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One Soldier's Story: A Memoir

One Soldier's Story: A Memoir

4.4 5
by Bob Dole

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Before he became one of America's most respected statesmen, Bob Dole was an average citizen serving heroically for his country. The bravery he showed after suffering near-fatal injuries in the final days of World War II is the stuff of legend. Now, for the first time in his own words, Dole tells the moving story of his harrowing experience on and off the


Before he became one of America's most respected statesmen, Bob Dole was an average citizen serving heroically for his country. The bravery he showed after suffering near-fatal injuries in the final days of World War II is the stuff of legend. Now, for the first time in his own words, Dole tells the moving story of his harrowing experience on and off the battlefield, and how it changed his life.

Speaking here not as a politician but as a wounded G.I., Dole recounts his own odyssey of courage and sacrifice, and also honors the fighting spirit of the countless heroes with whom he served. Heartfelt and inspiring, One Soldier's Story is the World War II chronicle that America has been waiting for.

Editorial Reviews

In early 1942, Kansan Bob Dole joined the U.S. Army. By April, he was already in Italy, fighting Nazi holdouts in the rocky hills. Crawling out of a foxhole to assist a wounded soldier, Lt. Dole was hit by enemy machine-gun fire. Badly wounded, he lay stranded on the battlefield for nine hours before he could be evacuated. Medics did not expect him to live, but he survived and was shipped back home to a military hospital. There, doctors decided that his right arm was damaged too severely to ever be fully functional, and Dole was forced to learn to write with his left hand. After receiving two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star, he began a painful recuperation that took years. In One Soldier's Story, the former U.S. senator and presidential candidate describes his short war and long recovery.
William Grimes
One Soldier's Story is really two stories, plainly told, with a generous sprinkling of family letters. The first is a harrowing tale of wartime courage and suffering. But Mr. Dole devotes nearly as much attention to describing his childhood years in Russell, which he describes as "a quintessential Midwestern community, a picture postcard of rustic values and plainspoken wisdom." Heartfelt and highly idealized, this picture of small-town life in the Midwest before the war takes on a kind of mythic power. Mr. Dole held tight to his all-American vision throughout his ordeal, and indeed, has rarely failed to mention Russell - its people and its values - when articulating his political philosophy or his personal struggles.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
This affecting memoir chronicles the Republican senator's arduous coming of age through the early 1950s. After a poor but for him idyllic childhood in Russell, Kans., Dole arrived at college and then the army during World War II a sunny, callow young man; his letters home-many reprinted here-are preoccupied with Mom's cooking, college sports and fraternity hijinks. The story darkens and deepens when he is sent to Italy and, near the end of the war, gravely wounded by a German shell blast that leaves him all but paralyzed with spinal cord damage and a maimed shoulder. The bulk of the book is taken up with Dole's agonizing three-year convalescence. His restrained but poignant account details his painfully slow struggle to regain the use of his legs and arms, the strain put on his family by his physical helplessness and his reluctant coming to terms with the ruin of his once handsome and athletic body. The book is very much a political autobiography, full of tributes to faith, family and hard work, but the harrowing experiences that put these ideals to the test elevate Dole's memoir above mere boilerplate. Photos. (Apr. 12) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In April 1945, three weeks before Germany surrendered in World War II, 21-year-old Lt. Robert Dole suffered near-fatal wounds to his shoulder and spinal cord from German machine-gun fire as he tried to pull his radioman to safety. In this often moving book, based on the 300 letters Dole exchanged with his family, he tells the story of his three-year ordeal to relearn how to walk and use his arms. In addition, he describes his childhood in Russell, KS, and his years as a three-sport athlete at Kansas University. While being treated at Percy Jones Army Medical Hospital in Michigan, he began lifelong friendships with fellow war heroes Phillip Hart and Daniel Inouye, who would become fellow senators as well. Dole largely attributes his remarkable recovery, which included two near-death infections and nine operations, to his faith, the values instilled by his parents, and his sense of humor. He concludes with his poignant tribute to the World War II generation at the 2004 dedication of the World War II Memorial in Washington, DC. Writing without the anger about inferior medical care for veterans that distinguishes Ron Kovic's Vietnam memoir, Born on the Fourth of July, Dole has produced a journal of hope and recovery that will resonate with its readers. Highly recommended for public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 12/04.]-Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, PA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Sixty years after the fact, the former senator and presidential candidate recounts the wartime incident that left him wounded for life-and that gave him "a ferocious determination to take the next step." At the outset of this nicely written memoir, Dole protests that the handle "the greatest generation" is not one that his generation claimed for itself. "Truth be told," he says, "we were ordinary Americans fated to confront extraordinary tests. Every generation of young men and women who dare face the realities of war . . . is the greatest generation." He warms up to the title in time, however, while recalling a poor childhood on the Kansas plains, made more complicated by the arrival of the Depression; by the time he arrived in Italy as a new lieutenant, he had already faced plenty of character-building tests. Dole, whom later parodists have portrayed as being thin-skinned, admits to being a little put off early on at not being embraced by the mountain troops under his command; but, considering the low life expectancy of field unit commanders, he reckons, "No wonder the forty or so men of the 2nd Platoon didn't go out of their way to get to know me when I arrived. They figured I wouldn't be around long." They were right: while assaulting Hill 913 on the German line on April 14, 1945, Dole was severely wounded by a high-explosive shell fragment, with multiple injuries to his upper body. His account of the years-long process of recovery takes up much of his story, and Dole delivers it with grace and economy: he writes movingly, for instance, that he has viewed his full body in a mirror fewer than half a dozen times in 60 years ("I don't need any more reminders"), and he offers, without atrace of mawkishness, a fine brief on what the Rodgers and Hammerstein song "You'll Never Walk Alone" means to him. For all his reluctance to lay claim to hero or greatest-generation status, Dole deserves accolades. So, too, does his memoir. Author tour

