Our Fathers' Footsteps: Stories of World War II Veterans' What-If Moments
By Don Levers
$25.95 ($7.99 for the ebook format)
Now available at the Bookstore on Perron
Visit donleversbooks.com to stay abreast of his news and upcoming book events still in the planning stages.
Imagine the stories from the Second World War yet left untold. Don Levers has taken on the task of telling the tales of four soldiers in his new book Our Fathers' Footsteps, a creative non-fiction account that uses the one thing they all had in common as its launching point.
The invasion of Normandy started from the battle on Juno Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944. The author of children’s books and adult fiction extended his writing toolkit by becoming a master researcher for this project. He delved deep into family history books, letters, telegrams, journals, and regimental war diaries to dredge up these incredible stories, starting with his father Gerald Levers.
The book itself began during the press tour for his last book, Loot for the Taking, in 2017. He found himself in conversation with TV newsman Gord Steinke. He explained he was heading to Normandy for the 75th anniversary of D-Day to be where his dad was wounded.
“Gord said, ‘It'll be great to walk in your dad's footsteps.’ Well, that set off a little light bulb and began the telling of the stories of Our Fathers' Footsteps,” he said.
Levers had his father’s letters from the war, which detailed the events of that day and the wounds he suffered from it. He made it five kilometres in from the beach before taking a bullet as he escorted prisoners.
In this one letter, he talked about the prisoners of war he escorted. Levers, having had access to the nominal rolls of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles regiment, was already on his journey to research the book.
“I found out that two of the men that next day had been captured and then murdered by the SS. When I was in Normandy, walking through the Bény-sur-Mer Cemetery, I found their headstones. It made me realize how lucky I am to be here because [if my father’s] wound in the letter (that he sent home to my grandparents) was two inches higher, I would have stopped being a man,” he explained.
“Him being wounded saved his life because the next day, 50 of the Winnipeg Rifles were captured and murdered.”
That "what if" moment was enough to make him pause, and more than enough to push him to dig deeper. He wanted to learn more about John Hamilton, George Hildyard, and John Nearingburg, and describe their experiences to make all readers feel more appreciative of the service of those soldiers.
“You've had ‘what if’ moments throughout your life. I have … everybody's had a ‘what if’ moment. If they had turned right, would they have not been in an accident? Or if they turned right, did they avoid the accident?” he hypothesized. “But guys like our dads, our grandfathers, our great grandfathers, they lived with a ‘what if’ moment every day throughout the war.”
The book is a fascinating retelling of this one moment in history, and Levers’s meticulous research is impressive. He even made sure to get each person’s voice correct, thanks to help from surviving members of each of the men’s families.
He hopes the stories in Our Fathers' Footsteps will inspire other families to take a walk in their fathers' footsteps and help them realize how lucky they are to be alive today.