William Wharton died in 2008, but the memoir he wrote about his experiences in World War II will live forever. These are intimate letters, personal and unfiltered. He reminds the audience that many of his stories were kept secret, even from his family; his book was released posthumously. Shrapnel is a short work but nevertheless a strong and robust accounting of his relationships, fighting experience, and deepest sentiments. He never wanted to be a soldier, never felt compelled to throw himself in harm’s way, but regardless became a decorated veteran.
I must admit, I had doubts about reading about WWII from a personal perspective. However, this is a rare and candid portrayal of war, unembellished and humble. I am impressed with the author’s storytelling ability, as each page compels the reader to continue. Although there are many WWII books available in print, Shrapnel should be required reading for any students of American history. It is at once shockingly modest and highly inspirational. Wharton bares his soul and shows how the war theater played out as one of America’s greatest tragedies.