Nichols, Julie

SLIS 5440

May 3, 2002






Americans at War: Personal Narratives of America’s Citizen Soldiers




Who is the citizen soldier?  He is the farmer, the laborer, and the teacher. She is the nurse, the office worker, and the mail carrier. They are the people who, in time of war, put down their plow, tools, and blackboard chalk and take up the implements of war in defense of home and country. For more than 200 years, our citizen soldiers have answered the call to duty. From our country’s inception to the present day, the citizen soldier has played a pivotal role in the development of the American way of life. The notion of a citizen soldier is deeply rooted in the very fabric of our democracy and this nation, in many ways, is defined by its military history, a history that in large part is created by the common man -- America’s citizen soldier.




But exactly who are these men and women? And what motivates them to leave behind the familiar, their families and loved ones, to fight for cause and country? While a good many of these young men and women didn’t want to be in wartime situations, almost all of them did their duty. What better way to examine the nature of our citizen soldiers than through his or her personal narratives and letters?  As their letters and diaries reflect their attempts to cope with the issues of courage, honor, fear, rage, love, duty, and a sense of their own mortality, we are provided a means to understand the experiences these men and women faced and are offered a glimpse into the heart and soul of the citizen soldier




Some of these books are part of a personal collection, while others were selected through use of the local library’s OPAC (key word search terms: personal narratives, American war letters). Movies were selected through either personal knowledge or after examination of the books, Past imperfect and History goes to the movies (see full citations in Works Cited, pgs 20-21). Web sites were selected through searches on and NetFirst via FirstSearch. Synopses were taken from Library of Congress online catalog, and the Internet Movie Database.






Letters from 2nd Lieutenant Sidney Diamond, to his fiancée, 1943-1945, taken from Carroll,

Andrew, ed. War letters: extraordinary correspondence from American wars. New York:

Scribner, 2001.

In a series of letters, Sidney writes to remind his fiancée, Estelle, how much he loves her.


Letter from Sfc. Gordon Madson to the parents of his fellow prisoner of war, Sgt. John Wheeler,

1953, taken from Carroll, Andrew, ed. War letters: extraordinary correspondence from

American wars. New York: Scribner, 2001.

Sgt. Madson reveals to Mr. and Mrs. Wheeler the fate of their son, John.


Letter from PS1 Sandy Mitten to her mother, January 1991, taken from Carroll, Andrew, ed. War

letters: extraordinary correspondence from American wars. New York: Scribner, 2001.

Mitten describes the comradeship men and women feel for one another in times of stress.


Diary entry from an anonymous private in the Union Army, 1862, taken from Lewis, Jon E., ed.

The mammoth book of eye-witness history: first hand accounts of history in the making from

the ancient to the modern world. New York: Carroll and Graf Publishers, 1998.

This private describes the horrors his unit endured at the Battle of Shiloh.


Letter from Major Sullivan Ballou, U.S. Army, to his wife Sarah, July 1861, taken from

Lewis, Jon E., ed. The mammoth book of war diaries and letters: life on the battlefield in the

words of the ordinary soldier. New York: Carroll and Graf Publishers, 1999.          

Ballou writes shortly before the First Battle of Bull Run of his painful choice between love for country and love for his wife and children.


Letter from Captain Rodney R. Chastant, 1st Marine Air Wing to his mother and father, October

1967, taken from Lewis, Jon E., ed. The mammoth book of war diaries and letters: life on the

battlefield in the words of the ordinary soldier. New York: Carroll and Graf Publishers, 1999.      

Captain Chastant tells his mother how important her letters are and how much he enjoys hearing what she has described as trivial events.


Letter from Lt. Napoleon Dana, Seventh Cavalry, to his wife, May 1846, taken from Lewis,

Jon E., ed. The mammoth book of war diaries and letters: life on the battlefield in the words

of the ordinary soldier. New York: Carroll and Graf Publishers, 1999.          

The lieutenant describes for his wife, Sue, the horrors he has seen during the Mexican-American War.

Letter from Private John O’Halloran, U.S. Army to his father, July 1965, taken from Lewis, Jon

E., ed. The mammoth book of war diaries and letters: life on the battlefield in the words of the

ordinary soldier. New York: Carroll and Graf Publishers, 1999.          

Private O’Halloran describes a deadly encounter with a Vietnamese woman on a patrol.


Letter from Sgt. John Woods, to his daughter, November 1964, taken from Lewis, Jon E., ed. The

mammoth book of war diaries and letters: life on the battlefield in the words of the ordinary

soldier. New York: Carroll and Graf Publishers, 1999.          

Sgt. Woods explains to his daughter his reasons for being involved in Vietnam.


Diary entry from the diary of Joseph Plumb Martin, 1783, taken from Morgan, Speer and Greg

Michalson. For our beloved country: American war diaries from the Revolution to the Persian

Gulf. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1994.

Martin describes his mixed feelings at the conclusion of the War of Independence.


Diary entry from the diary of Amy Wingreen, 1898, taken from Morgan, Speer and Greg

Michalson. For our beloved country: American war diaries from the Revolution to the Persian

Gulf. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1994.

As part of the first group of nurses to be recruited by the Army, Wingreen expresses her pride and excitement as she travels to Cuba during the Spanish-American War.


Letter from a Lieutenant, 10th Massachusetts, 1862, taken from McPherson, James M. For cause

and comrades: why men fought in the Civil War. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

This writer emphasizes the importance of news from home, especially the “little commonplace incidences of everyday life”.   


Letter from a private in the 38th Tennessee to his wife, 1862, taken from McPherson, James M.

For cause and comrades: why men fought in the Civil War. New York: Oxford University

Press, 1997.

The private recounts how his religious beliefs sustain him in battle.


