- Associated Press - Sunday, December 27, 2015

DECATUR, Ill. (AP) - Patrick Sullivan is just 22 years old but he is already is in his second year at the University of Illinois Law School.

In his spare time, he has completed a 300-page book about World War II veterans.

He was inspired to do the project when he attended a talk by James Bradley, co-author of “Flags of our Fathers,” at Millikin University, where Sullivan earned a bachelor’s in history degree in 2014.

“I heard about his experience interviewing the veterans,” said Sullivan, a Harristown resident. “I thought someone should do that for our local veterans. Someone should tell their stories.”

Sullivan also was influenced by his grandfather, Leonard Koslofski, who served in the Navy during the war. He died when Sullivan was 7 years old, but he heard stories of his service from his grandmother.

“He drove men onto the beach on D-Day. He worked 24 hours that day,” Sullivan said.

It was stories like this that made Sullivan’s 70 interviews with veterans so interesting to him.

“Most veterans wanted to tell their funny stories,” Sullivan said. “They didn’t want to talk about the darker stuff. Some of the veterans helped liberate concentration camps.”

When Sullivan began his literary journey, he turned to the Herald & Review, where he encountered the late Bob Fallstrom, a World War II veteran who was familiar with many of the area’s former service members.

“He gave me a list of about 100 veterans who went on Honor Flights,” Sullivan recalled. “I sent out 100 letters, 10 or 15 at a time.”

Sullivan speaks with excitement when he tells how he interviewed veterans, including several women, who served at every stage of the war, including some who joined the military before the conflict and others who served at the very end.

“I collected 70 stories, but only 50 wanted to be in the book,” Sullivan said, adding that some of them did not feel their stories were important enough to be included.

When Sullivan began his project, he looked at it as a way to give stories to the veterans’ families. He later realized the collection would make a good book.

“It was a way for me to give back to the community in a way my skills prepared me to do, with my education and interest,” he said.

His stories range from about one page to 20 pages.

“It all depends how much the veteran told me,” Sullivan said.

Robert West, one of the veterans he interviewed, helped liberate the Buchenwald concentration camp. During another operation, West was involved in transporting large ships on land across Germany, to use in crossing the Rhine River. However, by the time they got there, a bridge had been secured, so the ships were no longer needed.

Sullivan also interviewed a veteran who was involved in the atomic bomb project. Although he decided he did not want his story included in the book, Sullivan said he was glad he had a chance to interview him and learn that a local man played such a significant role in history.

“When you read about World War II, it’s about famous generals and great battles,” Sullivan said, adding that his book focuses on rank-and-file soldiers, although he did include some officers. “You learn about marching in basic training, about their times in school, jobs, what happened to them after the service.”

Sullivan tried to find a publisher, but decided to self-publish, so he could have full control over the content and finances.

“I want all the proceeds to go toward preserving the World War II Memorial downtown,” Sullivan said.

Those who are interested in contributing to publishing costs may contact Sullivan at (217) 963-2656, or donate at www.kickstarter.com, by typing his name in the search box.

The young man said he always had an interest in the World War II era, because it was “an attractive, more romantic time period.

“They call it the Greatest Generation for a reason. That came out in the stories I collected.”


Source: (Decatur) Herald and Review, https://bit.ly/1NIUION


Information from: Herald & Review, https://www.herald-review.com

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