World War II
For the section on World War II, McMurry interviewed about 45 local veterans, including some who have died since the interviews.
She said that even though she grew up at that time, she has ended up doing most of her background research on World War II. The focus in Britain was on the war in Europe, she said, so she felt she had to educate herself on the war in the Pacific to understand local veterans’ stories. She also feels she has a special obligation to get the section about World War II right.
“I don’t want to let down the men who have opened up to me, because I love them and respect them,” she said.
McMurry said getting veterans to talk about their experiences wasn’t easy at first.
“When you go and talk to them, they say, ‘I did nothing, it’s the guys we left on the battlefield that did something,’” she said.
But McMurry said she has found extraordinary links between local people and world events, including five men who were in the first wave at Normandy and amazingly were not killed.
“Omar Bradley, who was the general in charge of the land troops, said anybody who landed the first day on Omaha Beach is a national hero,” McMurry said. “And they were these people from Centerville, and they don’t tell their stories.”
Lisa Eddy, the curator of the Appanoose County Historical and Coal Mining Museum, has been helping McMurry with research and typing. She said what McMurry is doing is unique.
“It’s one community’s vision of U.S. history as opposed to just the history of one location,” Eddy said.
She agreed with McMurry that the history of coal mining made Appanoose County a special place.
“There are not a lot of people who know how extraordinary Appanoose County is, and if they did I think they’d be more proud to live here,” Eddy said. “I know kids are always trying to grow up and move away, but if they were proud of their hometown they might want to come back and live here again.”
This will be McMurry’s second book. Her first, “Hearst’s Other Castle,” was published in 1999 by a small Welsh publishing house. It was about St. Donat’s, a Welsh castle owned by William Randolph Hearst, who built the Hearst Castle near San Simeon, Calif. McMurry’s father was the electrical engineer for St. Donat’s.