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Soldiering for Freedom: A GI's Account of World War II

Recorded on November 17, 2005

Location: The Heritage Foundation's Lehrman Auditorium

Only a small percentage of the sixteen million servicemen called up during World War II saw front-line service. For the others, war involved training, reinforcement depots, tedious assignments, and lots of waiting. Herman J. Obermayer was one of those who earned a combat star without ever coming close enough to a battlefront to hear or see booming guns. Nonetheless, his reflective and observant letters then, and his commentary on them now, reveal important aspects of the war and the wartime world.

One of the few people alive today to have seen Hermann Goering, Rudolf Hess, and other leaders of the Third Reich, he wrote compellingly about the Nazis on trial at Nuremberg, describing Goering's leadership qualities even when stripped of the symbols of rank. A Jew himself, Obermayer explained his reactions at the trials when he witnessed the first documentary confirmation that six million Jews had been killed in the Holocaust.

His book is a welcome look at what went on beneath the surface and an engrossingly human story of war behind the lines.

HERMAN J. OBERMAYER was born and raised in Philadelphia. After a successful career as a journalist and as the editor-publisher of two daily newspapers, he enjoyed a second career as a newspaper management consultant in countries emerging from communism.