In observance of Memorial Day (Monday, May 25), we are featuring digital humanities resources that explore the experiences of the men and women who served in the United States Armed Forces.

James Smith and Kathryn Smith joined us for this week's Book Drop. James Smith is an SC Humanities Board Member and the Special Assistant to the President at the University of South Carolina. Kathryn Smith is an author and a member of the SC Humanities Speakers Bureau .
Book Drop with James Smith
My Memorial Day book recommendation is  “Hell from the Heavens ”  by John Wukovits , the true story account of the USS Laffey and her crew fighting the greatest Kamikaze attack of WWII. The courage displayed by the crew fighting off 22 Kamikazes over 80 minutes on the morning of April 16, 1945 reflects the highest ideals of service that made our Nation and is emblematic of why we remember their sacrifice on Memorial Day. My Grandfather, then LT. Paul B. Smith and Laffey plank-owner, was the head Gunnery Officer that fateful day, receiving the Silver Star for his valor. Whenever asked, he always credited the Skipper, Captain Julian Becton, and the crew for the ship’s survival that day. The USS Laffey became forever known as “The Ship That Would Not Die,” and you can still visit her today and walk in the steps of heroes at Patriot’s Point in Charleston, SC.
James Smith
Major, Infantry
SC Army National Guard

Special Assistant to the President
University of South Carolina
Book Drop with Kathryn Smith
The role of women in war, especially during World War II, has been increasingly brought to the forefront in the past decade. My contribution to this is " Gertie: The Fabulous Life of Gertrude Sanford Legendre, Heiress, Explorer, Socialite Spy ," the biography of an Aiken native and long-time resident of Berkeley County, who worked for the Office of Strategic Services, the OSS. Gertie was not a field agent, but had extensive knowledge about OSS field operations garnered as head of the cable desk in London. During an unauthorized trip to the Western front, she and three companions were ambushed and captured by Nazi soldiers and she spent six months as a POW, escaping in March 1945. During repeated interrogations, she never revealed her secrets. During the coronavirus lockdown, I made a series of short videos using some of Gertie's survival tactics to help us weather the difficulties, from appreciating toilet paper to wearing red lipstick . A dozen of these are on YouTube.
Another book about women in war that I highly recommend is Liza Mundy's " Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II ," which makes extensive mention of the role of Winthrop College graduates in military intelligence code breaking. Mundy also wrote a Young Readers edition of the book for children ages 8-12.

Finally, there is Lynne Olson's " Madame Fourcade's Secret War ," about the French woman who led her country's largest resistance spy network. This is a hair-raising account of a woman who never quailed from her quest to defeat Hitler. It's better than any fictional spy thriller.

Kathryn Smith
Author and SC Humanities Speaker