Rona Simmons’s latest book, Other Veterans of World War II, will be launched at the 2020 Dahlonega Literary Festival – the first time a book launch has been held at the event.
Simmons’s first published works were novels, and primarily works of historical fiction set in the first half of the last century. “The sweep of events, from the First World War, to the Great Depression, to World War II, had a momentous impact on our lives,” she says, “and is a period we can still almost reach with our fingertips.”
While she is not giving up fiction, Simmons said the call of history and the real lives of the men and women of the era were something she could not ignore. With so much already written about the war, however, she wanted to approach the topic from a new angle. In 2017 she co-authored and published Images from World War II, telling the story of the War in the Pacific while celebrating the art of a local WWII veteran and artist Jack Smith. During that endeavor, she met other veterans whose stories had not been told and who were willing to talk.
The result is her new book, The Other Veterans of World War II to be released by Kent State University Press in spring 2020. It’s a timely release as 2020 will mark the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II with observances scheduled around the world.
For decades those who served in noncombat roles in World War II refrained from speaking of their experiences. If anyone had asked, they might have said they were just doing their job. Combat soldiers who told their own stories often mentioned those in the rear echelon derisively, referring to them as pencil pushers, grease monkeys, or cowards and believing they had shirked their duty.
Convinced these views were far from the truth, the author searched for the real story from the noncombat veterans themselves. In The Other Veterans of World War II, she tells their stories as they report for service, complete their training. and ship out to stations thousands of miles and worlds away from home. She shares their dreams of combat, their disappointment on receiving a noncombat position, as well as their selflessness and yearning for home.
Simmons’s interviews and extensive research reveal that the noncombat veterans had more in common with the front line soldiers than differences. Further, the book gives us a more complete picture of the war effort, bringing long overdue appreciation for the men and women whose everyday tasks, unexpected acts of sacrifice, and faith and humor contributed mightily to the outcome of the war.