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HarperCollins Publishers
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One Soldier's Story LP
A Memoir

Chapter One

What A Life

He looked so young, just a boy, really, not much more than twenty-one years of age. It wasn't fair that he'd already experienced so much pain and misery in his short lifetime. It wasn't right that his lofty hopes and dreams for the future had been snuffed out by one blast from an enemy explosive device.

But there he was, in the intensive care unit at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, in Washington, D.C., fighting for his life.

My wife, Elizabeth, and I often visit wounded soldiers at Walter Reed, but this occasion was different. It was Christmas day 2004, and I was about to be discharged from the hospital myself. I had recently undergone surgery in New York, and had been transferred to the medical center in Washington to recuperate.

We were in the dining room shortly before two o'clock, visiting with several young soldiers who had been wounded in the Iraq war, when a mother and daughter spied us. They approached us and introduced themselves as distant relatives of my family. The mother then told us about her son, Craig Nelson, the young man in whose room I now stood. My friend Dr. Charles "Chuck" Peck had informed me of Craig's presence in the hospital, and I had hoped to see him before I left, so the encounter seemed almost providential.

Craig had been badly wounded while on patrol in Iraq a week or so before Christmas. He suffered severe damage to his C-1 vertebra and was paralyzed from his neck down. Now lying in an intensive care unit at Walter Reed, he couldn't move a muscle. He was hooked up to all sorts of medical machines, with various tubes running to his body, an electrocardiogram monitoring his heart, a respirator helping him to breathe, and a tracheotomy in his throat.

Nevertheless, the young man's eyes brightened as I stepped up to his bedside. His mother introduced us: "Craig, this is Bob Dole." Craig's sister joined us around the bed. Craig couldn't speak, but he could hear me and seemed to respond with his eyes.

Looking at Craig, I felt a wave of emotion sweep over me, nearly overwhelming me. It was like seeing a mirror image of myself sixty years earlier. He was tall and muscular, about six feet, one and a half inches, and about 185 pounds, almost identical to my World War II height and weight. For a moment I was back there, in a similar hospital bed, encased in plaster, unable to move, paralyzed from the neck down.

I just stood there at Craig's bedside. I could feel my heart thumping loudly in my chest, my emotions rushing to the surface. I knew the tough road Craig had before him -- and his condition was far worse than mine had been.

I reached out my hand -- my left hand -- touched the soldier's arm, and said, "Good luck, Craig. You're in a great hospital. They'll take good care of you." We stayed only about five minutes.

