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My Private War

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The vivid and emotional story of one soldier's heroic struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder.1944: Norm Bussel, an introspective and happy-go-lucky teen from Memphis, finds himself bailing out of a burning B-17 bomber just months after his 19th birthday. Touching-down in a field outside Berlin, Norm was immediately seized by local farmhands, who were in the process of lynching him when a passing German soldier put a stop to the execution. For the next year, Norm would struggle to survive at the hands of the...
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Overview

The vivid and emotional story of one soldier's heroic struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder.1944: Norm Bussel, an introspective and happy-go-lucky teen from Memphis, finds himself bailing out of a burning B-17 bomber just months after his 19th birthday. Touching-down in a field outside Berlin, Norm was immediately seized by local farmhands, who were in the process of lynching him when a passing German soldier put a stop to the execution. For the next year, Norm would struggle to survive at the hands of the Nazis as a prisoner of war.And that is when the rage began. Rage that he and his fellow captives were cold and starving, their wounds and illnesses left untreated. Rage that men were shot without warning. The rage and emotional turmoil he suffered during that year of hell would follow him home, denying him the peace and stability he and his loved ones longed for. This is one soldier's searing and honest story of his battle with post-traumatic stress disorder. A battle that speaks to the hearts and minds of veterans of all wars who find themselves with liberated bodies but captive minds.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“An important book. Norman Bussel has performed one of the most vital acts of war--which is to remember. --Hampton Sides, author of Ghost Soldiers and Blood and Thunder”

“A tremendously valuable account. Norman than it was back then. --James Patterson, #1 New York Times bestselling author”

“An honest account of matters once considered embarrassing--and more common than we realize, as a new generation is now discovering.”

“Eloquent…it is hard to think of a better book on the POW experience...A notable addition to PTSD literature.”

Library Journal

Bussel was an unsophisticated Memphis boy who got drafted in 1943 and turned into a B-17 radioman. Military life was fine until the night in 1944 when his plane was cut in half over Berlin. He was 19 years old. Rescued from a German lynch mob, he spent a year starving and freezing in a stalag before being rescued by the Allied armies. Bussel returned to his life, or tried to, but suffered from lingering psychological trauma. Confused, claustrophobic, easily startled, short-tempered, and angry, he muddled along for a while, married twice, and eventually made a good career and life for himself. It was in his eighties that he tried writing about his experiences and produced this book, his first despite having been in publishing most of his life. While his wartime experiences are interesting but not exceptional, his descriptions of his struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and his work with other afflicted veterans are both. This is a strong narrative of a man who has been through much and has come through it not stronger but with greater self-knowledge. Simply and directly written; a fine candidate for any military collection.
—Edwin B. Burgess

Kirkus Reviews

One of the Greatest Generation writes affectingly of a long life spent wrestling with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Prisoners of war, Bussel notes, suffer disproportionately from heart attacks in old age, as well as various autoimmune illnesses—all maladies attributable in some measure to stress and anger. Shot down over Germany in 1944, Bussel, then 19, was shipped off to a POW camp on the shore of the Baltic Sea and was subjected to the usual indignities. His Nazi captors never discovered that he was Jewish, though, and he had something of a protector in a fatherly German guard who "made some everlasting changes in the way I look at the world." The early pages of this memoir echo the work of Neil Simon, if with a slightly more exacting view of military medical inspections. Bussel writes with good humor about life in boot camp and specialist training, of minor insurrections and tensions among the enlisted and of his coming of age courtesy of a Florida ballerina turned stripper. (He ruefully reflects that he had forgotten to take along the lucky bra she had given him on the day his bomber was brought down.) Bussel told his family that he would return if the military sent them a notice that he was missing in action, and he lived up to his word. Yet he returned changed—and to a nation that was ever so slightly afraid of him. (He was turned down for a job for which he was perfectly suited because, the interviewer said, "my boss reads that you were a POW, he's going to think I hired a loony.") Bussel writes clearly and authentically about the various manifestations of what used to be called shell shock: anger, irritability, confusion, claustrophobia and years of attempts atself-medication before finding support and sobriety.

An honest account of matters once considered embarrassing—and much more common than civilians might realize, as a new generation of veterans is discovering.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781605980157
  • Publisher: Pegasus
  • Publication date: 11/8/2008
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.18 (h) x 1.07 (d)

Meet the Author

On April 29, 1944, Norman Bussel was shot down over Berlin and held prisoner at Stalag Luft. A year later, he was liberated by General Patton’s tank corps, but would spend the next several decades battling the crippling effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Bussel lives in upstate New York.
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Table of Contents

Foreword

Ch. 1 "Big B," 1944 1

Ch. 2 In Uniform, 1942 10

Ch. 3 Keesler Field 13

Ch. 4 Scott Field 19

Ch. 5 Laredo 36

Ch. 6 Memphis 43

Ch. 7 The Crew 47

Ch. 8 Queen Liz 76

Ch. 9 Germany: A Descent into Hell 95

Ch. 10 Frankfurt am Main 109

Ch. 11 Luft IV 117

Ch. 12 The Winter of Our Discontent 147

Ch. 13 Christmas 155

Ch. 14 Nuremberg: On Less than Ten Calories a Day 160

Ch. 15 Escape 167

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    Our former POWs are truly a special group of courageous men and women; while we never can repay them for their suffering and losses, at least we can treat them with the dignity and respect they so deserve.

    Thank you, Mr. Bussel! As the daughter of a former POW (my father was held captive in Korea for almost three years), I am grateful that you wrote your story. I know all too well about the devastating effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) on our veterans and their families. Unless one is affected personally, it is difficult to comprehend how damaging a war can be to one's physical, mental, and spiritual being. How foolish for anyone to believe that a war can actually be won! Not when the minds of our veterans remain "forever chained".

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    Posted January 4, 2011

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