Friday, June 08, 2007

Sergeant Slaughter’s Long March

Sergeant John Robert (Bob) Slaughter is an outstanding American who The Roanoke Times recently reported:

…survived the invasion of D-Day, and decades later founded a national memorial foundation to commemorate the famous assault.

Now Bob Slaughter, who served with the 29th Ranger Battalion during World War II, has written his autobiography.

The book, "Omaha Beach and Beyond: The Long March of Sgt. Bob Slaughter," offers, among other details, his account of his induction into federal service in early 1941; his role in the D-Day invasion; the wounds he suffered in Normandy, France; the end of the war; and also the creation of the National D-Day Memorial Foundation [in Bedford, VA].

It's a project that has been in the works since 1987, when Slaughter received a computer as a gift and started trying to put his story together.

Armed with an invaluable perspective for a writer -- "I know what good writing is and I know what bad writing is," he said -- Slaughter, who studied English at Virginia Western Community College, was also aided by positive outside forces. He's quick to credit his editor, Gayle Wurst from Princeton, N.J., and the influence of other historians.

"I was very fond of Stephen Ambrose," he said.

Movies and documentaries about D-Day also fueled his inspiration, but he said "the main thrust came from my memories." He added that "a writer that wasn't there cannot accurately capture the battle.

"Capturing the battle" was a process that, he said, required him to figuratively "crawl back in my uniform and relive the experiences.

"Once I sat on it for a long time, let it percolate ... then something happened."
His best inspirations, he said, came to him at night: "I did my best thinking in bed. Before I went to sleep, I could bring it back."

Even so, Slaughter said that aside from the travails depicted in the book, the writing was the "hardest thing I ever did in my life. The story's been in my brain for years and years. I had to get motivated to get into something like that." ...

"I'm 82 years old. I was pretty desperate to get it finished," he said. "I was doing this for a lot of other people, too. It was satisfying to me that for some of the fellows that couldn't write, or weren't able to ... I was able to do it and recapture their experiences, too."
A prerelease publisher’s description of Slaughter’s book includes this:
Before D-Day, regular army soldiers called the National Guardsmen of Virginia’s 116th Infantry Regiment [, 29th Infantry Division,] “Home Nannies,” “Weekend Warriors,” and worse. On June 6, 1944, on Omaha Beach, however, these proud Virginians who carried the legacy of the famed Stonewall Brigade showed the regular army and the world what true valor really was.
I’ve not yet read Slaughter’s book. But Major Dick Winters, who took command of E Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne on D-Day in Normandy, and whose military service was recorded by Steve Ambrose in Band of Brothers has said this about Slaughter’s book: “The long march of Sergeant Bob Slaughter as told in Omaha Beach and Beyond gives the reader the memories that Bob has lived with every day for the past sixty-three years. After reading this, his memories will live with you too, forever!”

I understand Omaha Beach and Beyond: The Long March of Sgt. Bob Slaughter is beginning to appear in bookstores. It can be ordered from Amazon here.

We owe Sgt. Slaughter, military servicemen and women like him, and their families a great debt.

Hat Tip: A reader who a few weeks ago gave me a “heads up” about Slaughter’s book.


09parent (duke) said...

Thanks, John for the heads up regarding Mr. Slaughter's release of his own story. North Carolina is not so far from Bedford, VA where the DDay Memorial stands because 19 Bedford families got D Day invasion telegrams, followed by four more in later weeks. Bob is speaking at our library June 19, and he is a faithful and experienced public speaker. The last of the Bedford boys has passed on!news!localnews

Bob's Omaha Beach landing narrative:

Reporting the war was old-fashioned, anything but dull
By Mary Bishop
The Roanoke Times
June 6, 1999
In His Own Words

For decades, he was silent. Then nagging memories of D-Day stirred him to push for a national memorial to honor the soldiers, his buddies, who went through that awful morning, 55 years ago today. Now this once unknown working Joe from Roanoke may be the best-known D-Day veteran in America. This is the story of his unlikely transformation.

Anonymous said...

I knew Bob Slaughter as the Little League coach in the park across the street from my house in Roanoke, Va. He was a strong but soft-spoken man who inspired young men to be better baseball players and citizens. My chief problem was that I was a girl and could only watch! Coach realized my frustration and sometimes let me work out with the team or take a turn chasing down fly balls when he hit to his sons! I have just read his book and it is excellent. I had no idea the extent of his involvement. He is a humble man who never spoke about his service. We have visited the memorial in Bedford and always find it to be a moving experience. We were especially moved when we went with my father-in-law, George Hess, who is a World War II veteran as well. He was a glider
pilot! I am married to a Veit Nam veteran and I think that any recognition we can give the men and women who lived and died to protect our freedom should be first-rate, often and genuine. We are looking forward to visiting with Bob and his wife next week and introducing them to our baseball-playing son. You really must read his book!