Letter from a Lieutenant, 10th Massachusetts, to his wife, 1862, taken from McPherson, James

M. For cause and comrades: why men fought in the Civil War. New York: Oxford University

Press, 1997.

This soldier tells his wife that although he misses her and his children, he fights for a higher cause.


Letter from a soldier in the 8th Texas Cavalry, sometime during the Civil War, taken from

McPherson, James M. For cause and comrades: why men fought in the Civil War. New York:

Oxford University Press, 1997.

He explains the band of brothers feeling among members of a unit.


WWII Memoirs of William Manchester, U.S.M.C., taken from McPherson, James M. For cause

and comrades: why men fought in the Civil War. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Describes the feelings soldiers in combat have for one another and why they fight.




American Civil War Ethnography: Letters from Battle

This site includes letters and diary entries from both Union and Confederate soldiers. Many of the men who fought in the Civil War left behind remarkably vivid accounts of their lives. These documents provide the basis for studying these men and their interaction with the world around them.


Extraordinary Correspondence from American Wars.

The Legacy Project is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to preserving American wartime correspondence. The goal of the all-volunteer group is to encourage the preservation of letters written and/or received by members of the armed forces, their friends, and families. The organization offers advice on how to preserve letters.


Memories of War.

This site, produced by Stephen Neal Manning, exists to preserve and share the memories of the generation that fought for all of us in World War II. Veterans are urged to use this site as a place to display their stories for the benefit of researchers, writers, students, or anyone who wants to learn more about our history.


Rose O’Neal Greenhow Papers: an on-line archival collection.

Rose O’Neal Greenhow was born in Montgomery County, Maryland in 1817. “Wild Rose”, as she was called from a young age, was a leader in Washington society, a passionate secessionist, and one of the most renowned spies in the Civil War. Features information on her papers that are housed at the Special Collections Library at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. Provides a biographical sketch of Greenhow and a description of the collection. Offers access to a digitized version of the collection.



Bat 21 Director, Peter Markle. Videocassette. TriStar, 1988.

Bat 21B is the call sign for EB-66 navigator, Iceal “Gene” Hambleton, whose plane is slammed by an SA-2 missile just south of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) in 1972. The plot thickens when he must parachute into the middle of a vast North Vietnamese Army (NVA) invasion force. His 12-day ordeal, including the longest search and rescue mission in Air Force history, is highlighted in this movie. In 1997, the remains of Jolly Green 67’s crew, who died trying to rescue Hambleton, were returned and interred in Arlington National Cemetery. Recalling the crash, Hambleton wrote, “It was the most terrible day I had ever lived. I had to stand by and watch 6 young men die trying to save my life. Heroes, you bet they were.” This movie asks the question, “What is the price of one man’s life?”


Dear America: letters home from Vietnam. Videocassette. HBO Video, 1987.


All the confusion, pain, despair, and even hope of the men and women who served in Vietnam is captured in Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam. Read by dozens of actors such as Harvey Keitel, Matt Dillon, and Kathleen Turner, these letters show a more human story of the war than we see in most media outlets and reveal real people in real situations trying to explain or understand. The footage, some newsreel, some shot by the servicemen and servicewomen, reveals a tension between the soldiers’ actual experiences and the presentation their loved ones received from television.



Sergeant York. Director Howard Hawks. Videocassette. 1941. MGM/UA Home Video, 1990.


Growing up in the mountains of Tennessee, Alvin York became a sharpshooter out of necessity. He hunted to feed his family and hitting game below the neck was considered a failure because too much precious meat was destroyed. When the US entered WWI, York registered as a conscientious objector because of his membership in the pacifist Church of Christ in Christian Union. Denied draft exemption, York was later assigned to a rifle company. There he entered into lengthy conversations with his battalion commander, George Buxton,

  who cited Biblical passages on just wars. Buxton sent York home on a 10-day furlough to examine his conscience, promising him a noncombatant assignment if he still wanted one on his return. Instead, York returned ready to fight.

In May of 1918, York sailed for France and on the 8th of October, York’s resolve was tested.

For his action in the ensuing battle, York was later awarded our country’s highest military award, the Medal of Honor. His citation accompanying the award reads: After his platoon had suffered heavy casualties and 3 other noncommissioned officers had become casualties, Cpl. York assumed command. Fearlessly leading 7 men, he charged with great daring a machinegun nest which was pouring deadly and incessant fire upon his platoon. In this heroic feat the machinegun nest was taken, together with 4 officers and 128 men and several guns.

Alvin C. York 1887-1964
















To Hell and back. Director, Jesse Hibbs; producer, Aaron Rosenberg.

Videocassette. 1955. Universal Pictures.


Audie Murphy was the son of poor Texas sharecroppers and he often hunted to put food on the table for his younger brothers and sisters. His father abandoned the family and after the death of his mother, 17 year old Audie enlisted in the Army and went on to become one of the most decorated American combat soldiers in history. Enlisting as a private, rising through the enlisted ranks and eventually receiving a battlefield commission to second lieutenant, Murphy was wounded three times while fighting in nine major campaigns across the European Theatre. The citation accompanying his Medal of Honor reads in part: 2d Lt. Murphy commanded Company B, which was attacked by 6 tanks and waves of infantry. 2d Lt. Murphy ordered his men to withdraw, while he remained forward at his command post and continued to give fire directions to the artillery by telephone. 2d Lt. Murphy continued to direct artillery fire which killed large numbers of the advancing enemy infantry. With the enemy tanks abreast of his position, 2d Lt. Murphy climbed on the burning tank destroyer, which was in danger of blowing up at any moment, and employed its .50 caliber machinegun against the enemy. He was alone and exposed to German fire from 3 sides, but his deadly fire killed dozens of Germans and caused their infantry attack to waver. [Murphy] continued to hold his position and wiped out a squad which was trying to creep up unnoticed on his right flank. Germans reached as close as 10 yards, only to be mowed down by his fire. He received a leg wound, but ignored it and continued the single-handed fight until his ammunition was exhausted. He then made his way to his company, refused medical attention, and organized the company in a counterattack which forced the Germans to withdraw. His directing of artillery fire wiped out many of the enemy; he killed or wounded about 50. 2d Lt. Murphy’s indomitable courage and his refusal to give an inch of ground saved his company from possible encirclement and destruction, and enabled it to hold the woods which had been the enemy’s objective. 







