary. Besides, I’m not expecting any shift in hard book sales since I consider this unique to the e-Book world.
In June my sales ranking on Amazon has gone through the roof. I don’t know how much longer this phenomenon will last and I can’t explain how or why this occurred but the cause and effect are clear. Getting so much exposure for The Last Jump based on the free e-Book promotion somehow stimulated further interest and increased sales and borrows dramatically. So, beside the financial benefit of earning money for each borrow, the opportunity to provide a “giveaway” turned out to be the bigger benefit ofthe Kindle Online Lending Library. It propelled sales immediately and pushed my ranking and daily sales numbers to a new level. Needless to say, I will be doing this free promotion again on Veteran’s Day.
I’m sure personal experiences will vary according to the many factors that are different for each e-Book. Style, genre, quality, size and subject vary all over the place and will influence results from joining the KOLL. And there are those who will refuse to consider utilizing the KOLL for reasons of principle. However, I thought I ‘d share my experience, as one story among many that will play out during this remarkable digital revolution. Perhaps it will help someone else out there.
Good luck to all of you on your journey.
John E. Nevola – Author of The Last Jump – A Novel of World War II
One of the characters in The Last Jump, Major Frank West, is having lunch with J.P. Kilroy in Washington, D.C. in 1997. Frank was a World War II paratrooper veteran who had just visited the Wall and was complaining about the lack of patriotism in the country while explaining why America was more united during World War II. He ended his rant on page 229 by saying, “It wasn’t always all perfect but we didn’t have any ‘Hanoi Jane’. Hell, even Hollywood was on our side back then.”
The sentiment was clear and many contemporary Americans share it. Scores of actors enlisted and dozens saw combat while many actresses entertained troops and boosted morale. Why are today’s Hollywood stars not as patriotic as they were during World War II?
Fast forward to The Union League in Philadelphia on November 29, 2011. The World War II Foundation sponsored a reception and panel discussion to honor two legendary World War II airborne veterans; Bill Guarnere and Babe Heffron. They were made famous by the television series Band of Brothers and have become admired folk heroes in their own right. The purpose of the event was to raise money for the Richard D. Winters Leadership Project with the intent of erecting a statue in Ste. Marie du Mont on June 6, 2012. The statue will be in the likeness of Major Winters and has the approval of his family. Before Winters passed away this past January, he approved the project with the stipulation that the statue be dedicated to all the combat leaders who served in Normandy. Such is the trait of selflessness shared by most, if not all, of the Band of Brothers and many other veterans.
To round out the Evening With Bill and Babe, former Governor of Pennsylvania and Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge served as co-host. The other co-host was Curt Schilling, all-star pitcher and 3-time World Series winner.
The chairman of The World War II Foundation, Tim Gray, served as organizer and moderator for the panel discussion.
The room was comfortably large and there was ample room for the hundreds who showed up. Some were lined up at the bar while others were filling small plates with hors d’oeuvres but most were gathered in small clusters around the room. Each group engaged in conversation with the “celebrity” they surrounded. The affection in the room and the fondness showered over Bill and Babe were palpable. For their part they patiently signed every object thrust before them with a nod and a smile.
Bill Guarnere is a sweet and gentle man. One can only wonder how he got the nickname “Wild Bill” after meeting him and exchanging a few words. We have a common friend, “Red” Falvey of the 506th PIR and I passed along Red’s greetings and well wishes. Bill patiently sat in his wheelchair, posed for endless pictures and engaged in chitchat until it was time for him to sit on the panel. He is a true hero although he never would admit to that.
Babe Heffron is a gregarious and wisecracking machine. He would have a joke for almost anything anyone said as he posed and signed the night away. Babe would crack the room up when he spoke on the panel. He told a story of being flown into a combat zone on a tour in Iraq when they were told to put on flak jackets. “Why?” asked Bill. “Because we’re going into a combat zone,” answered Babe. Bill answered, “The hell with the jacket, give me a g__ d___ gun!” Babe also brought the audience to near tears as he described how he “spoke” to fallen brothers-in-arms in Mass every Sunday.
