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|Books tells story of Selman's contributions during World War II|
To this day, many people, even local residents, are not aware of the contributions Monroe's Selman Field made during World War II.
Dr. Richard Chardkoff hopes his new book, "World War II Aerial Navigation Training and the Flyboy Heroes of Selman Field," will change that.
Chardkoff, a longtime professor at the University of Louisiana-Monroe, said he wanted to tell the stories of the airmen who trained at Selman Field and fought for freedom in World War II.
He spent three years researching and interviewing former airmen and their relatives. The book was released in May.
Chardkoff's book on Selman Field is a take-off from his previous book, "Sol's Story: A Triumph of the Human Spirit," about local Holocaust survivor Sol Rosenberg.
"Some of the people on the Selman Field Historical Association read that and said, 'You know, we need to have a book written on the history of Selman Field,'" Chardkoff said. "World War II is becoming more and more remote in public memory and it's fading. There's many people in this area who are not aware of what happened here 50 years ago."
Members of the Selman Field Historical Association asked Chardkoff to write a book about Selman Field's contribution to World War II.
"The reason this was such a sense of urgency is the World War II generation is dying at the rate of 1,500 a day," Chardkoff explained. "Some of the people who I interviewed for this book have already passed away. A lot of kids went through here (Selman Field) from all over the country. My intention with this book was to show Monroe's contribution to our victory in World War II. I collected scores of stories, and in time, it became a labor of love, to try and get their stories down."
Chardkoff also interviewed a number of local people whose families practically adopted the airmen as their own sons.
"I wanted to incorporate in the book how the people of Monroe opened their hearts and their homes to these cadets when they came here for training," he said.
When airmen took to the sky, according to Chardkoff, they basically were on a suicide mission. Of the 293,000 Americans killed in World War II, more than 70,000 were airmen, he said.
"Without those long-range P-51 fighter escorts, until they came online late in the war, it was suicide … just a suicide mission," he said. "The chances of dying in World War II were greater for these airmen than for Marines, which is unbelievable."
Chardkoff collected stories from former airmen or their relatives through oral interviews, telephone interviews, e-mail correspondence and from original letters airmen wrote at the time.
"I tried to have the stories show the intensity, the drama, the fears, the courage and the anxieties and hopes of these guys," Chardkoff continued. "These recollections are really just mere hints of the fear, terror, fright and courage they all went through.
"I just felt the individual actions of these guys would have never been cited in the history books had I not sat down to write this. Their deeds deserve to be recorded. The book is really a tribute to their heroism.
"I am honored and very humbled to be a part of this process. They were very excited to hear that someone was going to tell their story. Their stories deserve to be told.
"The ultimate sacrifice of these guys is a lasting legacy for those of us living in America today, to those of us enjoying freedom. They served heroically, and it was my task just to make people aware of what happened locally.
"The individual action of these guys gave me just a hint of the real measure of courage, fear, anxiety, and hope that these guys went through and endured in a war without mercy."
Chardkoff will sign his book beginning at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 21, at Chennault Aviation and Military Museum in Monroe.
He also has been asked to conduct a reading at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans at the end of October.