The letters of Sgt. Percy Smith, a World War II soldier, and his memories as an aging veteran reveal how military training, wartime, and occupation brought out strengths, vulnerabilities, and changing judgments about fellow soldiers, military leadership, the enemy population, and home. Capturing the story of a common enlisted man from embarkation to discharge, the letters and stories in Mother of the Company: Sgt. Percy M. Smith’s World War II Reflections also provide an intimate window conveying his feelings for his wife, though tempered in expression as well as subject to censorship. The letters add depth to the story of this soldier, and they expand the narrative to capture more of the experience of all veterans who felt at risk and needed comfort during and after the war.
But these letters provide readers with another, less-expected view into the heart and mind of this member of the World War II generation. In contrast with military training, masculine expectations, and the prejudices of white America at that time, the longer, later memories of wartime and occupation contain strong instances of comforting and caring that sometimes turn the gender experience of war and male camaraderie on its head. In the end, if we ask what constitutes a good soldier, a good survival, and a worthy life, the answer for Sgt. Percy Smith, as suggested by his letters, might encompass the greater value of life-giving and life-fostering instincts as a part of healing the damage left behind by the life-taking experience of war.
About the Author
Published by Texas A&M University Press