Written by Wendy Karpel Kreitzman Friday, 03 June 2011 00:00For those who love history, for those who enjoy being transported back in time to another place, another era, Your Loving Son, Philip (“Letters From an American Solder in World War II”) is the perfect book. Compiled and edited by Great Neck’s own Helene Herzig, this book is a fascinating collection of letters written by her late husband, Philip Herzig, from his European post during World War II to his parents back home in Great Neck.
This book, the second by Helene Herzig, is as compelling as her first book, Legendary Long Islanders, an intriguing compilation of over 70 interviews with well-known and highly regarded Long Island “legends.”
Philip Herzig served in the European Theatre of Operation during World War II, having been drafted at age 19, while he was attending Princeton University. He rarely mentioned his military life, except when with wartime comrades. When he died, suddenly, in 2004, trying to cope with her loss, his wife, Helene, did some “soul searching and attic searching,” and came across a paper carton filled with the letters.
The attic in the Kensington home Philip had lived in since age 4, was the same home he shared for so many years with his wife, Helene, and their three children. Along with the long since forgotten letters were other World War II memorabilia, including combat medals. Philip Herzig had also won a Purple Heart. And he was there when Germany was liberated.
The letters to the Herzig family waiting at home in Great Neck offer a detailed record of Army life during the Second World War. Basic training, life in the infantry, it is all covered. Only “graphic pictures and descriptions of the actual fighting, killing and dying” were omitted, to protect the Herzig family. And each letter was signed “Your Loving Son, Philip.”
For those readers who live in Great Neck, the book also provides a bit of family life in Great Neck during the 1940s.
“My husband was an excellent writer,” Ms. Herzig told the Great Neck Record, “so very little editing was necessary.”
Known historian Joseph J. Ellis wrote the book’s Foreword, noting that the book “is a major memoir from the World War II generation, distinctive for its literacy, its palpable recovery of the ordinary routines amidst those extraordinary times, the distinctive voice of a coming-of-age American man-child who has been hurled into the greatest military venture of the twentieth century.” Mr. Ellis also wrote: “Within the next decade or so, Tom Brokaw’s ‘greatest generation’ will pass into history …” and this new book will “make one final effort to record their voices and enshrine their experiences for posterity.”
“This book was a labor of love,” Ms. Herzig told the Record. “These letters showed me a part of Philip’s life that I never knew.” And, so, the task of sorting, reading through, and even typing some of these letters was no chore for Helene Herzig. “I do what I love to do and it gave me a lot of pleasure doing it.”
Your Loving Son, Philip, edited by Helene Herzig, is published by Mixed Media Memoirs, Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Copies of Your Loving Son, Philip are available through Amazon.
A website is coming soon!