Archetype, theme and holistic analysis will be used to examine these narratives.


Archetype: Picture the warrior. The image of the warrior/soldier stands in many minds as a resolute, brave individual, facing danger and death, one who defends his or her country without thinking and one who is actually looking for a fight. Is this the citizen soldier?  In many ways, yes. The common soldier is often heroic, often resourceful. But that same soldier faced the horrors of war and was changed by it. The citizen soldier is, after all, an ordinary human being placed in extraordinary conditions. He found no romance, no glory in war. For many, fighting was just a job to be done. The emotional impact of combat and of death is reflected in the letters these individuals wrote.


In April 1862, following the Battle of Shiloh, an anonymous private in the Union Army recorded his thoughts. “For seven hours it [1st Battalion] fought with out ceasing, that, too, after it had marched seventeen miles the day before, and been deprived of sleep the night previous. Dr. Parry informs me that our loss in killed and wounded, will not fall short of nine thousand men, and may exceed that number. On the evening of the engagement, the dead were everywhere. There never has been such carnage on this continent. How any of us escaped is more than I can imagine.”


Lt. Napoleon Dana of the Seventh Cavalry, wrote often to his young wife, Sue, while fighting the Mexican-American War. Toward the end of his service he told her, God knows that after this feud is over, if He sees fit to spare me, I would most gladly and joyfully lay aside the sword and seek in a more peaceful walk of life an asylum from the noise and busy bustle of the outer world. The sight of ghastly wounds, the agony of death, its look in every shape, the groans of the expiring and the cries of excruciating pain, the smell of blood and putrid human flesh and the polluted atmosphere, and a woman on the field of battle, with a babe in her lap, unable to weep but wringing her hands and combing the hair of her mangled husband’s corpse and kissing his bloody lips, are all sights unsuited to my tastes and shocking to my feelings.”


The war in Vietnam was particularly challenging as soldiers often had difficulty recognizing just who their enemy was. Private John O’Halloran, who at the time he wrote this letter to his father had only been in Vietnam four days, describes a deadly encounter. “Saturday was the worst day of all. I was one of the guys picked to go out on a patrol…That was the most sickening day of my life. We were walking down a road, and coming from the opposite direction was a woman and a little baby in her arms. The Sergeant told us to watch out for a trap, because the V.C. use women all the time. We were maybe fifteen feet from her and she started crying like a baby. I didn’t know what was going on, and the next thing I knew the Sergeant shot the hell out of the both of them. She had a grenade under the baby’s blanket which was noticeable, but she was afraid to sacrifice her kid to kill us, so she started crying. The Sergeant said it’s a dirty war, but it’s kill or be killed.”


Theme: Whether eager volunteer participating in a war with a clearly defined enemy or reluctant draftee involved in an unpopular police action, these individuals formed cohesive units bound together by common cause. Individuals, who in other circumstances, might not connect, created strong, almost familial bonds. They depended on each other, they supported one another, and they loved each other. They might sometimes question the war, might hold the military itself in low esteem, but they loved their fellow soldiers. The familiar thread running through all these letters is a willingness to fight with and for their fellow soldiers. The letters they wrote to their friends, their spouses and their parents reflect that affection, that bond that forms between comrades in arms.


William Manchester, U.S.M.C., in his WWII memoirs wrote, “Those men on the line were my family, my home. They were closer to me than … my friends had ever been or ever would be. They had never let me down, and I couldn’t do it to them … Men … fight for one another.”


A member of the 8th Texas Cavalry, serving in the Civil war, echoed these sentiments. “We have suffered hardships and dangers together and are bound together by more than ordinary ties.” 


This bond was equally strong among women, as evidenced by the diary entries of nurse Amy Wingreen who was one of a group of women recruited by the army to help cope with typhoid and yellow fever epidemics that were decimating troops during the Spanish-American War. “…down into imperishable history we go as the first band of enlisted women sent from the government of the United States of America. I feel glad that I am one of that number.”  Later she adds, “Several of the doctors are ill and many of the nurses. We have all worked too hard, but when men are dying one thinks not of oneself.”  Months later, as she traveled home, she wrote, “We who went did not really give up anything, for everyone who sacrificed a little of self, gained elsewhere much more. Some life saved is the sweet thought, the noblest mission. It is as though that alone can bring rest to wearied, aching hearts and hands.”


Even the joy felt at the cessation of hostilities was tempered at the thought of losing contact with fellow soldiers. At the end of the Revolutionary War, Joseph Plumb Martin recorded these mixed feelings. “We had lived together as a family of brothers for several years…had shared with each other the hardships, dangers, and suffering incident to a soldier’s life … And now we were to be … parted forever; as unconditionally separated as though the grave lay between us. Ah! It was a serious time.”


This bond continues even into more recent conflicts. PS1 Sandy Mitten, a grandmother serving in the Coast Guard during Desert Shield/Storm, describes her unit’s reaction to SCUD missile attacks. “Since this began the women have moved in with the men, at night. These are our buddies, our compatriots. We felt stranded. Besides, we’re all scared—men & women and we need each other for support. We sit in the hall and hold hands and just wonder what will happen next.”


