Monday, January 27, 2020

Books On World War II: "The Art Of Resistance" & "Indestructible"

The Art of Resistance: My Four Years in the French Underground: A Memoir
By Justus Rosenberg
William Morrow; 304 pages; hardcover, $28.99; eBook, $14.99; available Tuesday, January 28

In 1937, the Nazi party tightened its grip on the Free City of Danzig (now Gdansk, Poland) and Justus Rosenberg's parents made the heart-wrenching decision to send their son to Paris, where he would have the hope of finishing high school and then going to university securely. Justus was 16 years old, and he would not see his family for another 16 years. 

Things took a turn when the Nazis advanced toward Paris in the spring of 1940, Justus was penniless, in danger, cut off from contacting his family in Poland, and forced to flee south. A chance meeting led him to Varvan Fry, an American journalist in Marseille who ran a clandestine network that helped thousands of artists and anti-fascist intellectuals escape the Nazis, among them Hannah Arendt, Marc Chagall, Andre Breton, and Max Ernst. 

Justus - with his German background and fluency in several languages, including English - became an invaluable member of Fry's network as a spy and scout. For the subsequent four years, Justus relied on his wits and skills to escape capitivity, survive several close calls with death, and continue fighting the Nazis. 

By working with the French resistance and later becoming attached with the United States Army - who awarded him a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart - Justus emigrated to America at war's end and built a new life.

"I survived the war through a rare combination of good fortune, resourcefulness, optimism, and most importantly, the kindness of many good people," Justus writes.

For the last 70 years, Justus has taught at American universities, and is currently a professor emeritus of languages and literature at Bard College. He is the cofounder of the Justus and Karen Rosenberg Foundation, which would to combat antisemiticism. In 2017, the French ambassador personally made Justus a Commander in the Legio d'Honneur, France's highest decoration. Professor Rosenberg lives in Rhinebeck, New York.

The Art of Resistance, which features never-before-seen photographs from Justus' personal archives, is a powerful saga of bravery, daring, adventure, and survival with the pacing of a spy thriller.

Indestructible: The Unforgettable Memoir of a Marine Hero at The Battle of Iwo Jima
By Jack H. Lucas
William Morrow; paperback; $16.99 

Jack H. Lucas (1928-2008) was born in Plymouth, North Carolina, and enrolled in the Marine Corps Reserve at 14, after lying about his age.

For his heroics in battle, Lucas was awarded the Medal of Honor in October 1945 for his heroics at the Battle of Iwo Jima. At 17 years old, he was the youngest Marine in U.S. history to receive the Medal of Honor, as well as the youngest recipient of World War II. 

This special reissue of Lucas' memoir Indestructible, which was originally published in 2006, is timed for the 75th anniversary of Iwo Jima, and it includes a foreword by Bob Dole and a new afterword.

"Jack Lucas exemplified with his own blood and grit the spirit of sacrifice that won the war in the Pacific," Dole writes. "All Americans should know his story; our foes should contemplate it."

The assault on Iwo Jima was one of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific in World War II. On its second day, February 20, 1945, Private Jack Lucas, who was only seventeen years old, and three other Marines engaged in a close-proximity firefight with Japanese soldiers. 

When two enemy grenades landed in their trench, Lucas jumped on one and pulled the other under his body to save the lives of his comrades. Lucas was blown into the air as his body was torn apart by 250 entrance wounds so severe that his team left him for dead - miraculously, he survived.

While on the hospital ship Samaritan, the Medal of Honor recipient's spirit soared to see the American flag flying atop Mount Suribachi. Lucas endured twenty-one grueling surgeries and carried 200 pieces of shrapnel in his body for the rest of his life. 

Lucas received the Medal of Honor soon after, and he writes of the ceremony, "The moment ha arrived; my name was announced, 'Private First Class, Jack H. Lucas, United States Marine Corps.' As I rose and made my way to the podium, I drew in deep breath to keep my head clear. I wanted to be able to commit every detail of this moment to memory. I faced the president as he carefully removed the Medal of Honor from its box and placed the blue ribbon, adorned with thirteen small white stars, around my neck. I was receiving the nation's highest recognition for valor; my heart nearly burst with pride. When President Truman initially greeted me, he grabbed my right forearm with his left hand and inadvertently stuck his fingers into my wound. It hurt, but I managed not to wince. The small hat I had been issued was sitting precariously atop my head. When he shook my hand, he pumped my arm so hard he nearly shook my hat off. It would not have mattered if it had. Nothing could have spoiled this day for me. I was absolutely delighted to be recognized by my nation and even more so at having served her so well. President Truman said, 'I would rather have this medal than be president of the United States.' I replied, 'Sir, I'll swap ya'!' He laughed and moved me along.

"In closing the ceremony, President Truman said, 'We have won two great victories and we face another fight, a fight for a peaceful world. This fight for peace is necessary, so we won't have to go to war again, so we won't have to maim the flower of our young men and bury them. Now let us go forward and win that fight, as we have won these two victories, and this war will not have been in vain.'

"As the president spoke, I closed my eyes and breathed in the fresh clean air of freedom. A slight grin bent the corners of my mouth. Marines were being decorated on this day, not killed. It was a great day for me, my family, America, and the Corps."

Indestructible, the remarkable story of an American possessed with a fierce determination to serve his country, is a book you will cherish.

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