Ironton native authors World War II collection

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 26, 2000

It took four years of interviewing and collecting photographs, documents and art works saved by veterans.

Tuesday, December 26, 2000

It took four years of interviewing and collecting photographs, documents and art works saved by veterans.

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And now Ironton native Steven Shaffer’s book is telling a story – the 256-page story of 60 World War II prisoners of war.

"Old Wounds: Oral Histories of America’s WWII Servicemen in German and Japanese Prisoner of War Camps" is based on 60 interviews Shaffer collected from the veterans.

"They told me a lot of things and I made a lot of great friends through this effort," said Shaffer about his process of composing the book.

Shaffer, a freelance writer, initially became interested in the prisoner-of-war experience while researching a magazine article he was writing during the 50th anniversary of WWII.

"I think these experiences are so interesting for me, because in this day and age these thoughts are so foreign to me and my generation," Shaffer said.

Shaffer contacted many of his interviewees through an organization called American Ex-Prisoners of War, but his first source of information came in an unexpected way.

"I was driving one day and a guy in front of me had the POW emblem on his license plate. I followed him and eventually when he stopped I got out and asked him if he’d talk to me," Shaffer said about how he got started.

For many of the men Shaffer spoke with, their interview was the first time they had ever discussed their time in captivity in depth.

"I got really involved with this story," Shaffer says, "I’ve always had a lot of questions about the war, and these interviews answered a lot of them."

Shaffer also said that it’s often times very difficult for some ex-POWs to talk about their experiences. Shaffer said his father found it incredibly hard to talk about it, so talking to these other men truly gave him a great appreciation for the World War II generation.

Shaffer said, "I think this book is a great thing because to most of these men, there’s nothing they can appreciate more than to be appreciated themselves and I think this book accomplishes that."

Up next for Shaffer is a television documentary based on prehistoric Native American rock art. The project will be sponsored by Ohio University Public Television.

"This will be my first time writing for TV and I’m really excited for this opportunity," he said.

Shaffer said that it’s unbelievable how many ancient carvings and artifacts are in the area.

"It will focus on cliffs and caves in the Ohio Valley with carvings and paintings," he said. "The problem is that a lot of these are on private property so a lot of people don’t know about them."

Shaffer currently resides in Hickory, N.C., and writes for Corning Cable Systems.

Old Wounds is available at Borders Books and Music at the Huntington Mall.