Reflections of Our Gentle Warriors
By Brad Hoopes
In the vast array of books and literature ‘page turners’ exist in many genres. These can include: an engrossing novel, a long-awaited autobiography, or a “tell all” work of journalism-turned-book. In the burgeoning category of historical literature, and more specifically that which encompasses the Second World War, there are countless complete histories. At the other end of the spectrum, there are monographs and books which tell the story or stories of the individual soldier, sailor, airman, or marine during wartime. Reflections of Our Gentle Warriors by Brad Hoopes tells the individual stories of seventy World War II-era soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines. Reflections is a page turner.
Reflections, published in October of 2015, is the result of thirteen years of interviews conducted by the author. In his new book, Hoopes has separated the individual stories by Pacific and European theater. This format works well to give the reader a better understanding of each theater’s history and aura as experienced by the men who fought there. Reflections has something for everyone: from stories which begin with the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 to the war’s last battle on the island of Okinawa in 1945.
Hoopes’s writing is warm and engaging; think of the popular war-era correspondent and journalist Ernie Pyle. Pyle developed a close relationship with his readers back home in the United States with his pleasant writing style. Many of Hoopes’ interviewees are from America’s heartland—Nebraska, Colorado and other Midwestern and Western states. From his interview with Howard Johnston from Nebraska, Hoopes recounts the young soldier’s emotional homecoming to Nebraska:
Mustered out at Fort Riley [Kansas], he started hitchhiking to Nebraska…. He has not yet been able to tell anyone that he was coming home. His brother was over the moon that he was home and quickly came to get him. He then called ahead to their parents to tell them that he would bring Howard home later that day. Their mother broke down crying upon hearing the news and couldn’t stop. Howard’s best buddy—his hunting dog—must have sensed what was happening, as he ran up the road to a hill above the farmhouse and began howling. He stayed up there howling the entire day until Howard arrived and then knocked him over and jumped all over him, licking his face, when he got out of the car.
Reflections is replete with anecdotes and remembrances such as Howard Johnston’s. “Hitchhiking to Nebraska,” it certainly was a different time.
Hoopes was prudent in keeping each individual history at approximately one to three pages (in the electronic Kindle version; smaller font). This structuring works well to pace the book. A photograph of each veteran during or after the war accompanies each story. Congratulations Brad Hoopes on this collection of stories…. each one a page turner.