With Veteran’s Day fast approaching, I looked for some graphic novels that are based on real things. I found Sam Glanzman’s A Sailor’s Story.
It’s a graphic novel that collects two previously released volumes published in the late 80’s into a single volume. Glanzman wrote and illustrated these stories, and they really suck you into the time and place.
The time and place in question is the Pacific Theater of WWII, aboard the USS Stephens, a Destroyer. Glanzman describes his personal journey from enlisting a year after Pearl Harbor the day he turned 18 to his final discharge a few months after Japanese surrender in August 1945. As a Navy vet myself, I can assure anyone that this book is a note-perfect slice of Navy life. If you’re looking for a grand tale of heroism and action bursting at the seams, this is not the book you’re looking for. This is more an autobiographical recollection of anecdotes that happen to be set during WWII.
Glanzman captures with keen detail the boredom punctuated with busy terror that military life can bring. There is humor and beauty to be found in these pages as well. Don’t worry too much about getting lost in the Navy jargon, everything is carefully explained. He even includes a few sketches he made during his time aboard the Stephens. Some things that stand out to me are Glanzman’s descriptions of a sinking ship, the horror of the kamikaze attacks, and a story about how he decided to change jobs aboard ship. There were scenes involving things I’d only ever seen in military museums, and others that would be at home on any ship in today’s Fleet.
This is a story of war as experienced by a single low-ranking sailor on a Destroyer. It wasn’t until much later that he learned the details of some of the actions his ship was involved in, like the battle of Midway. There was even time during the war to celebrate a Navy tradition or two.
It’s also reassuring to know that the Navy operated on coffee back then as well. This book is a must-read tale of personal bravery and wonder for anyone, and especially Navy veterans.
Written by Rob