4 out of 4 stars
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Tilly's War by Roy E. Staggs is an enlightening biography of one man’s heroic war efforts and his later struggle with Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Born in 1918 in Burkett, Coleman County, Texas, Tilleman Staggs knew hardship from a young age as he grew up during The Great Depression. In 1942, he enlisted and was inducted in the US Army in Abilene, Texas. He chose to serve in the Army Air Corps. After aerial gunnery school, he was assigned to the Raymond E. Morel crew. His assignments as a gunner would take him to combat in countries such as Italy, Romania, Austria, Germany and Hungary. By 1944, he had been in thirteen combat missions. By the end of the war, he would survive fifty missions escaping injury, POW camps and death. Back home, the effects of war would re-emerge and Tilly would struggle to drown the haunting experiences through alcoholism.
Tilly’s life story is deeply touching as it sheds light on the struggles of war veterans when returning to ordinary life. Tilly struggled to make sense of all what he had seen. He would have a hard time dealing with the haunting memories of the death of civilians who were victims of war like his own American people. Later, he would try to cope with the trauma through alcoholism which had devastating effects on his immediate family. Throughout his life, the effects of the war would play a major role in the way he lived his life and interacted with his wife and children.
I also liked that Roy E. Staggs shows the real feelings of soldiers during WWII. During his missions, there are times Tilly found it difficult to follow orders. Sometimes he would be forced to do things against his own will. He would watch masses of people die. Even though the Americans won, he remained conflicted and saddened by the death of people on both sides of the war. This reflects further on the futility of war where no party truly wins.
The author provides background details on Tilly’s missions which make it easy to understand the circumstances Tilly faced on each mission. He includes information such as the progress of the war at each stage and what each specific region faced during the war. He also includes Tilly’s feelings on various experiences. An example is an inclusion of Tilly’s concerns regarding the suffering of the Italians when he was assigned in the region.
The book is heavy with details and I felt that some would have been left out. Still, it is an amazing read that readers interested in biographies set in World War II will enjoy. The book may not be suitable for readers who do not enjoy reading war stories and the effects of war. Tilly's War is engaging, informative and emotionally touching. I rate it 4 out of 4 stars.
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