Holistic: The Common View: The men and women in these letters and narratives are representatives of our society as a whole. Yet, because of their experiences, they also are set apart and are different from the rest of us. The experiences they have as soldiers, sailors, airmen, and nurses become a part of them and define their being. Amazingly, across more than 200 years and numerous wars and conflicts, the narratives left to us by these men and women reflect that one person’s experience is often common to them all. Across time, these citizen soldiers experienced remarkably similar emotions: loneliness, confusion, anger. They were afraid, they were brave, they were homesick and they loved their spouses and sweethearts. They all, at their very core, are more similar than different.


Family was of utmost importance to the citizen soldier. The time spent away from spouse and children was time lost forever. Yet these men and women made the choice to fight, often citing a higher cause. In 1964, Sgt. John Woods wrote his daughter, explaining why he was away. “Your daddy, just like other daddies, is trying to help … with this fight so we can stop this [Communism]. If we don’t it may someday reach America. Freedom is something you should never take for granted. The freedom that you enjoy today costs many lives. If for any reason Daddy goes away, remember I will not be sorry. Because Daddy believes in freedom for all people, and especially for you and Mommy.”


One hundred years earlier, a lieutenant in the 41st Ohio wrote his wife, “It is for the future welfare of your selfe [sic] and children, that causes me to be separated from you. Remember that however much I would like to be at home, to enjoy the sweet comforts of life, the society of a dear wife, and children, yet what is life worth, without a government under which it can be enjoyed.”


Separated from loved ones and family members, mail became a vital factor in a soldier’s life. A letter could ease the pangs of homesickness, at least for some small while.


A lieutenant in the 10th Massachusetts wrote during the summer of 1862, “You all seem to think that because you have no great events to write about…you have nothing. Whereas, it is the little common place incidences of everyday life at home which we like to read…You do not realize how everything that savors of home relishes with us.”


Across time, the words of a young soldier in Vietnam, Captain Rodney Chastant, echo those very sentiments. “Mom, I appreciate all your letters. I appreciate your concern that some of the things you write about are trivial, but they aren’t trivial to me. I’m eager to read anything about what you are doing or the family is doing. You can’t understand the importance these “trivial” events take on out here. It helps keep me civilized. For a while, as I read your letters, I am a normal person. I’m not killing people, or worried about being killed. While I read your letters, I’m not carrying guns and grenades. It is great to know your family’s safe, living in a secure country.” Captain Chastant was killed in action on 22 October 1965.


Without doubt, religious faith has been important to soldiers in many wars. Prayer and a belief in a divine God sustained many citizen soldiers during trying times.


A private in the 38th Tennessee described his emotions during the Battle of Shiloh, “…continually raised my heart to him, in prayer, and in the thickest of the fight, I evoked his protection. I have struggled and prayed to God until I am altogether another person.”


During the Korean War, the Chinese took Staff Sergeant John Wheeler prisoner in 1951. In 1953, Sergeant First Class Gordon Madson, who was captured along with John, wrote to Mr. and Mrs. Wheeler, revealing that their son died of malnourishment and maltreatment at the hands of his captors. “I still have with me John’s Bible and I would like to send it to you as a dear remembrance. I have read it through many times and it was a constant source of inspiration and strength to me.”


Going to war meant leaving behind sweethearts and spouses. This difficult choice resulted in long distance relationships, carried on via letters.


Over a period of two years, 2nd Lieutenant Sidney Diamond corresponded with his fiancée, Estelle, whom he had known since 1938, “Sweetheart -- joking aside I love you, love you to the utmost.”(1943)  “[Describing Estelle] irresistible lips; black, long eyelashes; long flowing hair; eyebrows (when raised duck for cover, when lowered and wrinkles form at brow, kiss lips immediately -- or else hear the burst of a severe tongue lashing); nose -- very pretty.”(1944)  “It would sound inane for me to speak of how “different” our love is -- Somehow ours’ fills all the requirements. Poems, songs, stories of love and eternal devotion were written about everlasting, enduring, powerful affections such as the one which holds us together.” (Dec. 1944)  His last letter, written on January 19, 1945, from the Philippines, concludes, “I love you -- you make my foxhole warm and soft -- sweetheart -- your Sid.”  In March, 1945, Estelle received word that Sid was shot through the stomach during an assault north of Manila and died on January 29, 1945 at the age of twenty-two.


Major Sullivan Ballou of the 2nd Rhode Island Volunteers, seized by an impending sense of his own mortality, wrote his wife shortly before the First Battle of Bull Run. “Sarah, my love for you is deathless. It seems to bind me with mighty cables that nothing but omnipotence can break. And yet my love of country comes over me like a strong wind, and bears me irresistibly with all those chains to the battlefield.

If I do not return, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I loved you, nor that when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name. Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you; how thoughtless, how foolish I have sometimes been. But, oh Sarah, if the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they love, I shall always be with you in the brightest day and the darkest night. Always. Always. And when the soft breeze fans your cheek, it shall be my breath. Or the cool air, your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by. Sarah, do not mourn me dead. Think I am gone, and wait for me. For we shall meet again.” Sullivan Ballou was killed one week later at the First Battle of Bull Run.









If I had to do this project over, I would narrow the focus. I thoroughly enjoyed the research and found the journals, diaries and letters fascinating reading. However, I think the final project suffers by having too broad an approach. Next time, I would pick one war or at least confine research to wars in a particular century. Other means of using this material would be to focus on one particular type of letter, for instance, only love letters or “Dear John/June” letters or instead analyze the letters of one particular war, noting the changes in attitudes during the course of the war. Another approach I might use in further research would involve personal interviews of participants. This approach, obviously, would confine the research to the WWII era and later. My other problem was determining how to analyze these letters. I knew what I wanted to say about the narratives these men and women had left behind, but I found it difficult to confine that analysis to particular categories. This is due more to my own personal limitations than to the subject matter. Also, the material that I chose for this project is somewhat different than analyzing complete stories. The one letter that I might read would be only a small part of that particular soldier’s wartime experience. Also, I usually only included a small part of that letter in this project. Therefore the research was rather painstaking.




