I Did What I Could: A Memoir by Gilbert Schroerlucke (review)
- Ohio Valley History
- The Filson Historical Society and Cincinnati Museum Center
- Volume 8, Number 3, Fall 2008
- pp. 85-87
- Additional Information
BOOK REVIEWS on the intricacies of WAC life, describing details such as type of clothing issued to the women during different seasons, the nature of army food at various bases and overseas, and the emotional and physical strains placed upon the women after years of service and time away from their loved ones. Her letters provide a rare view of what one woman in the military felt about the army, the wartorn countries she visited , and the value of her own service. While discussing her army service ribbons , for example, DeBra concedes, " To tell the truth I feel a bit sheepish about wearing them.... When you see some of the fellows who have actually been in all sorts of combat and are minus pr·actically all insignia,it gives me a peculiar feeling 107). Still, DeBra' s descriptions of army rationing and deprivation, entertainment, and work enable the reader to understand more fully the personal sacrifice, emotion, and work of WAC women. DeBra's personal interest in art and music consistently reappear in the letters, and her descriptions of the art classes she took in Paris and the music concerts she attended in London place her within the larger cultural narrative of wartime life. She also includes in the book some of her own wartime sketches, including depictions of WACs on KP duty and people she saw in the streets of Paris. The watercolor pictures and sketches illustrate her talent, interests, ' and private vision of the war. DeBra' s wartime letters and explanations draw the reader into her personal narrative but unfortunately she at times removes herself from the story. DeBra decided, for example, to write the preface that jump between DeBra' s memories and feelings then and now. ' Ihis practice creates awkward transitions between the past and the present and diverts attention from the author herself. DeBra spends a significant portion of the book filling in factual holes in her letters and describing various individuals who appear in them, but she often fc, cuses too much on minor details such as her uniform and not enough on key information such as her birth date, her motivations for joining the WAACs, and her budding relationship with her first fiancd, Chuck. DeBra does not explain if she included all her extant wartime correspondence or what happened to the other letters to which she often alludes. The history of the letters themselves needs to be included. But perhaps the biggest weakness of the book is that it leaves the reader craving more information. After becoming so invested in the life of DeBra, reiders will want more details about DeBra' s adjustment to civilian life, her marriage to Halton Brown, and her family's reaction to her return. However, wh· at DeBr· a includes provides a rich narrative about women in World War II, the WACs, and cultural life during the war. Michella M. Marino University ofMassachusettsAmherst Gilbert Schroerlucke. I Did Wbat I Could: A Memoir. Louisville, Ky.: Published by the author,2008. 300 pp. No ISBN ( paper), $ 15.00. When the Rev. Gilbert Schroerlucke and his lay board opened West Broadway United Methodist Church ( UMC) in and the captions to the photographs and Louisville, Kentucky, for a rally led by drawings in third person. The letters, in Black Power activist and Communist Party contrast, are written in first person but member Angela Y. Davis in July 1976, include additional italicized explanations the veteran pastor and civil rights activist FALL 2008 85 BOOK REVIEWS didn't expect approval from his ecclesiastical superiors. He was shocked, however,at the vehemence oftheir opposition. When a small group of local UMC officials and fellow pastors visited Schroerlucke to presIilij *@ 1*. i 4 sure him to withdraw the invitation to Davis, Schoerlucke asked them to reflect with him on the theological meaning of the rally." In his memoir, I Did Wbat I Could, he describes his colleagues' answer: We' re not interested in that. We' re interested in [ bomb] threats and financial losses. As those words rang in Schroerlucke's ears, " The words of Jesus came through to me loud and clear. ' You cannot serve two masters. You cannot serve God and Mammon"' ( 183). That statement summarizes...