Curt Schilling and Governor Tom Ridge attracted a fair share of attendees after people finished with Bill and Babe. Both were extremely affable, approachable and warmly engaged their fans and admirers. Schilling weathered the Yankee comments in good humor and Ridge entertained the groups with accounts of his two very meaningful public service jobs.
And then there were the three actors. They were absolutely fantastic. They took photos, signed autographs, and engaged in conversations with enthusiasm and obvious delight. On any other evening, that would have been sufficient but these three surprised me with what would come later.
Ross McCall played Private Joe Liebgott in the series. Born in Scotland, with a touch of an accent, he played a Jewish soldier who also spoke German. His scenes involving the liberation of the concentration camp were among the most compelling in the series. His “veteran” (the actors would refer to the person whose life they played as “their veteran”) had passed away so he had to resort to interviewing other veterans to construct a framework for his role. He worked very hard at it because he felt an “obligation” to get the role perfectly right. It was obvious that every one of the actors in the series took the honor and responsibility seriously, so much so that they only called or referred to each other by their “role” names for months! And Ross was obviously very proud of his work in the series. In addition, Ross serves on the Board of The World War II Foundation.
James Madio played the role of Frank Perconte. Jim was all over the reception area tending to the needs of the veterans as well as engaging with the people in the room. He is a native of the Bronx, a regular guy who smiles easily and obviously enjoys the company of others. His veteran is still alive. Frank Perconte lives in Chicago where the three actors had a layover on their trip east. Jim arranged to get Frank to the airport so they could spend the two-hour layover having lunch. Those actors who were fortunate enough to play veterans who were still alive (and Jim attests to the great advantage they had) obviously met or spoke with those veterans frequently in preparation for the filming. But that was over 10 years ago. And Jim confided that he had not seen Frank in 2 years and missed him. Obviously Madio has kept in touch with his veteran over the years and has developed a great affection for him. And was happy to report Frank was still spry and chipper at 94. James also serves on the Board of The World War II Foundation.
Sitting next to Bill Guarnere was a young man whom I initially thought was a member of the family. He would take and hold the small gifts some people had given Bill, fetched him a glass of water and would occasionally lean over to whisper or listen to something private just between them. He doted over the old soldier to the point where I was sure he was a grandson. It turned out he was Frank John Hughes who played Guarnere in the series. His hair was longer and he sported some scruffy facial hair so he was not easily recognizable as the rugged GI he portrayed.
Frank and I developed a bit of a bond in the short time we spoke. He is also a Bronx native and it turns out his father went to the same high school as I did. Frank confessed that he loves and admires Bill Guarnere and Frank’s son knows Bill very well. The Hughes family has obviously spent a lot of time with Bill. All of Bill’s relatives at the reception knew Frank well and treated him as another familiar family member. The affection between the older and younger “Guarnere” was evident. I’m told that those kinds of secondary relationships are not that uncommon among the cast of Bands of Brothers but it was special between Frank and Bill.
Once on the panel all of the actors reinforced my observations. They expressed deep love for all the men who served but especially those they met. They traveled the world with many of the veterans on premiers and anniversary celebrations and have seen many of them pass on. I asked them all if the role in Band of Brothers had changed their lives and they agreed to a man that it did. But not so much in a career way as much as they became more appreciative of their country and the men who made the sacrifices that allow us to remain free and enjoy or way of life. Because of that they stay in constant touch with the veterans as well as with the other cast members and have formed a unique bond among themselves. These very special relationships are testimony to the impact the older paratrooper veterans have had on each of their lives.
At the end of the night I had to conclude that each of these guys “get it”. No matter how good these actors are, they could never have faked the great respect and reverence they showed to Bill and Babe and their brothers, living and fallen. I knew I would be in awe of the veterans before I arrived but as the night ended I found myself very approving and thoroughly impressed by these three remarkable young men. It was a pleasant surprise.
