World War II was the major historical event of the 20th century and much has been written about it. Movies by the hundreds and books by the thousands have been done in recording these historic events. Names such as Churchill, Eisenhower, Stalin, Roosevelt, Hitler, and Stalin along with the heroes such as Audie Murphy likes of the Band of Brothers are all well-known and documented.
However it has taken over one to two generations for stories of how the common soldier endured WWII for the “duration” as it was so-called during these turbulent and trying times. In the case of “Sketches of a Black Cat” it took the efforts of a curious son to bring forth a refreshing and insightful look of what it took to be a Navy pilot in the Pacific during WWII.
In the words of Ron Miner “I think this is a story of heroes, not in the sense of an Audie Murphy or a Congressional Medal winner, but rather of countless, otherwise average people plunged into an impossible situation.” It is Ron Miner who is the son of Howard Miner (Our book’s hero) who in fact coaxed his father rather late in life to tell his story. Ron Miner upon further digging and investigation brought us the story in a delightful and easy read reflecting the adventures and times of his father during WWII. From Howard Miner’s training to his drinking habits and formation of lifetime friendships Ron Miner weaves a down to earth and honest portrayal of his father.
It should be noted that Howard Miner was an excellent artist who sketched hundreds of pictures of these times in the Pacific. These artist’s renderings are tastefully scattered throughout this book. Along with these artful depictions are plentiful photographs of Mr. Miner and his Navy friends as they advance through the Pacific Islands during WWII.
In this book one can see the times and stresses put on our young citizen soldiers and we see how they are trained and disciplined to accomplish their vital missions. As Ron Miner says these men can’t all be of Audie Murphy caliber but rather are indicative of your average Joe Schmo who honorably served when our country needed them and returned home as average citizens to pick up the pieces of civilian life. Many of these stories are left untold. Fortunately Ron Miner has brought forth a least one gem for us to follow and cherish.
Reviewed by: Dick Geschke (2013)
Howard Miner was a student at a small Midwestern college when the War broke out. His journey through training and tours of duty as a PBY pilot in the South Pacific are skillfully captured in his art and narratives, framing a wartime drama with a personal coming of age story. This memoir has been reconstructed from a small library of unpublished artwork, journal entries, and writing, providing an enjoyable behind the scenes look at the Navy Black Cats. The descriptive verse from the artist’s viewpoint gives us a creatively told and intriguing portrayal of WWII’s Pacific Theater.