The letters and journals used in this project are but the tip of the iceberg. Anyone wishing to delve more deeply into this subject will find an abundance of material in the following bibliography of books, movies, and web sites.


The Alamo. Director, producer John Wayne. Videocassette. MGM/UA, 1960.

In 1836 General Santa Anna and the Mexican army is sweeping across Texas. To be able to stop him, General Sam Huston needs time to get his main force into shape. To buy that time he orders Colonel William Travis to defend a small mission on the Mexicans’ route at all costs. Groups accompanying Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett swell Travis’ small troop, but as the situation becomes ever more desperate Travis makes it clear there will be no shame if they leave while they can.


Ambrose, Stephen E. Citizen soldiers: the U.S. Army from the Normandy beaches to the Bulge

to the surrender of Germany, June 7, 1944-May 7, 1945. New York: Touchstone, 1997.

      In this riveting account, historian Stephen Ambrose continues where he left off in his #1 bestseller D-Day. Ambrose again follows the individual characters of this noble, brutal, and tragic war, from the high command down to the ordinary soldier, drawing on hundreds of interviews to re-create the war experience with startling clarity and immediacy. From the hedgerows of Normandy to the overrunning of Germany, Ambrose tells the real story of World War II from the perspective of the men and women who fought it.


-----. The wild blue: the men and boys who flew the B-24s over Germany. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2001.

The very young men who flew the B-24s over Germany in World War II against terrible odds were yet another exceptional band of brothers, and, in The Wild Blue, Ambrose recounts their extraordinary brand of heroism, skill, daring, and comradeship with the same vivid detail and affection.


American Civil War: Diaries, Letters, and Memoirs. Last accessed April 29, 2002.

James A. Janke offers a collection of links to American Civil War diaries, letters, and memoirs. The items are from Union and Confederate soldiers, surgeons, women, and children.


Anderson, William C. Bat-21: based on the true story of Lieutenant Colonel Iceal E. Hambleton, USAF. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1980.

Based on the true story of Lt. Col. Hambleton’s two-week ordeal of evading capture after being shot down during the Vietnam War. This book further details the search and rescue operations that ultimately lead to Hambleton’s return.


Black Hawk Down. Director, Ridley Scott. Colombia TriStar, 2001. To be released on video/DVD June 11, 2002.

This film is based on the novel Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War, by Mark Bowden, which tells the true story of the Oct. 3, 1993, Battle of Mogadishu during the Somalian Civil War. At that time, this battle was the longest sustained ground attack involving American soldiers since the Vietnam War. The mission to abduct two of Somalian warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid’s lieutenants was designed to take 60 minutes but ended up lasting 15 hours. The attack resulted in two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters being shot down and the deaths of 18 Americans and hundreds of Somalians.


Born on the Fourth of July. Director, Oliver Stone. Videocassette. Universal, 1989.

Based on the memoir of combat veteran Ron Kovic, the film stars Tom Cruise as Kovic, whose gunshot wound in Vietnam left him paralyzed from the chest down. He is deeply embittered by neglect in a veteran’s hospital and by the shattering of his patriotic idealism because of the horror and futility of the Vietnam conflict. While painfully and awkwardly adjusting to his disability and a changing definition of masculinity, Kovic joins the burgeoning movement of antiwar protest, culminating in a climactic appearance at the 1976 Democratic national convention. This powerfully intimate portrait is uncompromising in its depiction of one man’s personal anguish and political awakening.


Brokaw, Tom An album of memories: personal histories from the greatest generation. New

York: Random House, 2001.

A seventeen-year-old who enlisted in the army in 1941 writes to describe the Bataan Death March. Other members of the greatest generation describe their war — in such historic episodes as Guadalcanal, the D-Day invasion, the Battle of the Bulge, and Midway — as well as their life on the home front. In this beautiful American family album of stories, reflections, memorabilia, and photographs, history comes alive and is preserved, in people’s own words and through photographs and time lines that commemorate important dates and events. Starting with the Depression and Pearl Harbor, on through the war in Europe and the Pacific, this unusual book preserves a people’s rich historical heritage and the legacy of the heroism of a nation.


-----. The greatest generation. New York: Random House, 1998.

In this book, Tom Brokaw goes out into America, to tell through the stories of individual men and women the story of a generation, America’s citizen heroes and heroines who came of age during the Great Depression and the Second World War and went on to build modern America. This generation was united not only by a common purpose, but also by common values - duty, honor, economy, courage, service, love of family and country, and, above all, responsibility for oneself. In this book, you will meet people whose everyday lives reveal how a generation persevered through war, and were trained by it, and then went on to create interesting and useful lives and the America we have today.

-----. The greatest generation speaks: letters and reflections. New York: Random House, 1999.

This book expands Brokaw’s thesis that we owe a huge debt of gratitude to those tough and courageous men and women for ensuring the freedoms and comforts that Americans enjoy today. Their stories, culled from letters, interviews, and personal histories of the Greatest Generation and their family members, are anecdotal but extremely powerful, showing how men and women were sustained by simple ideals of patriotism, family, and fair play. This individualistic portrait is exactly how Americans saw themselves: Brokaw’s book is a valid reflection of the times.


Campbell, Geoffrey A. Life of an American soldier. San Diego, Lucent Books, 2001.

Describes the experiences of soldiers in the Persian Gulf War, discussing their daily lives, their time in battle, their attitudes about the war, the particular experiences of women, and the effects of Gulf War Syndrome; also includes a glossary, a chronology, and a bibliography.


Civil War Resources: Virginia Military Institute (VMI) Archives. Last accessed April 29, 2002.

