Book Reviews

Reviews of books by MWSA members. Reviews appear in reverse chronological order, with the most recent review posted appearing first.
Note: Some older reviews are being reposted to this site and those will appear out of order.

Kissing Sailor: The Mystery Behind the Photo That Ended World War II, The

Title: The Kissing Sailor: The Mystery Behind the Photo That Ended World War II
Author: Lawrence Verria & George Galdorisi
Genre: History
Reviewer: Candace Thompson

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): 1612510787

On August 14, 1945, Alfred Eisenstaedt took a picture of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square, minutes after they heard of Japan's surrender to the United States. Two weeks later LIFE magazine published that image. It became one of the most famous WWII photographs in history (and the most celebrated photograph ever published in the world's dominant photo-journal), a cherished reminder of what it felt like for the war to finally be over. Everyone who saw the picture wanted to know more about the nurse and sailor, but Eisenstaedt had no information and a search for the mysterious couple's identity took on a dimension of its own. In 1979 Eisenstaedt thought he had found the long lost nurse. And as far as almost everyone could determine, he had. For the next thirty years Edith Shain was known as the woman in the photo of V-J DAY, 1945, TIMES SQUARE. In 1980 LIFE attempted to determine the sailor's identity. Many aging warriors stepped forward with claims, and experts weighed in to support one candidate over another. Chaos ensued.

For almost two decades Lawrence Verria and George Galdorisi were intrigued by the controversy surrounding the identity of the two principals in Eisenstaedt's most famous photograph and collected evidence that began to shed light on this mystery. Unraveling years of misinformation and controversy, their findings propelled one claimant s case far ahead of the others and, at the same time, dethroned the supposed kissed nurse when another candidate's claim proved more credible. With this book, the authors solve the 67-year-old mystery by providing irrefutable proof to identify the couple in Eisenstaedt's photo. It is the first time the whole truth behind the celebrated picture has been revealed.

The authors also bring to light the couple's and the photographer's brushes with death that nearly prevented their famous spontaneous Times Square meeting in the first place. The sailor, part of Bull Halsey's famous task force, survived the deadly typhoon that took the lives of hundreds of other sailors. The nurse, an Austrian Jew who lost her mother and father in the Holocaust, barely managed to escape to the United States. Eisenstaedt, a World War I German soldier, was nearly killed at Flanders.

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Verria, Lawrence
Galdorisi, George

RPM Rockin' in the Free World

Title: RPM Rockin' in the Free World
Author: Heather Means
Genre: Memoir
Reviewer: Hodge Wood

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): 0988175207

"Once in awhile, right in the middle of ordinary life, love gives us a fairy tale." So begins a gripping memoir written by a young Special Forces Army wife as her husband lay dying. Ryan Means grew up wanting to be a soldier. At age thirty-one, after the loss of his best friend in the 9/11 attacks, Ryan joined the US Army. He barely got to know his daughter Elizabeth when he was deployed to Iraq. In 2009, Ryan was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of liver cancer and quickly passed away due to complications. RPM Rockin' in the Free World is a raw and inspirational tale of modern love and war that reminds us to appreciate life and live it to its fullest. It is proof that grief does not have to prevail over eternal love. Portions of sales from this book will be donated to Special Operations Warrior Foundation.

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Means, Heather


Title: Lethargica
Author: Edward H. Carpenter
Genre: Literary Fiction
Reviewer: Bob Doerr

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): B007Z9AKJK

1917. In the French trench-lines of the Western Front, an American volunteer lives from letter to letter, as high explosive shells rain down and poison gas permeates the air. His wife’s words are the only link to a world that is still clean and bright, a world unlike the one which surrounds him; mud, barbed wire, shell fragments and decaying men, some dead, some still alive. And then, one day, her letters stop coming.

To what lengths will a man go to save the only thing truly worth fighting for? Or is it already too late? Based on terrible events that were all too real, this story will reveal hidden truths to shed light on one of the little-known tragedies of a decade that decimated a generation of the world’s youth.

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Carpenter, Edward H.

In Arms and Idleness

Title: In Arms and Idleness
Author: Emmett E. Slake
Genre: Historical Fiction
Reviewer: Terry Shoptaugh

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): B009G2KL3E

One June day at the mid-point of the twentieth century, the uneasy peace that had settled over the "Land of the Morning Calm" was shattered by an act of aggression. Not far away, on the "Islands of the Rising Sun," the first tremors of conflict were felt. In reaction to the vague threat, an Army of occupation from a previous war was ordered into action, forever altering the lives of those called upon to respond. This novel is a gripping account of the early stages of the Korean War, candidly presented without pretense or heroic embellishment. Also related in stark detail are the sordid aspects of garrison duty in Japan, graphically expressed with little sentimentality. The story features a distinctive cast of military and civilian characters, whose domain extends from the streets of Yokohama, to the halls of the Dai Ichi Building, to the treacherous landscape of Korea. In essence the novel provides a unique fictional journey that traces the lives of two young American soldiers who from a common starting point diverge toward their separate tragic fates—one heroic and the other treasonous. This unique rendering of history, framed in fictional form, will arouse the consciousness of the unacquainted and stir the memories of those who were once touched by that all but forgotten time and place.

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Slake, Emmett E.

Sound of Caissons, The

Title: The Sound of Caissons
Author: Suzanne Hadfield Semsch
Genre: Historical Fiction
Reviewer: Cathryn J. Prince

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): 1463510748

In The Sound of Caissons, Julia Crockett's relentless quest to excel is revealed as the story of five generations of an Army family unfolds through the first three-quarters of 20th century America. At age six Julia imagines growing up to be a general, like Fort Sill's post commander. When she shares this with her beloved grandfather, a retired major, he informs her girls can't be soldiers. Years later, her father forbids her joining the WAAC at the outset of WWII, and she decides the only way to achieve the position and power she desires is to marry an ambitious lieutenant and ride his coattails. But shortly after a hasty marriage to Lt. Robert Wells, she meets Lt. David Morgan, and realizes she's made a dreadful mistake. With a world in turbulence, it's six years before Julia and David are free to marry. Although she loves him deeply, Julia's insatiable yearning for status becomes apparent as she attempts to guide David's career. A man with his own objectives, however, David does not always fall in with her plans. At the same time, Julia continually urges their four children to follow in the footsteps of their military ancestors. Through triumph, tragedy, and infidelity, the Morgan family serves from the U.S. to Tehran, to Berlin, and back again. The children become adults, and the men weather America's conflicts in Korea and Vietnam. Eventually David's patience with Julia's singular determination to see him with stars on his epaulets and their sons as West Point cadets, wears thin. Is the extraordinary love Julia and David share for each other strong enough to survive their conflicting visions? Filled with passion and engaging characters, this thought provoking family saga will keep you turning pages. It is not merely a love story.

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Semsch, Suzanne Hadfield