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No Greater Sacrifice, No Greater Love: A Son's Journey to Normandy    by Walter Ford Carter & Terry Golway order for
No Greater Sacrifice, No Greater Love
by Walter Ford Carter
Order:  USA  Can
Smithsonian Books, 2004 (2004)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Walter Ford Carter's father, a family doctor, died during World War II in Normandy when the author was four years old and his brother seven. His mother Fernie was devastated. She never remarried and didn't speak about her husband, Norval Carter. Walter Ford grew up in West Virginia knowing his father as 'a smiling face behind glass ... forever thirty-two years old.' He rightly calls war widows like his mother 'uncelebrated heroes of that celebrated age.'

Not an unusual story? Perhaps not in its outline, but what gives this one a particular poignancy is the reader's sharing Walter Ford's discovery of a journal and letters after his mother's death. These introduced his father to him and to the reader as a good man, with an antic sense of humor and a great love for his wife (his childhood sweetheart and the girl next door) and young family. One wonders what prompted him to sign up (he wasn't drafted) in the first place, and later to actively seek combat duty when again there was no external pressure on him to do so.

In letters home, Norval speaks of missing his boys and Fernie, while stating the importance of fighting for 'the right for individual peace & happiness.' He was moved by the realities of war in Britain, where he shared candy with children. For a while, Norval anesthesized himself with whiskey, speaking of the war as having 'destroyed ideas and ideals; it has changed spirits & wounded souls' - as indeed any war will do. I was touched by his written advice to his elder son Tom on how to treat his younger sibling, and he worried about the mental trauma that war causes in soldiers.

No Greater Sacrifice, No Greater Love is a book that will bring tears to your eyes, but that's as it should be. Norval says in a letter, 'If the people back in the states knew what these young men are doing for freedom and liberty they would no longer think these two words sounded trite or corny.' His legacy of letters is a testament to the devastation of war, not only in immediate deaths but in the rippling damage to families down through the years.

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