WWII Radio Heroes:
Letters of Compassion

"a great story untold until now..."
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REVIEWS of WWII Radio Heroes

(partial) World War II Radio Heroes is a fascinating history of a grassroots campaign to bring comfort to families of POWs during WWII. ... [the book offers] a glimpse of the patriotism, compassion and resourcefulness of everyday Americans during one of our country's greatest crises.
-Steve Sant Andrea, WB2GYK, QST Magazine

The kindness of strangers is evident in the efforts of each individual engaged in POW Monitoring, their dedication provided comfort to so many at a very difficult time. This book serves as fitting tribute to individuals who made a difference in the lives of so many. They brought hope, relief and above all compassion to the families of service men and women fighting for our freedom. Clearly, the loyal listeners and relayers made a difference in the lives of so many and they are truly heroes. These heroes are aptly honored within this book for their letters of compassion.
-Fran Hackett, Member, Advisory Committee on OIF/OEF Veterans and Their Families


Lisa Spahr’s book WWII Radio Heroes: Letters of Compassion struck a particular chord with me since among my most prized possessions is a 1943 letter written by a 21-year old Marine Corporal from a Pacific island to his newborn baby girl—me! Wartime letters are very special, and those Lisa writes about—the caring attempts of strangers to notify mothers, fathers, wives, and sweethearts that their loved ones were alive and prisoners of war—are among the most special I’ve read. I recommend it highly to anyone who has served, as well as anyone who has waited in anxiety while a loved one served in harm’s way on a hostile shore.
-Reverend Mitzi Manning, Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps Retired

 
Thank you very much for allowing me to review your manuscript entitled “World War II Radio Heroes – Letters of Compassion” and thank you for investing your time, energy and enthusiasm into compiling this fascinating story. I expect that many people have never heard the heartwarming story of the men and women across America who regularly monitored Nazi short-wave broadcasts to learn the fate of American GIs taken prisoner by the Germans. After sorting the information out from the crackle of atmospherics and man-made interference, these great folks would pass the information on to the loved ones back home. What a great story! The 69 post-cards and letters which your great-grandmother received reporting on your grandfather’s capture were poignant commentaries about folks unknown to Robert Spahr or your great-grandmother who played such a compassionate role during the war. I can only imagine how your great-grandmother felt each time she received one of those cards or letters. I hope each buoyed her up, reminding her that her son was alive and no longer involved in combat.

As a life-long amateur radio operator (Ham), veteran, and child of the 40’s, I’m glad to learn this fascinating story of your family and the folks who made sure that “no POW family would go without notice.” You’ve added a valuable dimension to the story of the many ways in which Americans contributed to the World War II effort.
-
Honorable Charles L. Cragin, Former Chairman, Board of Veterans’ Appeals and Senior Defense Official

Lisa Spahr's Radio Heroes bears witness to the kindness and patriotism of a mostly forgotten band of short-wave listeners and amateur radio operators who monitored Nazi Germany's radio broadcasts for news of captured U.S. service personnel, passing on information and hope to the families of the missing. It is a very personal story of discovery, beginning with her grandfather's "war trunk" and growing into a search for those few remaining Radio Heroes who had written so many Letters of Compassion.
- James Walrath, Ph.D. K3BEN

World War II Radio Heroes: Letters of Compassion is an unprecedented book to read by anyone interested in understanding the greatest generation. While reading it, I was touched by how compassionate the men, women and children who listened to short-wave radios were to the families of prisoners of war. Sharing information with family members yearning for word about their heroes serving overseas was vital in World War II. This compelling work emotes the author's love of country and pride in her grandfather's story. No matter how you feel about war, you can't help but to enjoy reading this inspiring book about the Spahr family's sacrifice.
- Donn Nemchick, Columnist, National Veteran Owned Business Assoc., and 2007 Western PA. Veteran's Small Business Champion

This is a wonderful and truly inspiring story of the greatest generation. I was blown away by the kindness and basic decency of these people who would make the effort to contact Ms. Spahr's great-grandmother. I wish that spirit was alive today.
- Raymond N. Becki, former critic for New York at Night Magazine, Public Information Officer (retired), U.S. Small Business Administration, Pittsburgh, PA

What more can we possibly learn about World War II? Movies, documentaries, and books by the thousands have been created over the 60 plus years since the war’s end. Yet Lisa Spahr has re-discovered a compelling part of the war that has received little attention. Compelling because it captures the best characteristics of Americans: energy, compassion and freedom. Americans cannot sit still. We conquered a continent, defeated empires and built the greatest country in history because of our boundless energy. World War II Radio Heroes tells the story of how thousands of Americans stayed awake by shortwave radios throughout the night, wrote down the names of captured POWs broadcast by the Germans, and wrote postcards, letters and telegrams to the prisoners’ worried families. The book perfectly captures the particular brand of energy that makes Europeans roll their eyes but that makes us distinctly American. But we’re not just a bunch of selfish people focusing solely on what’s in front of us. We use our energy for the greater good. The war touched every American family in one way shape or form, from rationing, to air raid drills to the draft. We were all in this together. Virtually every male relative on both sides of my family of a certain age served in World War II, and the war was a major event in both families, as it was for all their neighbors and fellow citizens. Broadcasts from or about a POW touched all who listened because that could be their son or their brother in the hands of the enemy. Hearing the broadcast compelled thousands to do something, even to form organizations, to systematically get word to the families that their loved ones were safe. This compassion that Americans feel for each other is what drove them to listen and act on these broadcasts even though the government discouraged them to. And that gets us to the most important characteristic of Americans that Lisa’s story highlights: how Americans exercise their freedom. The primary purpose of these enemy radio broadcasts was to undermine the moral of the American people. Today we’d call it Information Operations or Psychological Operations. Propaganda was a weapon, plain and simple, and the best way to avoid any risk of it having an effect was to turn off the radio and not listen. And that’s what government bureaucrats recommended. But this wasn’t Nazi Germany and Americans weren’t Germans. Americans are free, and even when Americans give up some rights as they do during wartime, they have little patience for being treated like children by their government. The most heartening aspect ofthis story is that it displays The Greatest Generation ignoring governments and doing the right thing. They ignored the propaganda embedded in the broadcasts because they recognized it for what it was. However, they captured the golden nuggets in the broadcasts, the bits of information and recordings of their fellow citizens who were POWs. Not only that, but they formed organizations, that most American of activities, to better monitor the broadcasts and get the word to family members.

Lisa’s book captures Americans at their best. You can sense in the letters that Americans at that time wanted to win the war, and they wanted to win it as soon as possible. Why? Because they wanted it over. They wanted their boys to come home. World War II Radio Heroes brings to life this almost forgotten story about World War II, and shows Americans for what they are: an energetic, compassionate and free people.
-Matt Puglisi, Gulf WarVeteran, U.S. Marine Corps Reserves



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