Military History

Blogging about the Battlefield since 2005

Review of Radioman: An Eyewitness Account of Pearl Harbor and World War II in the Pacific

Posted by William F. Sauerwein on September 14, 2010

Radioman:  An Eyewitness Account of Pearl Harbor and World War II in the Pacific by Carol Edgemon Hipperson.  Published by Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martin’s Minotaur of New York, copyright in 2008.

Review by William F. Sauerwein, 1SG, US Army (Retired).  B.S., Historical Studies from Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville (SIUE) in 2004.

This book proved truly informative and provided several experiences seldom explored in World War II history.  I thoroughly enjoyed the “oral account” of an individual sailor, without the psychoanalysis (or “psycho-babble”) of an academic with a Ph. D.  The book covers the life of a young man coming of age during a bleak time in our history, the Great Depression.  He survived that and then, like the rest of his generation, endured the sacrifices required for winning World War II.  Radioman further reveals that even during the national mobilization of World War II individual Americans still worked toward their individual goals.  It also reveals the harsh lessons and sacrifices of ignoring the threats of “rogue nations” and ignoring military readiness in the face of these threats.  An entire generation of Americans sacrificed, on the battlefields and the home front, for preserving this nation.  Today those remaining of that generation die from the infirmities of that sacrifice and “old age,” taking their experience with them.  We, the heirs of what they fought and died for, owe them the respect of learning from their experiences, and heeding their warnings.

The book covers the adult life of Ray Daves, originally from Vilonia, Arkansas, near Little Rock.  It begins a timeline in June, 1936, a time of steadily increasing tensions in the world.  Sixteen-year-old Daves typified the experiences of a generation of young Americans, who faced an uncertain future.  He embarked upon the world after quitting high school following his sophomore year, the “tenth grade.”  Describing himself as the “renegade” of the family’s seven children he expressed dissatisfaction with his future on the family farm.  As a “farm boy” myself, I fully understand the longing for life beyond the cornfields.

Daves recounts his life in an America that the majority of Americans today do not understand, even given today’s situation.  He states that Americans then did not call it the Great Depression, instead labeling it “hard times.”  During these times everyone focused on their families and sacrificed their individual dreams for helping their family survive.  While today’s youth put off adult responsibilities as long as possible, Daves’ generation lacked that luxury.  Older children, like Daves, quit school and took whatever jobs available, even if it took them far from home.  The phrase “jobs that Americans won’t do” did not exist at that time, something today’s “entitlement mentality” cannot comprehend.  As Daves reveals, married men also journeyed far from home for any job and sent their families the money.

The first stop in Daves’ journey took him into a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Camp in Idaho.  He describes the CCC as one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s (FDR) “New Deal” programs.  The historical notes identify the CCC as FDR’s first and most popular program and the first organized attempt at preserving the environment.  Daves explains the hard work they performed in the parks and forests, building irrigation ditches for farmers and work on the infrastructure.  When a Baptist youth group from Spokane, Washington conducted a church service at the camp Daves met his future wife, Adeline.

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