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Love, War, and the 96th Engineers (Colored): The World War II New Guinea Diaries of Captain Hyman Samuelson

Love, War, and the 96th Engineers (Colored): The World War II New Guinea Diaries of Captain Hyman Samuelson

by Gwendolyn Midlo Hall (Editor), Hyman Samuelson (Other)

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The author of this diary was a civil engineer raised in Louisiana. The U.S. Army of WWII believed such a combination ideal for assignment to a segregated unit: white Southerners were considered better able than Northerners to ``handle'' blacks. The 96th Engineers (Colored) was a ``general service'' regiment whose missions included building docks and airfields, maintaining roads and defending its work against Japanese raiders. The 96th fought its war in the southwest Pacific, at the bottom of both the list for equipment and a racially determined pecking order. Samuelson's diary entries vividly depict the hardships of jungle war even when safely behind the front lines. They document as well a growing awareness of racial issues on the part of a young man who had previously accepted the existing order as a given. This work is a significant contribution to military history and ethnic studies. Hall is a history professor at Rutgers Univ. Photos not seen by PW. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Hall, best known for her work on slavery (Africans in Colonial Louisiana, Louisiana State Univ. Pr., 1992), has assembled a compelling collection of excerpts from her uncle's wartime diaries and letters to and from his wife, Dora, from the period October 1941 through 1944. What distinguishes this book from other World War II memoirs is that Samuelson was a white, Jewish Southerner serving as an officer in an African American engineering battalion. Thus it provides insight into race relations within the military as well as documenting the psychological, emotional, and physical demands of long-term service in the Pacific theater, even in noncombat units. However, the most revealing and poignant portions of the book concern Samuelson's relations with women, particularly his wartime bride. This is an illuminating account of the underside of the "good war." Recommended for academic libraries.-Patrick F. Callahan, St. John's Univ., Jamaica, N.Y.
Roland Green
This diary of a white officer in an African American unit during World War II may have been published out of "political correctness." It makes absorbing reading, though, whatever the reasons for its publication. Capt. Hyman Samuelson wrote both his diaries and his letters to his wife (who died of ovarian cancer at the end of the war) clearly, and he was a keen and sympathetic observer of his fellow humans, regardless of color. The Ninety-sixth Engineers, Samuelson's men, were the first U.S. troops to reach New Guinea in the desperate summer of 1942, and they did a prodigious amount of essential construction, staying on the malodorous tropical island until the end of the war without relief, for they were denied leave in Australia because of racial prejudice. Both they and Samuelson deserve to be chronicled, and his diary deserves its place in most World War II and African American history collections.

Product Details

University of Illinois Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
New Edition
Product dimensions:
6.31(w) x 9.33(h) x 1.49(d)

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