with the author
Q: How did you become interested in the 99th Infantry Division?
A: My interest in the 99th Infantry Division began in 2001 after a conversation with George Neill, whose memoir, Infantry Soldier, was published by the University of Oklahoma Press. Neill gave me the names of three other veterans, whom I then called. Over the next five years I contacted other surviving veterans.
Q: How did the Division veterans respond to your inquiries?
A: These veterans were friendly, modest, open, and pleased that someone was interested in their story. They told me about the 99th Division Association, which kept a database of its members. I was able to conduct extensive interviews with more than three hundred surviving veterans.
Q: Why did you decide to write this book?
A: I began to write stories for The Checkerboard, the 99th Division’s newspaper, based on the interviews I conducted. The veterans asked me to expand my research and write a book about the Division. At their urgings, what began as a scholarly interest turned into a personal mission for me to tell the story of this Division. As World War II and these American soldiers fade from our collective memory, we might honor them by remembering how they served.
Q: Where did you research for this book take you?
A: When I attended my first 99th Division reunion in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky, I heard veterans talking about a particularly terrible winter they spent on Elsenborn Ridge in eastern Belgium during the winter of 1944-45. I decided to fly to Belgium to explore the Ridge and those areas of eastern Belgium where the fierce battles occurred during the Battle of the Bulge. In 2004, I returned to Europe again and followed the entire route the 99th took during their six months of fighting.
Q: Why is it important for the story of the 99th Infantry Division to be told?
A: Many of us cannot recall what happened last week or last month, but most of us can remember past events that produced great joy, sadness, or pain. In World War II a lifetime of terror, suffering, and loss were compressed into days, hours and minutes of combat. We can honor these American soldiers by learning how they fought for a cause they believed in. We are indebted to these men, especially those who did not return.