Note From Suz: I’ve been fascinated by World War II since before I can remember. I was born in 1960, only fifteen years after the end of the war, but when I was a kid it seemed like ancient history. And yet I was aware of the fact that many of the men and women around me had not only lived through that tumultuous time, but had played an important part in it. My grandmother’s cousin, Elise, had worked for the U.S. Navy, as a supervisor in an ammunitions testing facility. The town photographer — who lived by himself in a ramshackle house near Bishop’s Orchards — had actually survived the Death March in Bataan, and was haunted by all he’d endured. My uncles, Fred and Jack, both served in France, and actually ran into each other in Paris, purely by luck!
At age eleven and twelve, I read the entire section of the stacks in the library devoted to the history of the Second World War. I read “The Great Escape.” I read “The Man Who Never Was.” I read about the war in the Pacific, about the terrors of the German death camps, about the Blitzkrieg in Europe. I read about vast battles — the ongoing battle for the skies between the Luftwaffe and the Royal Air Force that became known as the Battle of Britain, the enormous naval engagement of the Battle of Midway. Pearl Harbor, Anzio, Iwo Jima, Dunkirk, Denmark, Normandy, Ardennes — I read of the military strategies, the defeats, the victories. And I also read of the millions of small acts of heroism, the intimate and remarkable stories of the ordinary men and woman who lived and breathed and fought in those places, whether they wanted to or not, men and women who made a difference and enabled the Allies to defeat Hitler and the Axis.
And I’m still in awe.
Many people who lived through the War came home and didn’t say a single word about it. All those acts of heroism and bravery were often whittled down to a single, unremarkable sentence: “You did what you had to do.”
Two of my characters in THE UNSUNG HERO were young men during that time — two young American men, Charles Ashton and Joe Paoletti, who found themselves in Nazi occupied France in 1944, during the weeks immediately following the “D-Day” Invasion of Normandy. Their story, told in flashbacks, is an important subplot in my book. When THE UNSUNG HERO takes place, in August, 2000, both of those men are elderly, but they play a vital part in the contemporary action, too, even though both still aren’t talking about the ordeal they lived through more than fifty-five years earlier.