Soldiering for Freedom
A GI's Account of World War II
Military History - World War II
6 x 9, 344 pp.
71 b&w photos.
Pub Date: 03/24/2005
Williams-Ford Texas A&M University Military History Series
  cloth
Price:        $32.95

978-1-58544-430-4
  paper
List Price: $17.95   Price:        $5.00

978-1-58544-406-9

Published by Texas A&M University Press
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2005 Virginia College Stores Association Book Award, presented by the Virginia College Stores Association

Soldiering for Freedom

A GI's Account of World War II

By Herman J. Obermayer

Only a small percentage of the sixteen million servicemen called up during World War II saw front-line service. For the others, war involved training, reinforcement depots, tedious assignments, and lots of waiting. Herman J. Obermayer was one of those who earned a combat star without ever coming close enough to a battlefront to hear or see booming guns. Nonetheless, his letters then, and his reflection on them now, reveal important aspects of the war and the wartime world. From school, from basic training, and later from Europe, Obermayer wrote home with vivid descriptions of life in the Army. Reflective and observant, he recorded his views of both French and German reactions to the American occupation force, race relations among enlisted men, and the problems of supplying the troops as they crossed Europe after the Normandy invasion. One of the few people alive today to have seen Hermann Goering, Rudolf Hess, and other leaders of Third Reich, Obermayer wrote compellingly about the Nazis on trial at Nuremberg, describing Goering’s leadership qualities when stripped of the symbols of rank. A Jew himself, Obermayer explained his reactions at the trials when he witnessed the first documentary confirmation that six million Jews had been killed in the Holocaust. He knew and wrote about the official U.S. Army hangman at Nuremberg. Readers will find in Obermayer’s letters and connective commentary a welcome tendency to look for what went on beneath the surface, a challenging view of how his experiences cast light on today’s politics and issues, and an engrossingly human story of war behind the lines.

Herman J. Obermayer was born and raised in Philadelphia. After a successful career as a journalist and as the editor-publisher of two daily newspapers, he enjoyed a second career as a newspaper management consultant in countries emerging from communism. He lives in Arlington, Virginia, with his wife of fifty years.

What Readers Are Saying:

“We need more memoirs/anthologies like Herman Obermayer’s. Obermayer is a good storyteller. Historians of American military history, especially the human dimension of war, will find these letters a valuable source.”--G. Kurt Piehler, University of Tennessee

“We need more memoirs/anthologies like Herman Obermayer’s. Obermayer is a good storyteller. Historians of American military history, especially the human dimension of war, will find these letters a valuable source.” --G. Kurt Piehler, University of Tennessee

“. . .unusually thoughtful and well written. There are letters and memoirs out there, of course. But this set has its own special qualities.” --Donald J. Mrozek, Professor of History, Kansas State University

“Herman Obermayer has provided a compelling, first-hand chronicle of World War II in the form of letters home. Most collections of letters provide brief, episodic insights to persons and select events, but Obermayer’s collection, accompanied by photographs, covers, week by week and often day by day, the history of a young, enlisted soldier whose acute perceptiveness foreshadows a career in journalism. It gives wonderful insight into the attitudes and values of the time. He makes some wonderful connections to present day matters that are a real bonus. Truly a great read!” --General Jack N. Merritt, U.S. Army, Retired

“Herman Obermayer has given historians and interested citizens a soldier’s view of World War II. I was captured by the Preface and the fishhook was set hard the more I read. He has given us not only his wonderfully descriptive letters of life during the 1940s, as a soldier in the crusade in Europe, but just as importantly he gives the reader the benefit of his observations of the contemporary world juxtaposed against World War II experiences.” --Gordon R. Sullivan, General, USA Retired, Former Chief of Staff United States

“Today’s military commanders could benefit from the lessons found in Herman Obermayer’s letters from 60 years ago. This book could easily have been called ‘Six Days Ago’ for the astonishing relevance of the story it tells to our soldiers today, and the role of the American military in the world. Obermayer is a witness to history. As a young Jewish GI, he looked Goering in the eye and lived to tell about it. From Dartmouth to honorable discharge and beyond, Obermayer’s story is a shining example of what Tom Brokaw called ‘The Greatest Generation.’” --Brian Williams, Anchor and Managing Editor, NBC Nightly News

“A revealing march back in history. Through an unusually complete set of letters from a dutiful son-correspondent, Herman Obermayer reminds us how different things were in World War II: the crowded troopships, the astonishingly supportive public and press, the privileges of officers (and the resentment of enlisted men), and the (relative) indifference to the massive destruction of war. But there are also the similarities: the travails of occupation, the complexities of logistics, the problems of medics, and the never-ending exaggerations of the rumor mill.” --James R. Schlesinger, former Secretary of Defense and Director of Central Int

“Herman Obermayer’s interestingly written account of his experience as a GI in the United States and in France in World War II will resonate with those who served at that time. And for those presently interested in the relation between an army of occupation and the residents of the occupied country, his story will prove equally informative.” --William Rehnquist

“. . . superior World War II memoir . . .” --Booklist

“. . . an interesting account of life in liberated Paris and occupied Germany, including an eyewitness report on some of the historic legal proceedings at Nuremberg.” --National Review

“. . . those extraordinarily mature and eloquent letters . . . these chronicles are as important to the historic perspective as those of one who has seen heavy action, perhaps more given the broader view they encompass.” --
“His letters remind us of what dominates an ordinary soldier’s life—staying alive, thinking about one’s family, and to get home when it’s over. In doing so, he touches a truth that underlies the many perspectives on World War II today.” --

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