Very few men in an Army do all the fighting and dying. I didn’t fight or die but I was witness to a great many who did.” “Anyone who lives through a war without being killed or seriously wounded has had an experience that can be matched by no other. It is likely that I saw things most people will never see unless they were there.” Andy Rooney wrote those words, and Paul W. Wittmer was there. He did fight. He did live to come home. Many of the men Wittmer sailed with died and many returned home, too.
Wittmer has put together a collection of a unique type of story he describes as “about the individual recollection of significant experiences and incidents while on board a submarine during a war patrol.” Wittmer’s inspiration and driving force to publish A Big Anthology of World War II U.S. Submarine and Historic Stories was the desire to get authentic stories from the participants, the living veterans, so no one else could re-write their history. A noble undertaking.
Along with the help of many volunteers, Paul W. Wittmer has collected, edited, and published more than 128 stories. The stories run the gamut from maiden voyages, to fierce battles in scenes like Midway Island and Pearl Harbor, to personal memories and the “Story of Taps.” Some of the stories were published previously in the now defunct Polaris magazine. Polaris was the official publication of The United States Submarine Veterans of World War II, a congressionaly-chartered veterans organization that was established to “perpetuate the memory of those shipmates who gave their lives in submarine warfare” in World War II. Others appeared in newsletters of local and state chapters, and now in book form.
Humor is included with such stories as the rodent on board one sub. Tactical decisions such as the defense of the Panama Canal are included as well. All the stories are interesting and remind me of sitting on a Coke machine out front of an old filling station listening to several veterans talk about their experiences. This is not Pulitzer Prize writing, but true stories written with emotion by the sailors that were there.
A Big Anthology of World War II U.S. Submarine and Historic Stories can be savored one story at a time — if you can put it down. It’s hard to imagine a history buff or a World War II veteran not wanting this book on their coffee table or next to the recliner. If you know a veteran, buy it for him or her at subvetpaul.com. Veteran’s Day is in November and of course, Christmas is right around the corner.