This article originally appeared on IndieReader.com in June 2014.
Here, I’ll add a couple of contemporary photos.
D-Day Memoirs Lost
As the troops and equipment, the boats and barges gathered for the D-Day landings, my father was watching.
He served in the Royal Air Force—on a boat.
Let me explain. The RAF ran a fleet of fast motor launches based in the English Channel ports. Called “Air Sea Rescue,” their mission was to get to planes that ditched into the Channel before the airmen drowned.
These launches played a small role in the war effort, but for the men they pulled out of the sea there was nothing small about it.
My father was stationed at Deal, near Dover, the center of activity for the assembly of the invasion forces.
After those momentous events he wrote an account of being an observer to history. Of course, all that activity at the time was secret. But my father guessed. So much ordnance, so many tanks, so many jeeps, so many Americans. Something BIG was up.
He told me he was quite pleased how his account of those days turned out. My father was a modest man, so I feel sure it was well-written.
He showed it to an RAF superior, who said he would read it and pass it on to the RAF’s publishing arm. Then this man took my father’s account and published it as his own work.
Such things, of course, still happen to authors today. My father never wrote anything else about the war.
I wish I could say I inherited a box of notes for a memoir when he died, or a draft of his service story. Or…anything. What I have are just my memories of stories he told.
If you are luckier than I and have such a written treasure, treat it with the respect it deserves. Please, never fall to the temptation of typing it into Word and throwing out the paper. One defective hard-drive and all is lost, unless you back up regularly 😉 You have to keep the originals. As you type, you’ll edit, omit, correct. You might make mistakes. Don’t run the risk of losing something essential. Keep it! Keep it! Keep it!
Then wrap it all up. Keep it secure and free from damp.
Oh, and definitely put it into publishable format.
But who’d be interested in all that?
I will tell you.
I was at our local Memorial Day parade, watching the Revolutionary War re-enactors, the Civil War re-enactors, the foreign war enthusiasts, the World War II veterans, their children and grandchildren. People hungry for the truth, the personal accounts full of small details that resonate with every generation. Many people consider it a sacred duty to preserve the memories fast fading and passing away.
Major publishing houses will continue to produce worthy books based on the lives of the famous and influential. Independent publishers need to publish the other accounts: the ordinary, the lowly, the stories of the real G.I Joes (or Tommies).
If I could publish my father’s memoir, I wouldn’t care that I couldn’t make a business case for it. Would it sell more than the average independently published book? Would I get a good return on investment?
That sort of thinking about books really misses the point, doesn’t it?