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Heartland Heroes: Remembering World War II
by Kenneth K. Hatfield
University of Missouri Press, 2003
eISBN: 978-0-8262-6335-3 | Cloth: 978-0-8262-1460-7
Library of Congress Classification D769.H38 2003
Dewey Decimal Classification 940.540973


"War is about patriotism, about sacrifice, about conquering fear. And perhaps most of all, it's about the guy in the foxhole next to you, taking care of each other, protecting each other, loving each other; a camaraderie so intense only men who have been in combat can ever know what it's like. Yes, most of all, war is about love."

Heartland Heroes is a collection of remarkable stories from ordinary men and women who lived through extraordinary times. They resided in places like Lee’s Summit, Independence, and Kansas City, yet their experiences were very much like those of World War II veterans everywhere. Some were marines, nurses, or fighter pilots, others were simply civilians who lived through the war under the martial law imposed on the Hawaiian Islands after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
In Heartland Heroes, Ken Hatfield gathers the stories of more than eighty men and women, whom he began interviewing in 1984 while reporting for a small weekly newspaper in Liberty, Missouri. Hatfield’s first subject was a marine named Bob Barackman, the uncle of one of Hatfield’s coworkers. That interview, which lasted for several hours, had a profound effect on Hatfield. He began to realize that as a journalist he had a unique opportunity to preserve that small piece of history each veteran carries with him.
Hatfield spent the next seventeen years interviewing nearly one hundred World War II veterans and other individuals, but it was not until August 2001 that he decided to compile the stories into a book. The interviewees, most of whom lived in the Kansas City area at the time of the interviews, included Jim Daniels, a Grumman Wildcat pilot, who while trying to land at Pearl Harbor on the evening after the Japanese attack, survived a blizzard of friendly fire, which claimed the lives of three of his friends and fellow pilots; Charles McGee, a pilot with 143 combat missions to his credit, who fought the Germans in the air and racism on the ground as one of the Tuskegee Airmen; and Dee Nicholson, who was just six years old when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and her home on Hawaii. She and her father recall what life was like for them and others, including Japanese Americans, after that fateful day.
Following the war, these courageous men and women returned to the lives they had left and tried to adjust as best they could. Hatfield collects their personal memories—the memories of the heroes who helped to defend their nation in the last global conflict this country has seen. They loaned Hatfield their medals, commendations, and regimental and divisional histories to help him document and piece together their stories. Virtually all of them downplayed their honors, insisting they had done nothing special. Through their stories, Heartland Heroes effectively captures this fading period of time for future generations.

Nearby on shelf for History (General) / Modern history, 1453- / 1789-: