1943. The Allies have captured Tripoli from the Italian forces. The Germans have surrendered at Stalingrad. And the British suddenly find themselves with hundreds of thousands of prisoners of war without the ability to feed and house them. The solution? Send more than 350,000 prisoners of war to the United States. Lieutenant Tom Gregory-whose family came from Italy-is assigned the responsibility for opening and running a camp for Italian POWs. The new camp is set smack dab in tiny Weleetka, Oklahoma in a spot ...
1943. The Allies have captured Tripoli from the Italian forces. The Germans have surrendered at Stalingrad. And the British suddenly find themselves with hundreds of thousands of prisoners of war without the ability to feed and house them. The solution? Send more than 350,000 prisoners of war to the United States. Lieutenant Tom Gregory-whose family came from Italy-is assigned the responsibility for opening and running a camp for Italian POWs. The new camp is set smack dab in tiny Weleetka, Oklahoma in a spot named Chigger Lake. Although German prisoners tended to be well-disciplined, the boisterous, fun-loving and decidedly un-soldierly Italians proved another matter entirely. Lieutenant Tom Gregory is aided in his task by a motley cast of characters: Floyd Breedlove, the handyman who introduces Tom and his friends to the culture of the Creek Indians; Private Murray Lipton, the high strung boy genius; Oklahoma Garland, the no-nonsense owner of the local newspaper; Vito D'Amico, the POW born in Italy, raised in Brooklyn, then drafted and stuck between both allegiances; and Lieutenant Connie Ballard, the nurse who winds up taking Tom's heart prisoner. During his days at Camp Chigger Lake, Tom learns that most of the Italian prisoners, forced into service by Mussolini, are actually quite happy to be in America; that many Italian-Americans are less than enthusiastic about how their own country treated them; and that sometimes the wrong people are found outside the prison walls.
[A] superbly researched and highly interesting account of Italian prisoners of war in Oklahoma during World War II. The result is a moving story of the middle-American home front during the only war of the twentieth century Americans still remember fondly.
[A]ttention to detail is the story’s greatest strength, the author’s research enriching the fabric of the tale without calling undue attention to itself.... you can feel you are there.
It's 1863, and the United States is in the midst of the Civil War when mixed-blood Jack Gaston is called back from Harvard University to his beloved Creek Nation. He is surprised to find that not only has he been elected to be a chief in the House of Warriors, he has also been conscripted as an officer in the Confederate Army. Gaston soon learns that the Civil War in Indian Territory is more than Confederate against Federal—it is tribe against tribe and family against family.
Gaston takes part in most of the major battles of the brutal and bloody conflict, fighting alongside such great Indian army leaders as Stand Watie, Chilly McIntosh, and George Grayson. In trying to reunite his strife-torn people, Gaston discovers an Indian inside himself he didn't know existed. And among the burnt-out stubble of war, he finds love with the Mexican-Apache nurse Bonita Ochoa.
This little-known corner of the Civil War was played out in the fields of the Creek Nation in what is now eastern Oklahoma. In a rich portrayal of period and place, The Confederate War Bonnet is an evocative historical novel that helps to answer how Indians became involved in the Civil War, why they joined Confederate forces, and how the experience shaped their future in America.
Jack Shakely is a fourth-generation Oklahoman and journalist. He is of Creek (Muscogee) descent, but has as Will Rogers said, more than enough white blood not to be trusted. He served on the Los Angeles City and County Native American Indian Commission for six years, and was the commission chair from 1994 to 1996. His family owned newspapers in the Oklahoma towns of Okemah, Okmulgee, Tahlequah, Weleetka, Dustin and Hanna. For twenty-five years he was president of the California Community Foundation in Los Angeles, and has written hundreds of essays, editorials and articles that have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, Foundation News and others. His first novel was The Confederate War Bonnet.