Cover image for My war : a love story in letters and drawings
My war : a love story in letters and drawings
Sugarman, Tracy, 1921-2013.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Random House , [2000]

Physical Description:
191 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
D811 .S9 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



On December 7, 1941, when the Japanese were bombing Pearl Harbor, Tracy Sugarman was a young man studying to be an illustrator--and falling in love with a tawny-haired girl named June. But for Tracy, as for all Americans, everything changed that December dawn.         Two years later, now married to June, Tracy was on a troopship bound for England, part of the massive Allied buildup for the liberation of Europe. On D-Day he landed on Utah Beach, one young ensign in the greatest military invasion in history.         But Tracy Sugarman was not only a sailor. He was also an artist, who chronicled every aspect of his war in watercolors and sketches and in more than four hundred letters to his wife, who carefully saved everything her new husband sent her. Fifty years later, June Sugarman astonished her husband by showing him his long-forgotten pictures and words: lush watercolors and pen-and-ink drawings set down with breathtaking immediacy in the midst of war, and letters in which the young man poured out his feelings--about the terror and tedium of battle, his own ideals and hopes . . . and, always, his love for his wife.         Here, selected from this treasure trove, are the drawings and watercolors that best portray the war Tracy Sugarman experienced. Interspersed throughout are excerpts of his loving and poignant letters home and, as the capstone of this extraordinary book, the single surviving letter from June to her husband. My War is a luminous, powerful account of a world at war--and a beautifully touching love story.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

There were a couple hundred thousand men who witnessed D-Day, of whom Sugarman was one. He might have been the only illustrator on the scene, however, and therein lies the original element of this recollection of the invasion and aftermath. Dozens of his studentlike sketches and watercolors of sailors and ships ornament his story, which he begins with the wooing of his wife and his enlistment in the navy in 1943. The illustrations begin with shipboard scenes of his Atlantic crossing on the Queen Mary and continue with English street scenes of the pre-invasion build-up. Sugarman's text is largely composed of his contemporaneous letters to his wife, which amble among such subjects as his dreams for their future or incidents of prejudice. What the censor would not pass, Sugarman recalls in the rest of the text, namely, the military details of his wartime experience. He was an ensign aboard the LSTs, from which were lowered the smaller landing craft that actually assaulted the shore. Sugarman commanded one of these; his touched Utah beach late on D-Day. Readers familiar with the D-Day epic will easily incorporate his particular observations into the larger story, such as being strafed by a German plane or seeing thousands of dead on the adjacent landing beach, Omaha. Combat scenes are few--an LST blown up by a mine is one--and Sugarman mostly sketched the men with whom he served in the invasion aftermath, shipping supplies to France and casualties to England. An interesting, occasionally poignant record of the times. --Gilbert Taylor

Publisher's Weekly Review

"War is a social disease bred on the filth of bigotry and stupidity." Written in the aftermath of D-Day, these words convey the author's world-weariness during the summer of 1944, when, as a naval ensign, he commanded a small landing craft on Utah Beach. Arranged in this poignant memoir are many of the letters, drawings, photos and watercolors that Sugarman, an award-winning illustrator and filmmaker, sent home to his young wife, June, who had seen him off to war with a gift of art supplies, as well as with the one letter from her that he managed to keep. As a newly married man in his mid-20s, the author wrote his wife not only of the life they would share when the war ended but also of his thoughts on larger issues, such as the import of marriage ("It means our joys are multiplied, our problems shared. We can proceed with the blessings of family, church, and state into a full-time partnership of love, aspirations, and work"), which add a depth and universal appeal to his work. His 80 b&w illustrations of comrades, military life and scenes of England convey the loneliness, tedium and horror of war (with stark drawings of solitary sailors lost in thought, eyes empty and averted, and haunting watercolors of ships among choppy seas that evoke a sense of dread) counterbalanced by a few glimpses of humanity (illustrations of smiling British children). Sugarman's intimate tour of his war experience will appeal to those who remember WWII. With its collage-like approach and old-fashioned charm, it will stand out among other memoirs for readers of the genre. 7-city author tour. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Often, history is best written as something intensely personal. And that's true with this volume, which not only offers a sampling of intense wartime love letters but also a large gallery of 80 pen-and-ink sketches, watercolors, and oils depicting the war (the paintings were seen only in black-and-white galleys by the reviewer). Sugarman was a young, newly married navy ensign assigned a role in the D-Day invasion of Normandy, initially ferrying GI's to the hell that was Utah Beach. Sugarman's wife kept all of his letters and artwork in brown paper parcels; in 1994, a conversation the couple was having about the 50th anniversary of D-Day brought them to light again and eventually into this book. Sugarman and his wife, June, were really latter-day romanticsÄwhich is immediately apparent in his letters. What is not made clear, however, is why this fine artwork languished in the parcels for half a century. And there's a poignant sadness to all of this. Sugarman writes at the end: "On October 5, 1998, June died in my arms from a sudden heart attack. It was the only thing that could have interrupted our loving dialogue. She is missed daily by so many of us. Especially me. But remembered with much love. Much love."ÄChet Hagan, Historical Soc. of Berks Cty., PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Everybody remembers exactly where they were that Sunday. You sensed immediately that there had been a subtle shift in the world, a movement you could almost feel in your bones. What it would portend would come later. For that split second, the whole room simply froze. It's funny what you remember. Davey Beere, his face beet red from running across the campus, tore into our fraternity house. "They bombed Pearl Harbor!" he gasped. And somebody said, "Who the hell is Pearl Harbor?" Davey dropped onto a leather couch and shook his head vehemently. "Not who. What, idiot. Pearl Harbor is our navy base in Hawaii." His eyes widened. "And the radio says it's the Japs that did it." "How bad is it?" I asked. "They didn't say," said Davey. "They just said Two days later I boarded the early morning train to Buffalo, found my way to the navy office, and took the physical exam for the naval reserve. It was the middle of my junior year at Syracuse University. I was studying to be an illustrator in the College of Fine Arts, and I was learning so much. How to draw, how to paint, how to see! And now, suddenly, the leisurely cadence of college life gave way to an unfamiliar urgency. My graduation seemed very far in the distance, so far that I wondered if I would ever get there. And here I was, signing up to be a naval officer, a guy who had never even seen a ship up close! The chief petty officer, hashmarks on his unbuttoned blouse, listlessly studied my application after I passed the physical. He nodded to the chair by his desk, and I sat down. In a distracted voice he asked, "Can you believe those Japs? Hitting Pearl? That was my base for seventeen months! My base! And all those guys . . ." He stopped abruptly. The room was silent as he turned back to my transcript. "What the hell are you doing at college?" he asked curtly. "And what is fine arts? Like drafting, for engineers?" I didn't know what to say. "No," I muttered finally, "it's more like . . . camouflage. Stuff like that." I got up quickly. "Gotta catch my train back to Syracuse." I held out my hand. "Thanks, sir." The CPO rose and leaned heavily against his desk. "No. No," he said. "Not sir. I ain't a commissioned officer. I'm a noncommissioned officer. Commissioned officers is sir. You understand? Commissioned officers." He watched my face and then said kindly, "You just call me Chief." "Right," I said. "Thank you, Chief," and tossed him a salute. He stared at me. "No," he groaned. "No. No. No. You don't salute noncommissioned officers. You salute commissioned officers." He sat down heavily and stared at the stack of papers waiting to be processed. "Commissioned officers," he growled, "like you're going to be." As he reached for the pile, I ducked out the door. Excerpted from My War: A Love Story in Letters and Drawings by Tracy Sugarman All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.