Cover image for Chasing Ghosts : A Memoir of a Father, Gone to War
Chasing Ghosts : A Memoir of a Father, Gone to War
DeSalvo, Louise A., 1942-2018 author.
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Fordham University Press, 2016.
Physical Description:
vii, 274 pages ; 22 cm.
"Chasing Ghosts describes how, near the end of his life, the daughter of a veteran of World War II comes to terms with her father, emotionally wounded by his military service through the stories he tells her about his childhood, about his military service in the Navy in the late 1930s, and about his wartime experiences and through her research undertaken to understand her father's life in the context of history. Told through the voice of a daughter seeking answers to her father's life, the narrator journeys into her father's history and the context in which it enfolds. She learns that her father's response had been a mixture of rage and silence and she begins to understand why he has chosen her as an object of his abuse. The narrative provides an understanding of working-class World War II veterans who performed the behind-the-scenes work, like the narrator's father's work as an aviation machinist's mate, necessary to waging war--work that was not conventionally heroic or, until recently, considered worthy of historical or cultural attention. By juxtaposing historical moments in her family's and the country's life, Chasing Ghosts engages in the current necessary conversation about the often unrecognized effects of war and its trauma on World War II veterans, and reinterprets the experience of her father and other such veterans in the context of contemporary understanding about the psychic cost of war and its cross-generational impact on families. In the process, the narrator's lack of knowledge is replaced with empathy for what he's experienced and an understanding of his place in history"--

"When literary biographer and memoirist Louise DeSalvo embarked upon a journey to learn why her father came home from World War II a changed man, she didn't realize her quest would take ten years, and that it would yield more revelations about the man--and herself--and the effect of his military service upon their family than she'd ever imagined. During his last years, as he told her about his life, DeSalvo began to understand that her obsession with war novels and military history wasn't merely academic but rooted in her desire to understand this complex father whom she both adored and reviled because of his mistreatment of her. Although she at first believes she wants to uncover his story, the story of a man who was no hero but who was nonetheless adversely affected by his military service, she learns that what she really wants is to recover the man that he was before he went away. As DeSalvo and her father uncover his past piece-by-piece, bit-by-bit, she learns about the dreams of a working-class man who entered the military in the late 1930s during peacetime to better himself, a man who wanted to become a pilot. She learns about what it was like for him to participate in war games in the Pacific prior to the war, and its devastating toll. She learns about what it was like for her parents to fall in love, set up house, marry, and have children during this cataclysmic time. And as the pieces of her father's life fall into place as works to piece together the puzzle of everything she's learned about this time, she finds herself finally able to understand him. Chasing Ghosts is an original contribution to the understanding of working-class World War II veterans who did not conventionally distinguish themselves through 'heroic' actions and whose lives were not until recently considered worthy of historical or cultural attention. It personalizes the history of those sailors who served in the Navy aboard aircraft carriers and on islands in the Pacific prior to, and during World War II and contributes to the current vital conversation about the often-unrecognized effects of war and its traumas upon those men and their families. It reveals the lifelong devastating consequences of military service on those men and women who fell in love, married, and set up house. And it reveals the complexity of what it is like to be the daughter of a father who has gone to war"--Provided by publisher.
Prologue: Flushing out the Enemy -- ONE -- War Stories -- "Join the Navy, See the World" -- The Sea, the Sea -- On the Road to Nowhere, Moving Fast -- Fly Boy -- Man o' War's Man -- Dead as a Doornail -- A Very Smart Ship -- A Flower, A Sunburst, A Star -- The First Death -- Into the Drink -- Trouble Board -- War Games -- When Pigs Can Fly -- TWO -- "The Girl for Me" -- "Of Couse I Will" -- Courtship -- Safe House -- Lifeboat -- THREE -- So Much to Lose, So Much Already Lost -- Magic Bullet -- On the Day I Was Born -- "Hide Your Tears" -- House Hunting -- FOUR -- Secret Code -- Command Center -- The Sailor Who Flew Home on Wings of Air -- A Knock at the Door -- Just a Very, Very Few of the Many, Many Who Have Died -- Rage -- Chasing Ghosts -- Ship's Model -- Mopping Up -- Cargo Cult -- FIVE -- Coming Home -- The Evening News -- The Last Time My Father Almost Died -- Epilogue -- Wearing My Father's Bones.

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