So yes, Hollywood, at least the small slice I saw that night, is very much on our side!
In 2008 candidate Barack Obama stood before eighty-five thousand people in Invesco Field at Mile High and talked out fairness. In his nomination acceptance speech he complained about CEO pay…a little throw away line that outrageous CEO compensation is “not fair” and needs to be changed. What did he intend to do, put a cap on CEO compensation or, to be fair, on all high-salaried people?
Add to that the quote “at some point people make enough money” and you have captured the inner essence of wealth distribution.
Recently, the Occupy Wall Street crowd has taken up that battle cry and the President has given them a wink and a nod of approval.
So do they really want Federal Government to regulate compensation; to decide who should earn what? Is it no longer good enough to let the free market decide the worth of a person’s skill or talent? Will the Federal Government now decide when enough compensation is too much? Will they dictate how much a Captain of Industry, a creator of goods and services and jobs, is really worth?
The Liberal/Progressive movement would froth at the mouth at that possibility. The “class-warfare” crowd goes wild at the prospect of dictating “social justice” and “equal outcomes”.
However, someone ought to remind them that there are many other jobs and professions besides CEOs with outrageous salaries that should also be capped, to be FAIR. If we really want to go there with this outrageous idea, then more salaries besides the CEO that should be regulated. Someone needs to tell Alex Rodriguez, Tiger Woods and the Williams sisters that, they make too much money! Sports are not that important. Are they included in the protests and criticism of people making too much money? Occupy Yankee Stadium?
And what about Hollywood? They pay directors and stars outrageous sums of money to “play make believe”. Sorry, but you’ve reached that point where you’ve already made enough money. You see, we have a ceiling, not glass either, on how much a person can make in America. Remember, we promised you CHANGE. Here it is!
At the risk of letting facts get in the way, the top 10 celebrities in the United States (who contribute virtually nothing productive to our society) make more on average than the top 10 CEOs (who manage jobs and the production of goods and services used by all Americans). It’s a fact. Google it!
Danielle Steele and J.K. Rowling would be fat juicy targets along with Martha Stewart and Oprah because they make mega-bucks. Should the Federal government strike a blow against women and cap their earnings?
And last but not least by a long shot are the news anchor-people.
Someone needs to tell the talking heads, if they can shut up long enough to listen, that the mega-contracts they have become accustomed to are no longer allowed under the new People’s Republic of America. After all, Diane and Brian, you really are overpaid for what you do. Just because you look good on TV and can read a teleprompter does not make you worth millions. Sorry. We spanked the CEOs, sports stars, celebrities, authors and others that make too much money. We can’t give you a pass on this just because you slant your news to be “government friendly”. We’re going to cap your compensation just like all the rest. Not to worry. It’s going for a good cause. We found a new species of Water-Lilly that needs saving and we have to fund the Corporation For Public Broadcasting so they can continue to carry the water for their favorite politicians.
So, would we expect to shortly see an Occupy Hollywood or Occupy The Media movement sometime on the horizon?
Don’t bet on it!
What does this have to do with The Last Jump?
The people of the Greatest Generation would never seriously entertain any notion that the Federal government should intervene and interfere with personal liberties to the extent of limiting wages and demonizing the most successful members of our society. In a free country, every individual deserves to earn what a free market determines they are worth. Everyone!
They would not stand for the idiocy and lawlessness of the crowds greedily demanding they be given the fruits and benefits of the labors of others.
They would scratch their heads, grit their teeth, become silently angered at this outrageous behavior and then mourn for the future of the country they saved.
Why? Because they willingly gave more to America than they ever asked from it.
By John E Nevola
Author of The Last Jump – A Novel of World War II
October 20, 2011
Please follow me on twitter: http://twitter.com/TheLastJump or @TheLastJump
And visit my website: http://www.thelastjump.com
Baby Boomers have something in common. They can trace a connection all the way back to World War II. At least the vast majority of them can. With over 16 million American men and women having served, it is rare indeed to come across a Boomer who has no family ties dating back to the War.