I looked the young man in the eyes one more time, then turned to his mother, put my arm around her shoulder, and said, "We'll pray for Craig's recovery. Please let me know if I can help."

Unfortunately, a few days later Craig Nelson, another American hero, passed away. I grieved for that family and became more determined that this book would do something to help others understand their pain -- and the trauma that so many others have endured because of war.

I've seen these kids in the hospitals and out, people who face seemingly impossible challenges, and I've seen myself in them. Whatever reassurance, hope, and inspiration I can offer them comes out of my own life experiences.

It's said often that my generation is the greatest generation. That's not a title we claimed for ourselves. Truth be told, we were ordinary Americans fated to confront extraordinary tests. Every generation of young men and women who dare to face the realities of war -- fighting for freedom, defending our country, with a willingness to lay their lives on the line -- is the greatest generation.

In the end, what gets people through a physical or emotional crisis is not new technology or medication. Those things can help, of course. But it's faith that gives you the strength to endure -- faith that won't allow you to give up; faith that manifests itself in a ferocious determination to take the next step -- the one that everyone else says is impossible.

Adversity can be a harsh teacher. But its lessons often define our lives. As much as we may wish that we could go back and relive them, do things differently, make better, wiser decisions, we can't change history. War is like that. You can rewrite it, attempt to infuse it with your own personal opinions, twist or spin it to make it more palatable, but eventually the truth will come out. Those pivotal moments remain indelibly impressed in your heart and mind. For me, the defining period in my life was not running for the highest office in the land. It started years earlier, in a foreign country, where hardly anyone knew my name.

Dear Mom and Dad,

What a life! I can hardly believe that I'm living in such a wonderful place. My rest is about over, but I've really enjoyed myself so far. I'm going on a tour this afternoon, also one tomorrow morning. I should see about everything when I'm finished.

The radio is playing. It reminds me of the times that I've been home playing Norma Jean's records. So far I haven't heard any records by Frank Sinatra. I guess he isn't too popular over here.

The war news really sounds good. I guess Russia plans on helping us with Japan. Keep your eyes on the news for big things to happen.

Had a fine breakfast this morning, scrambled eggs, bacon, tomato juice, toast and coffee. I sure miss my quart of milk per day. Tell Aunt Mildred to be sure to save some for Kenny and me when we get home.

I ran into a Lt. in Eugene's camp only yesterday but still haven't seen Eugene.

So bye for now


One Soldier's Story LP
A Memoir
. Copyright © by Bob Dole. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Bob Dole served in the U.S. Senate for twenty-seven years and was the Republican Leader for twelve years. He was the Chairman of the Republican National Committee under the Presidency of Richard Nixon, the 1976 Republican nominee for Vice President with Gerald Ford, and the 1996 Republican nominee for President. He was also the Chairman of the National World War II Memorial.

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One Soldier's Story: A Memoir 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In his usual laconic, ah-shucks kind of way, Sen. Bob Dole tells the story of his life, the real reason he says his parents and Russell, Kansas were the great influences on his life and means it. The story is harrowing without being maudlin, the recovery nothing short of amazing. So is the man.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I wanted to love this book, I really did. The first half was engaging but, I had to push myself to get to the end. Dole's life is certainly filled with accomplishment and courage, it just seemed to me that his editors might have been more mindful of the pacing. Far too often, this book plods.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Senator Bob Dole is one of the great leaders of our time. His very well written and inspirational book sheds much light on his upbrining as well as his trials and tribulations that have lead him to be who he is today. Dole is a true American Legend as well as Hero.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Literally just ten minutes ago I finishied Bob Dole's amazing piece of work. You get a front seat into his story that will impact you and make you aprecaite even more what the 'Great Generation' went through and had to overcome as a result. This is no way is a political book or particin work. It is simply a personal memoir that we can ALL enjoy and gain inspiration from.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I picked the book up after a review from former Senator Bob Kerrey in the Boston Globe. I decided to read a few chapters, couldn't put it down. It such an inspirational book. I really never knew just how bad his WWII injuries were and what it took to overcome them. It's a must read.
Guest More than 1 year ago