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Sentinel-News Columnist Gen. Ron Van Stockum has another new book hitting the stands, and he has been invited to sell it at the Kentucky Book Fair, which is Nov. 10 in Frankfort.
Remembrances of World Warsconsists of the 41 columns he has written about the World Wars of the 20th Century for the Sentinel-News during the past five years.
The stories are extremely personal to Van Stockum, whose life was shaped by tragedy by World War I and whose career in the U.S. Marine Corps was highlighted by his service during World War II. His personal accounts are the spices that tie together the flavors in these two international stews.
“During the process of writing columns for publication in The Sentinel-News, I received comments from many of my local friends, indicating a considerable interest in World War I [originally called “The Great War”] and World War II,” Van Stockum said. “ Accordingly, I cobbled together all the columns I had written about these defining wars of the Twentieth Century and have published them in a book, Remembrances of World Wars.
“This was a more difficult process than I had originally anticipated, for the columns had not been originally written with a book in mind. I have been thorough in my research and tried to relate my memories objectively. As a result, I have spent an unbelievable amount of time in writing my columns and putting them in book form.
“I admire reporters who can create stories to meet daily deadlines. It is obvious that, meticulous as I am, I would never be able to make a living in the newspaper business.”
The stories are divided into four distinct parts.
Part one deals with World War I, focuses upon the bloody and pivotal Battle of the Somme, in which Van Stockum’s father, Sgt. Reginald Bareham, was one of 19,240 British soldiers killed during the first day of the battle, July 1, 1916.
Van Stockum’s narrative has relied heavily upon the accounts of his mother, Florence Bareham Van Stockum, who at 110 was Shelby County’s oldest resident. Her story has been amplified by detailed information he found in the archives of the Imperial War Museum and of Kings College, Cambridge in the United Kingdom and in the War Diary of Bareham’s battalion.
Part two focuses on the period between the wars, describes life in the peacetime Navy and Marine Corps and chronicles the path to World War II.
Part three describes World War II at sea in both the Atlantic and Pacific, highlighting the author’s experiences and observations during the Marine invasions from Guadalcanal to Iwo Jima.
Part Four contains the stories of several heroes of these wars, including “Chesty” Puller, David Shoup, and Shelbyville’s Ben McMakin.
The writing also was a personal journey for Van Stockum.
“In conducting research about the Battle of the Somme, in which my father was killed, I contacted historical archives in Cambridge University, The British Imperial War Museum and other sources in England,” he said. “The amount of detail about my father’s early life and his participation in the battle was truly nostalgic. I even obtained copies of several dozen letters he had written during his school days to distinguished Cambridge scholar, Oscar Browning.
“Writing the book also awaked my desire to learn how my college roommate lost his life in the sinking of the carrier USS Hornet. I succeeded. In seeking details about the death of the Marine officer who replaced me in the carrier USS Wasp, I was unsuccessful.”
Van Stockum’s work and historical achievements long have been admired and included in the Filson Historical Society in Louisville, and Filson’s executive director, Mark Wetherington, wrote the introduction
At the Book Fair, Van Stockum also will be selling two of his books previously sold there: Kentucky and the Bourbons: the Story of Allen Dale Farm and Squire Boone and Nicholas Meriwether: Kentucky Pioneers.
The 31st annual book fair will feature the works of 197 authors, from 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. at the Frankfort Convention Center.