With around 70,000 or more books written about World War II, it’s hard to provide a fresh perspective, but Nick Wynne and Joe Knetsch, a writer and historian from Tallahassee, manage to do just that in Cousin Bob: The World War II. Experiences”. by Robert Morris Warren.”
Reading the opening chapters of this book, it soon became apparent that the story involves more than a chronicle of major European battles from a soldier’s perspective.
Wynne, who lives in Rockledge, Fla., and Knetsch seek to understand why a middle-class Jewish man (Warren), a practicing Detroit lawyer, would choose to enlist as a private in the Army infantry when he could easily have received an officer’s degree. commission.
The book provides valuable context in Depression-stricken Detroit and covers political and Zionist movements of the time.
The idea for the book was born during the peak of the COVID pandemic. In early 2021, Wynne’s wife Debra was going through her late father’s papers and found a cache of 33 letters from a close family friend, Robert Morris Warren, affectionately known as “Cousin Bob”.
Warren had been a decorated World War II soldier, political activist and prominent Detroit lawyer.
“On the surface there was little to distinguish this small collection of letters from hundreds of others I have seen in a 50-year career as a professional historian,” Wynne wrote, “but reading them reminded me of the conversations I had with my stepfather from growing up in Detroit and the people he had known.
Wynne enlisted fellow historian and author Knetsch, who has roots in Michigan. Knetsch soon realized that his father was serving in the same Army unit as Warren, which piqued his interest. One of their goals for the book was to skillfully provide context for “understanding the random writing of correspondence in times of stress.”
As noted in the book, Detroit in the 1930s was plagued by unemployment, food shortages, and labor and race riots.
Without New Deal “do work” programs, food aid, and the planting of public “thrift gardens,” Michigan and possibly the rest of the county could have suffered complete economic collapse. With the onset of World War I, however, Detroit quickly recovered and became “the arsenal of democracy”.
Like more than 6,000 other Detroit-area Jewish men and women, Warren answered the call to join the U.S. military, despite the risk of death if captured by the Nazis and the prejudice of his fellow soldiers. . I won’t detail here why Warren joined as a private since I’ll leave it up to the reader to determine, but he received his basic training at Fort McClellan, Alabama in 1943.
“The one moving objective of our officers and teachers running through every moment of our training is to convert raw, untrained civilians into hardened military killers in the shortest possible time,” Warren wrote. “The result is vigorous training. But no matter how difficult the training, it’s good to see that the officers who train us are determined to win.
After basic training, Warren was sent to Italy as part of Seventh Army replacement units. Of the Italians, Warren wrote: “Most people are beaten, discouraged, sick. They see their country in ruins and humiliated in the eyes of all.
Warren was part of the successful effort to break through German lines and capture Rome.
During Warren’s letters from campaigns in Italy, France, and southern Germany, Wynne and Knetsch skillfully put each battle into perspective and how they advanced the goal of finally crushing Nazi Germany. But Warren’s words bring it all down to earth from a soldier’s perspective.
Reading a letter from a friend who said he was glad France was taken back unopposed, Warren wrote in response: ‘As I read this, lying in my hole counting the shells falling, all this product of me was ironic, sardonic laughter. It looks like there were last “unopposed” suicidal fights and “unopposed” denials of our surrender ultimatums and many other things that I remember.
He described the German opposition as “tenacious” and he wrote little during this period as he was on the front line in deadly fighting from village to village.
Commanding a mortar squad, Warren received the nation’s second highest honor for bravery, the Distinguished Service Cross.
But “Cousin Bob” gives us an often gripping insight into the life and death behind the medal, a must-read for anyone looking to better understand World War II as it unfolded in Europe in 1944 and 1945. .
“Cousin Bob” is available at local bookstores.
Doug Alderson is the author of 15 published books on history and natural history. He is also president-elect of the Tallahassee Writers Association. For more information, log on to www.dougalderson.net.
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