Some have fathers who were veterans and the lucky ones still count that parent among the living. Others have already lost a family member and still some born during the War (not technically Boomers but right around that age) lost a parent they never got to know.
Facing their own mortality, these Boomers have rummaged through the footlockers and cigar boxes in attics and closets all over America to better understand what it was like in World War II and what their parents had to endure.
If they were lucky they found a medal or two, some old unit insignia, a photo and perhaps a war souvenir (American GIs were notorious in their pursuit of war memorabilia). They may have found some evidence of what the Homefront was like with rationing, scrap drives and twenty million Victory Gardens. It was a place where the women built the planes and ships while their men (just boys, really) went off to fight in faraway places they couldn’t pronounce or even find on a map.
The dog-eared pictures of men in uniform frozen in their youth and naivety usually elicit a tear or two. Motivated by these scraps of history and gripped with a sense of great curiosity, the Boomers began to dig deeper. They found an imperfect America with boundless virtues and vexing shortcomings awakening from the Great Depression to take up arms to defend their country.
Everyone served or at least tried to serve. The stigma of not being in uniform was so intense it drove some to suicide. Hollywood actors (like Charlton Heston, Jimmy Stewart, Clark Gable and Henry Fonda) led the way and other celebrities followed. Over five hundred men who would return to play major league baseball volunteered, including superstars like Ted Williams, Stan Musial and Joe DiMaggio. President Roosevelt’s son James was a Marine Raider and former President Teddy Roosevelt’s son Teddy Jr. won The Medal of Honor at Normandy. It was rare that anyone felt exempt or entitled to a deferment. It certainly was different from the attitudes of today. The more the Boomers learned, the more interested they became in the life and times of their parents.
Today, both the interest and connection back to that time is extremely strong. Most Boomers are intensely proud of what their relatives accomplished. A peaceful nation wanting no part of the trouble raging around the globe was dragged into the War by being attacked on a peaceful Sunday morning. From victim to victor in less than 4 years!
But America had its trials and tribulations with racial and gender bias and struggled with these issues throughout the War. A segregated military and a condescending attitude toward women made it extremely difficult for these groups to fully participate and prove themselves. But not impossible!
Many women joined non-combat units (WACS and WAVES) as nurses and administrators and yet 16 were awarded Purple Hearts for wounds received. Those who stayed home went into the factories and built the victuals of war; they fueled the “arsenal of democracy”. And another group, numbering over one thousand, ferried fighter planes and bombers from war plants to bases, freeing up men for combat. They did this for two-thirds the pay and no military benefits despite 38 being killed in the line of duty.
No Medals of Honor were awarded to African-Americans during World War II despite over 1 million serving and fifty thousand being assigned to combat jobs. The “colored” combat units were “experimental” with political forces pushing in both directions (more units or none). But these elements proved themselves in combat and in 1997, seven African-Americans were awarded the Medal of Honor, six posthumously, in an East Room Ceremony at the White House.
Some claim that these were dark days for social justice in American history and a chapter we should all be ashamed of. I would rather think of those times as the turning point in gender and racial relations in America. The realization of true equal opportunity for African-Americans and women in our country can justifiably be dated to the War.
So it is with some satisfaction that Boomers reach back into their family histories and take great pride in their ancestors’ contribution to an America united as never before or since. And as we say goodbye to the last of them at the rate of 1,000 per day, we should never forget them nor neglect to honor them for what they accomplished in preserving our way of life.
The Last Jump is both a tribute and a “thank you” to all who served the United States, in any capacity, during the greatest conflagration in history. I would like to also thank my readers, especially all the Boomers out there, for their wonderful reviews, gracious comments and support for the book.
I only wish I could have written it better.
Please follow me on twitter: http://twitter.com/TheLastJump or @TheLastJump
And visit my website: http://www.thelastjump.com