Home Front Soldier

The Story of a GI and His Italian American Family During World War II

By Richard Aquila

Subjects: Italian American Studies
Paperback : 9780791440766, 280 pages, March 1999
Hardcover : 9780791440759, 280 pages, March 1999

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations


PART 1 Introduction: "What Did You Do in the War, Pop?"

PART 2 Letters from a GI on the Home Front, 1944-1946

PART 3 Epilogue: "So Long and God Bless You All"



Presents a multi-layered social history of a soldier and his Italian American family during World War II.


CHOICE 1999 Outstanding Academic Title

While other collections of letters and memoirs from World War II have dealt with upper-class individuals, officers, or college-educated people, Home Front Soldier is the first to explore the life of an ordinary, working-class, first-generation American. This gripping story of a young soldier, Philip L. Aquila, and his Italian American family during the Second World War includes a detailed introduction, providing historical context to the more than 500 letters that this sergeant wrote to his family back home in Buffalo, New York.

Like an epistolary novel, the letters offer an intimate personal history of how a large immigrant family with four sons in the military coped with the daily traumas of World War II. Each of the major and minor plots relates to larger questions in American social history of the 1930s and 1940s, offering fresh insights about family history, gender relations, ethnic and immigration history, and everyday life on the home front. The book also fills a gap in military history by providing detailed information about soldiers stationed in the United States during the war.

Richard Aquila is Professor of History and Director of the American Studies Program at Ball State University. He is the author of The Iroquois Restoration; Wanted Dead or Alive: The American West; and That Old Time Rock and Roll.


"This is one of the richest collections of primary sources I've seen for the study of war and ethnic family. What I like best is the detailed and rhythmic evocation the letters offer of everyday life during wartime. The reader gets to know the writer of the letters quite well, and develops a very good sense of the family dynamics of an extended Italian American family. I'm a social historian, interested in ethnicity, gender, and family, and I found it a totally gripping read. Once I started reading it, I didn't stop. I read it at one sitting!" — Donna Gabaccia, author of From Sicily to Elizabeth Street: Housing and Social Change among Italian Immigrants, 1880-1930

"This book provides a fascinating glimpse at the impact of World War II on people at home. It is a microcosmic study of the frustrations of serving in the military, and of trying to deal with family issues while performing military duties. The book gives us a vivid sense of Phil Aquila, a working class Italian American who wanted to do his part for the country but sometimes found it was not as easy as it seemed.

"Aquila is telling a personal story—the story of his father—but it has a far more universal significance. His splendid introduction provides us with the larger context of ethnic tensions, gender patterns, and the general frustrations of working class life through the experience of one family in America. It could stand by itself as a capsule assessment of the impact of the war, and is a valuable prologue for the fascinating letters that follow. All of this is important social history." — Allan M. Winkler, Miami University of Ohio