August 29, 2014

Barbara Hawkins' Behind the Forgotten Front: A WWII Novel - Spotlight

Author Name: Barbara Hawkins
Title of Book: Behind the Forgotten Front
ISBN: 978-0-9915984-1-0
Pages: 335
Publisher: Self Published
Publication Date: August 22, 2014
Genre: WWII Historical Fiction Novel on the China-Burma-India Front (Forgotten Front)
Cover Design: Aidana WillowRaven
Special Note: 2015 will be the 70th Anniversaries of VE and VJ Day

About the author
Barbara Hawkins holds BS degrees from the University of Minnesota where she studied Botany and Mathematics. From there she traveled to jungles in Latin America collecting plant specimens for several universities. She also has a MS in Civil Engineering from California State University. For the last twenty-five-years she worked as a professional engineer. Her hobbies vary from cooking and yoga to bicycling and adventure travel.

About the book
It’s 1942 and Harry Flynn leaves behind the love of his life to journey into a world of tigers, elephants, and Himalayan Mountains. Here he must take risks if he is to survive. He enlists to fight in the war, expecting to find the thrill of danger and honor of military service. Instead of a fighting position, Harry is sent to the Forgotten Front in the Indian subcontinent as an ordinary supply officer. There, General Joseph ‘Vinegar Joe’ Stilwell is constructing a ‘road to nowhere’ through Japanese-occupied Burma. The general will do anything to get the road built.

Harry forges unlikely friendships in this strange world. He’s also forced to obey orders that challenge his principles and is torn between being true to himself or ‘no man at all.’ Not willing to let Uncle Sam needlessly condemn the road crew to death, he rebels.

He tries to sabotage the road’s progress where an all-black construction regiment is losing a man a mile due to disease and crumbling lopes. Then a commanding officer spots his unconventional skills. Immediately he’s transferred to America’s first guerrilla-supported unit: Merrill’s Marauders and later the Mars Task Force. Here, he must entrust his life to others. During a time when boys were forced to come of age on the battlefield, Harry must find what makes his life worth living or die.

‘One of a kind’ commentary
The lessons learned in World War II apply to all wars, where men walk away carrying unspeakable memories and ‘lives that could have been’ haunt those that lived. Behind the Forgotten Front brings them all back to life and shows that history is about facts driven by passions and sometimes the mistakes or real people.

General Joseph Stilwell 
“Attention!” A soldier in a crisp, clean uniform stands at the entrance to the mess hall at full salute. A General and Colonel enter the building.

Chairs tip over and tin cups drop to the floor as everyone pushes themselves to standing. The joking banter silences.

“I don’t give a damn if the Brits think building this road is a laborious task, unlikely to be finished until the need for it has passed. We know how to win wars. And flying the HUMP just isn’t enough. Who do they think we are—one of their bloody colonies?” The grizzled General, sporting a razor-edged crew-cut and biting down on a long, black cigarette holder, barks at the younger, pipe-smoking Colonel. Both are absorbed in their heated conversation and walk past the soldiers as though they’re ghosts.

“At ease, men,” the older general says as an afterthought. “We’re fighting a war. So dispense with all the jumping up and down business.”

Father James Stuart
Father Stuart’s brogue pulls my mind back to the Easter evening’s sermon. “Lads, the cold, the hunger, the sickness,and the fatigue ye have suffered has changed ye into men. Tis a tough way to become a man, fighting the crusades of others.It’s the ordinary man, trapped between earth and hell, who wins the war. And, while we can’t choose when we die, let ourdeath be worth our lives.”

In front of the gathering lies a field of wounded men, their tortured eyes holding tough questions for God. I thinkof those who didn’t make it and wonder why I was spared.

“But let God open yer eyes to the beauty that refuses to surrender.” With a sweeping arc, the priest encompasseseverything within the hills and valleys. Silver-tipped fruit pigeons swoop in for an evening’s meal, cooing gently. Perfumed,yellow-fringed flowers rustle with the leaves.

With that, the priest steps down from the altar to the injured. As he moves among them, he finishes the sermon with,“Let the war wait! Let us rejoice in life today! And tomorrow, give the Japs a good kick in the ass. In the name of God. Amen.”

Lt. Jack Knight 
“Ain’t that disrespectful, the way them little, tiny temples have been smashed up?” Lieutenant Jack Knight drawls. Knight, a newcomer with the 5332nd from the 124th Calvary Regiment, was recently assigned to Burma.

“War values nothing but victory,” Mr. Doyer answers.

“Yep,” Knight says; his gentle twang easy on my ears. “But we can’t take credit for our wins if we don’t accept the blame for our failures.”

Knight’s a plain-talking guy. Despite his intense, narrow eyes; his Slavic nose; and thin lips—all giving the impression of a high-level predator—he’s a likable guy. He came from a family with a strong sense of patriotic duty, and proudly introduced himself by saying, “If I can’t live with glory for my country, I don’t want to live without it.”

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