Texts and other resources from the American Civil War collections held by the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) Archives. Includes information on Confederate general Thomas Jonathan Jackson, also known as Stonewall Jackson; VMI Civil War veterans; letters; diaries; family papers; and other documents. Contains photographs, a Civil War chronology, and a bibliography. Links to other Web sites on the Civil War.


Dank, Milton. The glider gang: an eyewitness history of World War II glider combat. London: Cassell, 1977.

The heroic role of the Allied glider pilots has remained little known and even less understood. Now Milton Dank, who served as a glider pilot on three airborne invasions, tells the complete, fully documented story of those daredevil volunteers. By turns moving and horrifying, inspiring and shocking, the glider pilots’ story is superbly chronicled here, often in their own highly dramatic words.


D Day: Letters from the Front. Last accessed

April 29, 2002.

Offers information on the television program “D Day,” part of the “American Experience” series on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). Notes that the program contains interviews with people who participated in the planning and execution of the invasion of Normandy during World War II. Highlights letters written by soldiers on the front line and discusses the paratrooper experience.


Devlin, Gerard M. Silent wings: the saga of the U.S. Army and Marine combat glider pilots

during World War II. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1985.

A well researched and well written account of the U.S. Army’s glider forces during World War II, containing both historical information on the early days of the training program and detailed information about the many airborne and glider operations during the war.


Gettysburg. Director, Ronald F. Maxwell. 1993. Videocassette. Turner Pictures, produced in      association with Tristar Television, Inc.

Based on Michael Shaara’s book The Killer Angels, this film takes a thorough approach to the intricacies of battle. Those intricacies military strategy or Civil War enthusiasts, yet in come across as the very stuff of life, death, and unexpected heroism. General Robert E. Lee believes that he can end the war with a decisive victory over Federal troops by taking Gettysburg, then marching on Washington with an offer to President Lincoln of terms for peace. The rebel leader and his men are tired after three years of fighting a war most thought would be over in a month. The Northern troops are in disarray. The military leadership keeps changing, some of the commanders lack battle experiences and there are stirrings of rebellion among the troops. The story concentrates on three days of fighting.


Glasser, Ronald J, M.D. 365 days. New York: George Braziller, 1971.

A medical officer in Japan treating wounded American soldiers, Glasser chooses his title from the wounded men’s preoccupation with the number 365--the number of days in a Vietnam tour of duty. The stories deal with the sense of futility expressed by dying and wounded young men.


Glist, Lou. China mailbag uncensored: letters from an American GI in World War II China and

India. Houston, Tx.: Emerald Ink Publishing, 2000.

China Mailbag Uncensored walks you through WWII China during the Japanese invasion period. The author, Lou Glist, carefully recorded his experiences in words and pictures, which he sent back to his wife. Glist describes the events so clearly that you can almost smell the odors and scents of China. He drew so well you can feel the dust on your shoes. You can feel the foreign experience of a young American in a strange but important world on a desperate and dangerous mission, to help the Chinese defeat the Japanese on WWII!


Glory. Director, Edward Zwick. Videocassette. TriStar Pictures, 1989.

Based in part on the books Lay This Laurel by Lincoln Kirstein and One Gallant Rush by Peter Burchard, the film also draws from the letters of Robert Gould Shaw, the 25-year-old son of Boston abolitionists who volunteered to command the all-black 54th Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. Their training and battle experience leads them to their final assault on Fort Wagner in South Carolina, where their heroic bravery turned bitter defeat into a symbolic victory that brought recognition to black soldiers and turned the tide of the war.

Good Morning, Vietnam. Director, Barry Levinson. Videocassette. Touchstone Pictures, 1987.

This is a comedy-drama, based on the real-life experiences of deejay Adrian Cronauer, an Armed Forces Radio disc jockey whose manic, hilarious delivery from a studio in 1965 Saigon gives U.S. troops in the field a morale boost (while upsetting military brass). The surrounding material about the influence upon Cronauer of the endless deaths among his listeners--as Cronauer tries to stay funny while feeling the mounting losses--is affecting. Brought to Vietnam in 1965 by the army for an early a.m. radio show, irreverent, non-conformist deejay Adrian Cronauer blasts the formerly staid, sanitized airwaves with a constant barrage of rapid-fire humor and the hottest hits from back home. The G.I.s love him, but the top brass is outraged.


Hanoi Hilton. Director, Lionel Chetwynd. Videocassette. Warner Home Video, 1987.

The determination of American captives in Hanoi’s Hao Lo Prison to survive through the turbulent years of the Vietnam War is dramatized in this poignant depiction.


Hoyt, Edwin P. The GI’s war. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1988.

Based on oral testimony from field soldiers, both new recruits and veterans, “The GI’s War” puts the reader on the frontlines and captures in unsparing detail the confusion, monotony, terror and glory of going to war.


Iavarone, Mike. World War I: Trenches on the Web. Last accessed April 26, 2002.

Presents historical information about World War I (1914-1918), also known as the Great War, provided by Mike Iavorone. Gives information on the people, places, and events of WWI. Features information on weapon armories, biographies, maps, photos, battles, and timelines among other items. Offers a search engine. Provides access to a discussion forum.


Korean War 50th Anniversary. Defense Technical Information Center. Last accessed April 26, 2002.

This is the official, public access web site for the Department of Defense commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Korean War and is the starting point for all public information regarding events during the commemoration period which runs from June 25, 2000 through November 11, 2003.


Lemon, Peter C. Beyond the medal: a journey from their hearts to yours. Golden, Colorado: Fulcum Publishing, 1997.

A collection of memories, harrowing situations and gripping emotional climaxes, Beyond the Medal brings together the experiences of America’s most valiant sons. More than 80 living recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor tell in their own words about the people and incidents that have shaped their lives.


