Thursday, November 11, 2010

From My Library: "No Ordinary Joes" by Larry Colton

I was in bed a couple nights ago and as I started to continue my reading of this book my wife was astounded at how quickly I was moving through it. Overall I have never been a fast reader, usually taking weeks to read through a book. It was only within 5 days that I was nearing the end of this magnificent story. Every free moment I had over this last week I spent reading this book, No Ordinary Joes.

Based on the true story of four submariners during World War II and the bond as well as experiences they shared together. It starts by briefly telling of their childhood, the tragedies that most of them went through, and each ones experiences during the Great Depression. Each one takes about where they were during the attack on Pearl Harbor and where they started off in the Navy. It then leads all of them into how they ended up together on the USS Grenadier. A United States submarine fighting in the Pacific theatre. During one of her runs after all four men were on board together the sub was hit and permanently damaged by a Japanese plane. They ended up being forced to surrender and taken into Japanese territory where their imprisonment and torture began. The book focuses in here on how each of the four men coped with their situation. How they handled the beatings, their attitude toward a lack of food and hatred toward the Japanese people, and most importantly what was it that they focused on for two and half years that kept them going and refusing to give up. Then the final pages of the book take us to their life after the war. How each of the man's expectations for when they would get home turned into a disaster. And finally where they ended up in their old age. Who these men actually married, compared to who they thought they would marry while in prison, and what they did with their lives. Most importantly is how they learned to cope with the horrifying memories of their imprisonment in Japan during World War II.

I can not say enough about how this book was written and how well the story comes together. I was concerned at first about trying to follow the lives of four men but Colton does a masterful job at connecting their experiences to how they handled life in the Navy, life in prison camp, and life after the war. Based on the amount of physical, emotional, and mental abuse these men went through while in prison, it is a miracle that any of them survived the entire ordeal. One of the men, Chuck Vervalin reflected upon "what allowed some men to keep going, whereas others gave up? No simple answer emerged. Some men said it was religion that kept them going. Some said it was focusing on home and loved ones, while others contended that it was easier for single guys because they didn't have a wife or children to worry about. Some thought it was easier for married because they had somebody waiting for them at home, and they could escape to thoughts of being together again. Chuck concluded that whatever it was, he had to believe that life was still worth living and that he needed something to focus on, even if it was hatred of his captors (244)."

I highly recommend this book and not just for the World War II buff. It should be read by everyone who enjoys reading a good story. I even commented to a few people how I think this would make an excellent film someday. The book opened my eyes to elements of the Pacific Theatre of World War II that I never realized. Elements of the war I never would have considered as important. And most interestingly for me was learning about the culture of the soldiers that were fighting the war. What they did day to day and how they went about doing it. This book is without question a must read.

Colton, No Ordinary Joes: The Extraordinary True Story of Four Submariners in War and Love and Life, 2010.
This book was provided to me for review by Inkwell Management. There was no expectation by Inkwell on how and what I wrote. I just simply loved this book.

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