Saturday, May 19, 2007

Journalist Documents
Father's WWII Days
Father’s Day falls quickly on the heels of Memorial Day. One day to honor a nation’s heroes, another to honor heroes at home. Often, they are one in the same.
James Hammond’s new book, Tom’s War, chronicles his father’s days as the copilot of a B-17 Flying Fortress in World War II. Hammond, a professional journalist who has worked for the Wall Street Journal Europe and is currently at The State in Columbia, S.C., compiled information gathered from his father’s letters, interviews with relatives of the men in his father’s unit and other sources to put the book together.
“The toughest information to gather was the personal statements and recollections of the airmen. I did find letters written during the war, military records, and a very crucial diary written by my father's sister,” Hammond said. “Also, finding local historians who knew about the crashes across Europe was a challenge.”
The research, writing, editing and production of the book took about two years, and saw Hammond traveling to the Czech Republic, Belgium and England.
“In the Czech Republic and Belgium, I found local amateur historians who knew about crashes that killed friends of my father. I gathered mission records of my father's unit, the 95th Bomb Group, at the National Archives and Records Administration in College Park, Maryland,” Hammond said. “I interviewed former members of the 95th Bomb Group and the 100th Bomb Group. And I found family documents and records that shed light on my father's experience in World War II.”
Hammond’s research provided him with information about his father’s compatriots during the war, some of whom would not return.
“When I read my father's letters, which I did not see until after he died, I found the identities of two friends who died in combat. He had never mentioned them to me,” Hammond said. “I found those men's living siblings, and profiled the two dead airmen. That was particularly gratifying. Some great person once said, ‘You never die so long as someone speaks your name.’ I hope these brave young men will always live because of my research.”
Hammond chose to publish the book with iUniverse when he learned about the company from one of his interview subjects. A meeting with iUniverse personnel at a book fair in South Carolina helped seal the deal.
After going through iUniverse’s editorial and cover design evaluation, Tom’s War earned the Publisher’s Choice designation, awarded to books judged to be of superior editorial quality and featuring a cover design that holds up against traditionally-published counterparts.
“The editorial evaluation process was very helpful. The book improved because of the helpful critique. iUniverse proposed that I have their copy editor edit the manuscript. It was a good suggestion and I'm glad I paid for the service,” Hammond said. “I originally proposed an artist rendering of the photograph of my father, which was in color. But iUniverse pushed for the actual photograph, and I must say now, I think they were right. I think it is a grand cover.”
With the book now available through major online retailers including and, Hammond is beginning his marketing campaign.
“So far I have mounted a "viral" marketing campaign on the internet. We've sold some books. Next, I will be contacting book stores, contacting veterans’ groups and media outlets, and promoting it to newspapers,” Hammond said. “If things go as planned, there will be newspaper and radio stories about the book on Memorial Day weekend.”
Hammond has already met many of his goals by getting the book completed and published.
“My first goal was to produce an objective history of my father's experience. No rose color glasses. I wanted the experience warts and all. And I wanted this work of history to be written with feeling,” He said. “I believe this is an important addition to the body of literature about World War II. It is the history of an intact B-17 crew, through 35 missions, set in the context of the campaigns of their times. It also portrays what is going on back home for my father's loved ones while he was overseas in combat.”