Father’s service in WWII prompts memoir
Though 10 million soldiers served in the American Armed Forces during World War II, each man was a separate story. Together they won the war, but individually, they experienced fear and discomfort and loneliness while defending their country.
Ron Powers, retired Greencastle educator, was the son of one such man. His father, Richard E. Powers, was like many of his generation. He enlisted in the Army with a sense of patriotism. He served in the 104th Infantry Regiment as part of the 26th "Yankee" Infantry Division. Under General George S. Patton, the Jersey Shore son was one soldier in the Third Army in the European Theatre. And what he experienced he kept to himself when he returned to civilian life.
As a youngster, Powers heard few tidbits about the war from his father. Therefore, one incident made such an impact that years later he wrote a book about the elder's time in the military. "One Man in Ten Million" was released in February.
At age 12, Powers joked to his father. "What does D-Day stand for, Dumb Day?"
The reaction was not what he expected.
"I thought he was going to kill me."
After retiring from the Greencastle-Antrim School District in 2010, Powers finally found the time to do what he had long talked about, writing a memoir about his dad, who died in 2001 at age 75. He researched for a year, and obtained battle plans of the 104th, which spent 202 days in combat. He wrote to 150 veterans of the unit, and received four responses, three from family members "because everyone is pretty much dead," noted Powers.
It took six months to put the information into a manuscript. Powers wrote the book for his mother, but he and his wife Beth decided to do more. They found a publisher to share the story with a wider base.
"Dad never talked about the war. That was normal for all the guys of World War II. They didn't brag about it," said Powers. "I hope people get something out of it, some inspiration."
He enjoyed the writing experience, and learned much during the process. The text was devoted not to the battles, but to the men going into them - the horrors, the suffering, mistakes of the military, life in a foxhole, surviving the worst winter in European history.
"These men were citizens one moment and soldiers the next," Powers said. "Many displayed courage beyond imagination, but if they survived to talk about their experiences, they rarely did. They were a generation of gentlemen who were very humble. Their sufferings and successes were a means to an end, not to be displayed as a badge of honor."
He saw his dad's service not as exceptional in its difference from the others, but in its commonality. The ten million shared a bond.
His mother Lois, now living in Chambersburg, did not read much of the story during its construction, said the author. "It makes her cry, but she's happy about it. She waited for the book to come out."
"One Man in Ten Million" can be purchased directly from Powers, in hardback or softcover, as well as online from Xlibris, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon. It is also available at the website onemanintenmillion.com