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Copeland, Jeffrey S. Inman's war; a soldier's story of life in a colored battalion in WW II.

COPELAND, Jeffrey S. Inman's war; a soldier's story of life in a colored battalion in WW II. Paragon House. (1925 Oakcrest Avenue, Suite 7, St. Paul MN 55113.) 366p. illus. c2006. 1-55778-860-X. $1795. SA *

Professor Jeffrey Copeland had a stroke of luck that all writers dream about: he discovered a battered suitcase at an outdoor flea market, stuffed with the letters written by a wartime soldier to his girlfriend. The soldier, moreover, turned out to be a black WW II draftee, a member of one of the segregated "Negro Battalions" seldom written about. The 449th Signal Construction Battalion (Colored) of the Army Air Corps organized and trained in Texas, shipped out to the Mediterranean, and spent their war doing communications work in Italy.

The author took Inman Perkins's letters as a starting point for his research, seeking out old personnel records, the Army's official histories, and numerous interviews in order to tell the story of one of the many units of green citizen recruits whose efforts did, indeed, win the war. The book's central personality, Inman Perkins, had been a high school science teacher in St. Louis when the wartime draft hustled him off into an entirely new world. His intelligence and natural leadership abilities soon won him the stripes of a buck sergeant, and he found himself responsible for giving his men the training and confidence to perform their new duties under enemy fire. He soon discovered that it was equally important to acclimatize his unsophisticated and exuberant conscripts to the predominately white military culture, protecting their rights and maintaining their morale as best he could.

Sergeant Perkins had his work cut out for him. There were plenty of racial misunderstandings and confrontations to deal with, of course, but the book is not a simple discourse about the injustices of racial segregation. There was a war to be won, after all, and the young NCO also had to make sure his men knew the basics: how to sleep on the ground, string telephone wire at night in the rain, drive trucks without killing themselves, and eschew the friendly ladies down by the waterfront. The underlying theme of this book is The War, and this is a marvelous look at one small, vital facet of it all. For all school and public libraries. Raymond Puffer, Ph.D., Historian, Edwards AFB, Lancaster, CA

S--Recommended for senior high school students.

A--Recommended for advanced students and adults. This code will help librarians and teachers working in high schools where there are honors and advanced placement students. This also will help extend KLIATT's usefulness in public libraries.

*--The asterisk highlights exceptional books.
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Author:Puffer, Raymond
Date:Jan 1, 2007
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