The Greatest Generation meets Bloods in this revealing oral history of the unrecognized contributions of African American veterans.
Award-winning journalist Yvonne Latty never bothered to find out the extent of her father's service until it was almost too late. Inspired by his moving story -- and eager to uncover the little-known stories of other black veterans, from those who served in the Second World War to the War in Iraq -- Latty set about interviewing veterans of every stripe: men and women; army, navy, and air force personnel; prisoners of war; and brigadier generals.
In a book that has sparked discussions in homes, schools, and churches across America, Latty, along with acclaimed photographer Ron Tarver, captures not only what was unique about the experiences of more than two dozen veterans but also why it is important for these stories to be recorded. Whether it's the story of a black medic on Omaha Beach or a nurse who ferried wounded soldiers by heli-copter to medical centers throughout Asia during the Vietnam War, We Were There is a must-have for every black home, military enthusiast, and American patriot.
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Yvonne Latty is a native of New York City. She earned a B.F.A. in film/television and an M.A. in journalism from New York University before becoming a reporter for the Philadelphia Daily News and an adjunct professor of journalism at Villanova University. She lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Ron Tarver is a native of Fort Gibson, Oklahoma, and has been a photographer with the Philadelphia Inquirer for more than twenty years. His previous work includes a photo essay on African American cowboys, which is featured online at the National Geographic Web site. He lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.From Publishers Weekly:
Taking a cue from Bloods, the bestselling 1984 oral history of black Vietnam War veterans, Philadelphia Daily News reporter Latty allows 28 veterans from five wars, including the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, do the talking in this affecting volume. The stories tell of college dropouts who were drafted into service, eager adventurers seeing the world courtesy of Uncle Sam and dedicated career soldiers pursuing lifelong dreams. The military, often praised as an engine of integration, receives a more nuanced evaluation here: several veterans look back on battles on two fronts—the first against foreign enemies and the second against bigoted white comrades-in-arms. Leonard Smith offers a heartbreaking memory of passing out sweets to just-freed concentration camp survivors; Waverly B. Woodson, Jr. describes landing at Omaha Beach: "If you ever want to know what hell is like, D day was it." Former World War II, Korea and Vietnam POWs add unsettling glimpses into their harrowing ordeals. Veterans of the Gulf War tell more upbeat stories, remembering their military service with pride and, in some cases, affection. Female perspectives on race and war also command attention: a World War II Army private, one of about 800 black women deployed to Europe to sort mail, still marvels over the European crowds that cheered her unit in parades; two Vietnam nurses share frank, heart-stopping accounts of combat zone carnage. Award-winning photographer Ron Tarver’s evocative, dignified portraits, juxtaposed with early snapshots of the youthful soldiers, frame each testimony. The volume doesn’t break new ground, but offers a celebration of unsung heroes and an important historical document.
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