By Theresa Anzaldua author or We Had A Job To Do: World War II Through The Eyes of Those Who Served.
I was assigned to write a magazine article about a WWII veteran, called around to senior centers and was referred to a gentleman named Edwin Holopainen. When I asked Mr. H. what he did in the war, he told me he was a tail gunner on a B-29 Superfortress and that his very first mission was as a part of the March 10, 1945, firebombing raid over Tokyo! I was stunned, as this was one of the most famous and controversial operations in modern warfare, and amazed that I could pick up the phone and simply talk to someone who was a part of history.
My article was fact-checked by Kris Perry, Lieutenant Colonel, Retired, U.S. Air Force, and Director, Office of Veterans Affairs and Military Programs at the University of Connecticut. Kris encouraged me to interview more veterans.
As I told friends and others about my project, I was surprised by how many people of all ages and levels of education told me that they wished they knew the basic history of WWII. Folks said that they enjoy movies like Unbroken but don’t understand how these movies fit into the larger context of the war. I decided to take the veterans’ stories and interweave them into a basic history of the war in a very readable way, into a book one might read in a neighborhood book club.
In sum, I decided to become the umpteenth person to write about the war because I had the privilege of interviewing these veterans seventy years after they served, and I felt that their stories could help educate people who would like to know the basic history of WWII. Readers who already know the history will find it a quick read, might enjoy a bit more insight into what it felt like to serve in the war and perhaps would be surprised to learn via first-hand accounts a few little-known facts about the war, like the tragic and heroic USS Truxtun and USS Pollux shipwrecks, and the secret intelligence base called P.O. Box 1142, where the U.S. interrogated German U-boat operators and top German weapons experts, including Wernher von Braun.