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Good reads for Veterans Day

Created date

October 26th, 2010

This Veterans Day, step back in time to remember the patriots of World War II through two books recommended by your fellow Erickson Living neighbors: Once Upon a Town, recommended by Seabrook s Leonard Eckle, and We Survived War s Crucible, written by Cedar Crest s Donald Smith.

Murphy s Law suspended

When Donald Smith s parents, Stephen and Viola, and his younger brother, Paul, traveled as missionaries to the Philippines, they had no idea they would soon be fighting for their lives in one of World War II s most successful rescues. First held under house arrest by the Japanese Army for two and a half years, the family then joined nearly 2,150 fellow prisoners in the Los Banos concentration camp where they were to be murdered in mass execution. We Survived War s Crucible: A True Story of Imprisonment and Rescue in World War II Philippines takes its readers through the family s imprisonment and the climax of their rescue by Filipino guerillas and U.S. paratroopers. It is said to be the most successful rescue of prisoners during World War II, Smith says. Everything went right; Murphy s Law was suspended.

First-hand account

Smith was born in the Philippines and moved to the U.S. before the war. Then, he and his wife, Verna, lived in Manila, Philippines, for five years following the war. I know the places where these things [in the story] happened, so it was easy to write as if I had been there, he says. Smith wrote the captivating true story from recorded interviews with his father and brother. He tells the story in his father s autobiographical voice, making it seem even more real. You get a real feel for the excitement and the courage and the ingenuity that it took for people to live through that experience. People have told me they can t put [the book] down, Smith says. Both authors, the Smiths live at Cedar Crest, in Pompton Plains. We Survived War s Crucible is available on and by special order at book stores.

Patriotism personified

Most people have never heard of North Platte, Nebr. It s a small town now and was even smaller in 1941. But ask almost any World War II veteran about the town of North Platte, and you re likely to receive a nostalgic smile and a story that exemplifies the true meaning of patriotism. From Christmas Day 1941 to the end of World War II, the people of this small Nebraska town greeted more than six million servicemen with baked goods, cold drinks, music, hugs, and waves as troop trains traveled from east to west filled with precious cargo young men on their way to war. While the trains stopped for a ten-minute layover to load supplies, the people of North Platte came aboard with their welcoming gifts. They came out night after night to provide troops with heartwarming enthusiasm, says Eckle, one of the troops who passed through North Platte. He was on his way from Sampson, N.Y., to San Diego, Calif., for training as a Navy medic. It s a sight I ll never forget all those people waving to us. Eckle discovered Once Upon a Town: The Miracle of the North Platte Canteen in a 2002 Star Ledger book review. The article and book brought back heartrending memories for the veteran. Author Bob Greene revisits North Platte to discover the birth of the canteen spirit. He found the idea was actually a mistake that took. In 264 pages, Greene tells the story of how the canteen grew and lasted four long years, serving 3,000 to 5,000 troops, day in and day out. It features interviews with people like Eckle troops who received the canteen spirit and those who gave it out. Even 65 years later, I can still picture pulling out of the station with those people waving to us, Eckle says. Once Upon a Town is a healthy reminder of the affection and dedication of people in our beautiful country, says Eckle.