Letters From the Battlefield.

“Letters from the Battlefield” is a language arts lesson for high school classes requiring the students to read, analyze, and compare letters written by U.S. soldiers during the Civil War and the Vietnam War. This lesson includes Internet activities. “Letters from the Battlefield” is presented as a service of the Link-to-Learn Professional Development Project of Pennsylvania, a state-sponsored educational technology initiative.


Love Letters of the Civil War.

Presents a collection of love letters of Civil War soldiers, from the Special Collections Department of the University Libraries at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg. Included in the collection are letters written by soldiers to their loves, as well as a few from the ladies to their soldiers. Notes that the letters show their sorrows of being apart, fears that the soldier would not return home, and hopes for the future after the end of the War. Links to other exhibitions.


Mathless, Paul and Henry Woodhead, eds. 1863: turning point of the Civil War. Richmond, Virginia: Time-Life, 1998.

Here, gathered for the first time, are the writings of the soldiers, leaders, and civilians who were involved in the battles of 1863. Their letters contain perceptions, anecdotes and first-hand accounts of what really happened on and off the battlefield. More than 300 illustrations and photographs bring this pivotal year to life.


Mead, Gary. The doughboys: America and the First World War. New York: Overlook Press, 2000.

Discusses the involvement of the American Expeditionary Force, many of who were known as “doughboys,” in the First World War, focusing on America’s shift away from its isolationist stance, and the question of why America’s contribution to the fighting of this war has received relatively little attention from historians.


Morgan, Robert. The man who flew the Memphis Belle: memoir of a WWII bomber pilot. New York: Dutton, 2001.

“Memphis Belle” pilot Robert Morgan tells his life story, including his youth as a well-connected playboy, his heroic daylight missions over occupied France and Nazi Germany during the Second World War, and his love affair with Margaret Polk, the Memphis woman for whom his B-17 was named.


O’Donnell, Patrick K. Beyond valor: World War II’s ranger and airborne veterans reveal the heart of combat. New York: Free Press, 2001.

Presents firsthand accounts of the combat experience in Europe during the Second World War through oral and E-mail histories by veteran paratroopers, glidermen, Rangers, and 1st Special Service Force men.

-----. Into the rising sun: in their own words World War II Pacific veterans reveal the heart of combat. New York: Free Press, 2002.

A collection of personal accounts about the experiences of World War II soldiers fighting in the Pacific which were gathered from Patrick O’Donnell’s website.


Palmer, Laura. Shrapnel in the heart: letters and remembrances from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. New York: Random House, 1987.

Since its dedication in 1982, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial has become the embodiment of America’s pain, grief and healing in the wake of our least popular war. Shrapnel in the Heart is an evocative, heart-wrenching collection of over 100 letters left at the memorial--and the stories of the wives, children and buddies who wrote them.


Patton. Director, Franklin J. Schaffner. Videocassette. 20th Century Fox, 1970.

“Patton” tells the tale of General George S. Patton, famous tank commander of World War II. The film begins with Patton’s career in North Africa and progresses through the invasion of Germany and the fall of the Third Reich. Side plots also speak of Patton’s numerous faults such his temper and habit towards insubordination, faults that would eventually lead to his being relieved as Occupation Commander of Germany.


Plotke, Jane. World War I, memoirs, memorials, reminiscences. Last accessed April 26, 2002.

Volunteers of the World War I Military History List (WWI-L) have assembled this archive of primary documents of memorials and personal reminiscences from World War I.


PT-109. Director, Leslie H. Martinson. Videocassette. Warner Brothers, 1963.

Dramatization of President John F. Kennedy’s wartime experiences during which he captained a PT boat, took it to battle and had it sunk by a Japanese destroyer. He and the survivors had to make their way to an island, find food and shelter and signal the Navy for rescue.


Research Center: Letters to Soldiers. Wisconsin Veteran’s Museum. Last accessed April 25, 2002.

As part of a letter writing campaign to servicemen and women participating in Operation Desert Shield/Storm, the Wisconsin Veterans Museum sent letters to US troops in the Gulf. The Letters to Soldiers Project was an attempt to document the experiences of Americans in the Persian Gulf Conflict while the event was still going on. Recipients were asked to describe their thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the conflict. The letters, they were told, would then be placed in the museum’s archives. This site displays some of the responses the Wisconsin Veterans Museum received.


Return with Honor. Producers, Freida Lee Mock and Terry Sanders. Videocassette. PBS, 1998.

The story of how American prisoners survived in North Vietnam’s notorious prison camps is dramatically told in this documentary, an installment of the American Experience series on PBS. The men, who survived appalling treatment, relate their experiences, and vintage footage, including propaganda films shot by their captors, portrays what they endured.


Spanish-American War. Last accessed April 29, 2002.

The Open Directory Project presents a collection of Internet resources on the Spanish American War. The collection includes histories, letters, narratives, and a description of the causes of the war, exhibits, publications, history materials, and more.


Spy Letters of the American Revolution. . Last accessed April 29, 2002.

The William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan, located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, maintains the Sir Henry Clinton collection of spy letters from the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783). The library provides a brief description of each letter, as well as information about stories of the spies in the letters or the secret methods used to make the letters. The online version of the collection includes photographs of the letters and a timeline of events related to the war.


Stanton, Doug. In harm’s way: the sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis and the extraordinary story

of its survivors. New York: Henry Holt, 2001.

Tells the story of the “USS Indianapolis,” a battle cruiser torpedoed in the South Pacific by a Japanese submarine on July 30, 1945, shortly after delivering parts of the atom bomb that would be dropped on Hiroshima; and discusses the heroic struggles of sailors who survived the blast to stay alive in the sea for nearly five days before help arrived.


Taylor, Woody. A Soldier’s Journal. Last accessed

April 26, 2002.

