Donald Anderson, a former U.S. Air Force officer, has compiled a haunting anthology of personal essays and short memoirs that span more than 100 years of warfare. Alvord White Clements—himself a veteran of the Second World War—introduces his grandfather Isaac N. Clements’s Civil War memoir; the novelist Paul West writes of his father, a British veteran of World War I, as well as of his own boyhood recollections of the London Blitz. John Wolfe details the life-changing and life-threatening injuries he sustained in Vietnam and the hallucinations he experienced afterward. Second Gulf War veteran Jason Armagost traces his journey to Iraq through the history of literature and the books he brought with him to the war zone.

The thirteen essays in When War Becomes Personal tell the enduring truths of battle, stripping away much of the romance, myth, and fantasy. Soldiers more than anyone know what they are capable of destroying; when they write about war, they are trying to preserve the world.

“Donald Anderson's When War Becomes Personal spans much of America's wartime history. Too often, the anonymity of the uniform depersonalizes the individual soldier while history is recorded in the words, decisions, and actions of presidents and generals. Anderson brings us the boots in the mud, the pilot flying into battle, the brave and heavy heart of the nurse. These personal narratives grant us insights into disparate combat experiences—experiences that resonate with one another across battlefields and across generations. I will return to this collection many times over the years and I will be giving copies to veterans in my family as well as those who have never served in uniform. It is one of those rare books written in the tradition of great literature while being grounded in the experiences of those who have crossed the line of departure and ventured into a combat zone. Highly recommended."—Brian Turner, author, Here, Bullet
“At no time in our history have we needed more to talk and think about war and its connections to our culture, arts, and soul. These essays are memorable testimony to the courage, contradictions, loss, and humanity of so many lives and the truths of our complex history interpreted by memory and imagination.”—Robert Morgan, author, Brave Enemies and Boone: A Biography
When War Becomes Personal puts a human face on the experience and the consequences of war, draws attention to the similarities in the human dimensions regardless of the particular war, and brings grace and meaning to that most chaotic and destructive of human endeavors. This book will appeal to anyone interested in war literature, and it certainly ought to appeal to anyone who appreciates good writing.”—W. D. Ehrhart, author, The Madness of It All: Essays on War, Literature, and American Life, coeditor, Retrieving Bones: Stories and Poems of the Korean War
“This book is an essential, and not simply for the reader of military history. What we have in this extraordinary collection is a reminder that the history of war, in all its vitality and necessity, still requires the potent voices of experience to offer any hope of understanding who we are. From the battlefields of the Civil War to the streets of Baghdad, these essays are the face of war rendered from that place where the human heart seeks to understand the meaning of courage beyond logic and loss beyond measure. In the end, the story of war is always the story of who we are at any given point in time, of why we believe what we do, and why we place our souls at risk. The essays collected here tell this story with humanity and lyricism and a cumulative power that makes When War Becomes Personal necessary reading.”—Richard Currey, author, Fatal Light and Crossing Over: The Vietnam Stories

War, Memory, Imagination: A Prologue by Donald Anderson

Visions of War, Dreams of Peace: A Conversation with Joan A. Furey

A Civil War Memoir by Isaac N. Clements

My Chickamauga by James H. Meredith

My Father at War by Paul West

Hang the Enola Gay by Alfred Kern

A Boy’s Blitz by Paul West

Notes from Ban Me Thuot by Joseph T. Cox

A Different Species of Time by John Wolfe

Voices by William Newmiller

A Boatman’s Story by Robert MacGowan

Shadow Soldier by Donald Clay

Wandering Souls by Wayne Karlin

Quarry by Doug Heckman

Things to Pack When You’re Bound for Baghdad by Jason Armagost

Canon Fodder: An Epilogue by Dale Ritterbusch


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Publication Details

Publication Date
Pages, art, trim size
258 pages, 6 x 9 inches