Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Guest Post: James Diehl author of World War II Heroes of Southern Delaware

James Diehl, author of the book World War II Heroes of Southern Delaware, stopped by to share with us a piece he wrote.

How do you define a hero?

World War II Heroes of Southern Delaware contains 50 profiles of ordinary men and women who put their lives on hold and faced enormous risks in arguably the greatest war the world has ever known.

Some enlisted, some were drafted. In my book, all are heroes.

In this day and age, the word “hero” is thrown around rather loosely. In many cases, the moniker is warranted – the events of Sept. 11, 2001, in New York City and Washington D.C., are a perfect example. But are professional athletes still “heroes” today? A select few might be, but in the age of rampant steroid use, referees fixing games, multi-million dollar salaries and athletes continuously getting in trouble with the law, many, if not most, certainly are not.

Dictionary.com defines a hero as “a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.” A quick look inside World War II Heroes of Southern Delaware and you’ll find 50 real life, indisputable examples of the word.

These are men who put their lives on the line day in and day out for the sake of their country. There was no fame, hardly any money and plenty of sleepless nights as the battles waged on in Europe and halfway around the world in Asia.

It was a thankless job, but they didn’t do it for the thanks – they did it because it had to be done.

They saw friends killed in front of their very eyes and survived many brushes with death themselves. I’ll never forget the one man who refused an interview with me by saying: “Mr. Diehl, there are some things in life that you just can’t un-see, and I don’t think I can talk about it.”

As I delved into Heroes, it became evident to me fairly quickly that I was dealing with a rare breed of human being. These were heroes, every one of them. Strangely enough, however, not a one of them feels that way.

“I was just doing my job,” “I didn’t do anything special,” “I was just doing what I was asked to do,” were some of the responses I got.

Could it be? Could these men who put their lives on hold, traveled to some of history’s greatest war zones and often became human fodder on the battlefield really not realize the enormity of what they did?

They were very humble then, and still are today.

“A man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.” If you’re stuck in a foxhole for days on end with bullets and body parts continuously whizzing past you, pushing dead bodies aside to reach the beaches of Normandy or watching helplessly as dozens of Japanese fighter planes fly over your position at Pearl Harbor in 1941, I’d say this description fits you to the letter.

But you can’t tell that to the men who were actually put in these situations in the 1940s. They’ll look at you with incredulous eyes and state as matter-of-factly as they possibly can:

“I was just doing what I was asked to do.”

Kind of puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?

About the book:

World War II Heroes of Southern Delaware is a book unlike any other ever written. In its pages are profiles of 50 ordinary Americans who did extraordinary things during a time unlike any other in American history.

These are men and women who today call southern Delaware home. In the 1940s, these brave Americans put their lives on hold to fight for freedom and democracy against the horrific threat imposed on the world by Emperor Hirohito of Japan and German Fuhrer Adolph Hitler.

When Imperial Japan attacked the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941, the world changed forever. These men and women were a big part of that change; they fought to protect our freedom and our way of life.

Among the amazing stories you’ll read in “World War II Heroes of Southern Delaware” are:

  • A United States Marine who was a part of the 1945 attack on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima. He was one of 17 members of his company who survived, a company that numbered more than 300 at the beginning of the attack.
  • An Army soldier who was responsible for uncovering Adolph Hitler’s enormous, and illegally gained, fortune toward the end of World War II.
  • An Army navigator who led a group of 500 B-29s over Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2, 1945, the day the Japanese surrendered to the United States.
  • A United States Navy machinist’s mate who narrowly survived a Japanese kamikaze attack.
  • A United States Marine who witnessed the horrific attack on Pearl Harbor from the deck of a nearby ship.
  • Men who survived German prisoner of war camps.
  • First–hand accounts from the beaches of Normandy during the D-Day invasion.
  • Two black soldiers who served their country with pride during World War II.
  • Men who liberated German concentration camps.
  • A woman who served her country by becoming a part of the “Rosie the Riveter” movement.
  • And much, much more.

Readers of World War II Heroes of Southern Delaware will also receive a bonus section on Fort Miles, the immense, heavily fortified military facility built to protect the mouth of the Delaware Bay and the city of Philadelphia from an attack by the German navy. Today, the fort is being renovated and will soon become one of the largest World War II museums in the country.

About James:

James Diehl is an award-winning journalist who has covered Sussex County, Delaware for various media outlets since 1998. Since 2007, he has owned and operated a freelance writing company based in Seaford, Delaware and is also a partner in a Lewes, Delaware-based public relations and marketing firm. He is the author of one other work of non-fiction – Remembering Sussex County, from Zwaanendael to King Chicken, published in 2009 by The History Press.
James can be found online at www.twitter.com/sussexwriter, at www.facebook.com/sussexwriter, at www.worldwar2heroes.blogspot.com or via www.ww2-heroes.com.


Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Hey, doll! I'm just dropping in to say thanks for the e-mail. I've got this posted at Win a Book.

Happy Veteran's Day!

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