The online journal of Capt. David Emmett who recounts his service in Croatia during 1997-98.


U.S. Army Center of Military History. Last accessed April 26,


Presents the United States Army Center of Military History (CMH) in Washington, D.C., which is responsible for recording the history of the U.S. Army. Highlights CMH exhibits and activities.

War Letters Last accessed April 28, 2002.

PBS companion site to the Andrew Carroll book of the same name. The film features breathtaking eyewitness accounts of famous battles, intimate declarations of love, poignant last letters written only days before soldiers were killed, humorous anecdotes, gripes about insufferable conditions and many profound and memorable expressions of exhilaration, fear, whimsy, exasperation, anger, and patriotism. To highlight the universal experience of war -- the horror and loneliness, the senseless killing and terrible destruction -- War Letters intercuts letters written 200 years ago with those written in the last decade. It weaves evocative recreations of Civil War battles with moving footage of World War II amphibious assaults.


Wilson, Barbara A. American Women in Uniform, Veterans Too! Last accessed April 26, 2002.

Provides information on women in the military, presented by Barbara A. Wilson. Highlights women veterans from the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the War of 1812, World War I and II, Desert Storm, and Operation Desert Fox. Details women prisoners of war and women in combat.


Wisler, G. Clifton. When Johnny went marching: young Americans fight the Civil War. New

York: HarperCollins, 2001

Tells the stories of forty-nine young Americans who participated in the Civil War as soldiers, spies, drummers, and buglers. Includes photographs.


Without Sanctuary. Last

accessed April 26, 2002.

Journal E presents a book review of “Eye of the Storm,” a book that was published in 2000 by the Free Press, a division of Simon and Schuster. The book contains watercolor drawings and maps created by Union Private Robert Knox Sneden during the American Civil War (1861-1685), as well as the text of a diary and memoir by Sneden that accompanied the artwork. Audio accounts of Sneden’s narrative with commentary by Charles F. Bryan, Jr., the Director of the Virginia Historical Society, are available online.


World War II Memories Project. Last accessed

April 26, 2002.

The World War II Memories Project is dedicated to bringing communities together to preserve the precious memories of our nation’s World War II veterans. The ultimate goal of the project is to produce a field-tested curriculum that will be shared with communities nationwide (via other non-profits and schools) in order to capture the memories of veterans across the nation before they are lost to us forever.

Works Cited Earth’s biggest selection. Last accessed April 29, 2002. claims to have Earth’s Biggest SelectionTM of products, including free electronic greeting cards, online auctions, and millions of books, CDs, videos, DVDs, toys and games, electronics, kitchenware, computers and more.


Carnes, Mark C., ed. Past imperfect: history according to the movies. New York: Henry Holt, 1995.

60 historical writers look beneath the celluloid surface of classic movies to explore the relationship between film and reality, from prehistory to modern times. Entries look at plot, costume design, technology, and character portrayals, examine the historical aftermath of events in the film, juxtapose film stills with historical paintings and photos, and suggest background reading for the historical period depicted in each film


Carroll, Andrew, ed. War letters: extraordinary correspondence from American wars. New York: Scribner, 2001.

In 1998, Andrew Carroll founded the Legacy Project with the goal of remembering veterans by preserving their letters for posterity. Since then, more than 50,000 war letters discovered in basements, attics, scrapbooks, and old trunks have poured in from around the country. The best of these letters are assembled in this extraordinary collection, offering unprecedented insight into the Civil War, the First and Second World Wars, Vietnam, Korea, the Cold War, the Persian Gulf, and even the fighting in Somalia and the Balkans.


Internet Movie Database. Last accessed April 29, 2002.

The Web’s comprehensive and authoritative source of information on more than 250,000 movies and entertainment programs and 1 million cast and crew members dating from 1891 to 2005.


Lewis, Jon E., ed. The mammoth book of eye-witness history: first hand accounts of history in the making from the ancient to the modern world. New York: Carroll and Graf Publishers, 1998.

Compiled from memoirs, diaries, letters, and journalism, these firsthand accounts of history in the making, ranging from ancient to modern times, are written by those who were there


Lewis, Jon E., ed. The mammoth book of war diaries and letters: life on the battlefield in the words of the ordinary soldier. New York: Carroll and Graf Publishers, 1999.          

A poignant collection of the private thoughts, secret fears, and eyewitness accounts of soldiers under enemy fire--from the Napoleonic Wars through the Vietnam conflict.

McPherson, James M. For cause and comrades: why men fought in the Civil War. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Drawing on more than 25,000 uncensored letters and nearly 250 private diaries from men on both sides, McPherson shows that, contrary to what many scholars believe, the soldiers of the Civil War remained powerfully convinced of the ideals for which they fought throughout the conflict.


Morgan, Speer and Greg Michalson. For our beloved country: American war diaries from the Revolution to the Persian Gulf. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1994.

In a look at a dimension of war that historians rarely cover- -the life of the ordinary soldier-- Morgan offers extracts of seven diaries, from the American Revolution to the Gulf conflict. A powerful record of seven American wars, told in the words of those who lived through them.


Polanski, Charles. Congressional Medal of Honor Society. Last accessed April 30, 2002.

This site contains information on all Congressional Medal of Honor recipients and is concerned with maintaining the memory and respect for those who had died receiving the Medal of Honor, as well as those living recipients who had since died. The society wishes to perpetuate the ideals embodied in the Medal...promoting patriotism and fostering a love of Country


Roquemore, Joseph. History goes to the movies: a viewer’s guide to the best (and some of the worst) historical films ever made. New York: Main Street Books, 1999.

From Birth of a Nation to Braveheart and Saving Private Ryan, here is a compulsively readable and endlessly browsable book that brings to life for film buffs, history lovers, students, and teachers the real stories behind the stirring events on screen.