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November 6, 2013

Greatest generation: Author to speak at Logan-Cass library

WWII hobby turns to expertise for Lafayette physician.

What began as a Lafayette physician’s curiosity about his uncle’s service in World War II has developed into an extensive knowledge of the war’s Pacific Theatre, a portion of which will be available to visitors at the Logansport-Cass County Public Library Saturday.

For more than a decade, Dr. John C. Shively has been interviewing veterans, poring over research, traveling to national archives and making yearly trips to WWII battle sites in the Pacific. It’s all led to the publication of two books on the eastern portion of the war, with much of their content drawn from the personal experiences of Indiana veterans.

Shively will be signing books and giving a presentation on the subject that went from hobby to expertise at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Logansport-Cass County Library, 616 E. Broadway.

He recalls his interest first sparking on the topic in 1999 after reading two books: “The Greatest Generation” by Tom Brokaw, titled after the moniker given to those who lived during WWII, and “Flags of Our Fathers” by James Bradley, about the U.S. servicemen in the famous photograph raising an American flag in Iwo Jima in 1945.

Knowing his uncle, Jim Craig, served in the U.S. Marines during the battle of Iwo Jima but never hearing much about it from him, Shively decided to ask him about his experiences there.

“Immediately the stories started flowing out,” Shively said.

He spent the next few years recording talks with the former platoon commander and researching what would become the background to the recollections. In 2002, Shively traveled to Iwo Jima on the only day of the year Americans are allowed as dictated by a treaty between the U.S. and Japan.

Shively wrote it all down “with the intent it would only be for family.”

After lending it to a couple Marine friends who told him he should try to publish it however, he attempted just that. Shortly thereafter, “The Last Lieutenant: A Foxhole View of the Epic Battle for Iwo Jima” hit the shelves, published by Indiana University Press and later picked up by Penguin Group.

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