Soldier Stories, compiled and edited by Joe L. Wheeler, has been a very difficult book to review, primarily because every time I set it down, someone else made off with it. My son has cited some of the quotations on war that Wheeler included. My daughter-in-law kept one eye on the little ones and one on the book, as she told me, "This is a good book."
Wheeler compiled accounts from World War I and II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, and the War on Terror. Subjects vary from a World War I ace, to homing pigeons, to the Rickenbacker party lost in the ocean on life rafts, to escorting home the body of a dead soldier from the Gulf War, to Pat Tillman's death in Afghanistan. Wheeler includes sixteen moving accounts and an equal number of quotations.
Styles vary with the writer. Ernie Pyle's "The Lost Fortress" is direct and straightforward while William Slavens McNutt's "The Yanks Go Through" is highly descriptive, almost poetic. Some are deeply personal, such as Lt. Eric Lomax's "Beyond the River Kwai" and Sergeant Sidney Stewart's (with Joe Wheeler) "Give Us This Day."
Each account tells of courage in war, though "The Dresden Inferno" is by a victim of the fire bombings rather than a soldier. Whether a victim, a soldier, a prisoner of war, or a writer, each account exemplifies courage and honor. Some of the accounts encourage, others sadden, and others inspire.
The book was not what I had expected. I had expected stories like Sergeant Alvin York's taking a battalion single-handedly in battle. Wheeler includes some of that but it is less of a "hero" book than a "human" book, as the reader experiences almost every human emotion while reading it. The people in the accounts come alive as they confront fear, courage, challenge, victory, and sorrow.
A couple of things stood out to me. One is the difference in attitude of these writers from today's journalists. Ernie Pyle holds his breath hoping the lost bomber can make it to base across the African desert, while McNutt cheers and prays for the safety of Red Cross workers trying to evade machine gunners in World War I. These writers were unabashedly pro-American. I can't say that of some of today's journalists.
The second is that this book will appeal to both men and women. I can picture my seventy-something father enjoying it as well as my twenty-something daughter-in-law. It would also be useful for history classes in public, private, and home schools. Not all of the accounts are overtly Christian, but they all are good. Would students understand the Betaan death march better from a textbook or by reading a first-person account here? There's no question.
You can approach the book in several ways. You can read straight through it as I did or skip around to the accounts that interest. Whichever you do, Soldier Stories is worth reading. – Debbie W. Wilson, Christian Book Previews.com
Joe Wheeler, called "America's storyteller" by James Dobson, pens his most soul-stirring book to date yet--the true, courageous stories of the men and women who have laid their lives on the line for America. Through frontline stories from battles throughout modern history--including WWI, WWII, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and the Iraq War--readers will be encouraged and humbled by the valor and sacrifice portrayed in these riveting pages.