By Ralph Peluso
There are writers who can tell a great story. Then there are stories that are naturally compelling. This book qualifies as the latter.
Paul Arneson, a man with a dedicated sense of family, has taken the intensely personal letters and conversations of his brother-in-law and smartly woven them into an emotional picture of life while serving our country on the battlefields.
Paul traces the roots of Bayer Nonen Ross, the son of Swedish immigrants from their home country to Illinois to Colorado, finally settling in Minnesota. Because his source for this documentary is so very personal the reader is taken deep into the trenches of WWII in very intimate ways.
The letters, photos and journal notations are real, not dramatized. Paul’s narration is very remarkable. War does start and stop during battle. For those very young soldiers sent into the underbelly of WWII, the preparation and waiting is emotionally taxing. In some ways more so than the battles. Bayer’s recollections are so detailed I felt as though I was alongside the soldiers feeling and experiencing what they went through.
From Bayer’s notes during his time in North Africa, he wrote. “When we left Algeria we did not go very far. We got to Tunisia. After a week the conditions could not be much worse. It was over 110 degrees every day. The chow was terrible and cold. The water tastes like it has been contaminated.” Reading of those condition makes the reader wonder how our soldiers made ever survived. Their bravery resonates.
Colonel Arneson did a marvelous job achieving his expectations with this work, to keep the story of Bayer and the families of those who served alive.
“47,” Paul will tell you. That is total set of eyes Bayer closed, those he personally declared “KIA” (killed in action) as a medic on the battlefield.
Paul penned this book for two reasons. Bayer died in 1990 and Paul wanted Bayer’s grandchildren to understand the legacy of this true American hero. And, for all of you out there who have had a family member who should be remembered, this just might serve as an inspiration to write about them.
Bayer served in three different theaters, North Africa, Sicily and Europe. He attempted to catalogue and track all those he declared dead. But during the chaos of war the task was impossible.
Paul considers “I Closed Too Many Eyes” as one of the most rewarding accomplishments of his life.
He is a retired U.S. Air Force Colonel. Paul’s military career included postings in seven U.S. States and several overseas locations. Paul did a stint as professor at the National Defense University in Washington, DC, before ending his military service as the Transportation Director for Strategic Airlift on the Air Staff at the Pentagon. Born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota there in 1968 he married his sweetheart Betty.
“I Closed Too Many Eyes: A World War II Medic Finally Talks” is must read for anyone who wants to hear more about the vets of WWII and the greatest generation.
Zebra rating 5 stars