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Although my father, John Matzko, kept a diary for most of his life and enjoyed writing personal letters, this manuscript was his only attempt at sustained narrative. There were practical reasons for the project. The Army frowned on diary-keeping, and letters written from overseas were censored. But Dad also understood, even before induction, that military service would dramatically change the life of an unmarried thirty-year-old who had never been away from home for more than three days at a time.

Dad's narrative is not great art, but it contains the important components of literary structure, a story with beginning, development, and climax. (Fortunately for both of us, it also has a happy ending.) The memoir includes much that is familiar to any veteran, but there are also elements less common: gentle irony, self-deprecation, and an abundant measure of human sympathy. Most importantly, Dad writes with candor. Like all good autobiography, his memoir reveals a unique personality with all its strengths and weaknesses.

About the text:

Dad wrote his memoirs at the end of the war and then revised them thirty years later. They are clearly based on earlier notes. Chapters Two through Nine exist both as a manuscript-handwritten in pen on 97 sheets of lined notebook paper-and as a typescript. Chapter 1, outlining his family background and prewar experiences, was written in the 1970s. This edition derives from the typewritten revision, largely because it had already been keyboarded into a computer by Darlene Wittman Matzko. There are differences between the two manuscripts, usually stylistic but occasionally substantive.

My editing, while casual and unprofessional, is, I believe, true to Dad's intent. For a man with a sketchy seventh-grade education whose first language was German, Dad wrote remarkably good English. I have let him speak for himself. Nevertheless, I have expanded most abbreviations and normalized spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and some of the syntax. The title, the chapter divisions, and most of the paragraphing are mine. Some changes were made silently and others with bracketed words. I made proportionally more changes toward the end, especially in Chapter Nine where the manuscript becomes more of a diary.

I appreciate the willingness of Al Konschak to post Dad's memoir on his web site. I would be happy to receive comments, questions, and suggestions.

John A. Matzko
Bob Jones University
Greenville, SC 29614

And now to chapter 1