As he explains in the book, John Carr’s decision to join the military wasn’t an easy one and his experience in Iraq surely had its challenges. Here in this installment of Inside the Book, John offers some thoughts on others considering following in his footsteps and how he thinks his father would view the book:
Q: You are leaving the service at the end of the year. What advice would give anyone thinking about signing up for military duty?
A: Get in shape, get a haircut, and go do it, especially while you’re young. I look forward to seeing the first women US Army Rangers and Navy SEALs. I think that is great for the country. But, the US military has a crisis now with sexual assault. I have been three times on active duty, usually as a prosecutor. I was always amazed, or rather, blown away by the volume of sex cases I worked on. Before I’d let my daughter join the military, they have to make it much safer for women. I have no idea how they do that.
Q: In the book, you talk about your father and the military service of your family. What do you think your father would say about your book?
A: Of course, my father would be proud. I tell the story of my old man who was serving in Korea in 1946-1947. He was ordered in the middle of winter, to track what his CO thought was a Siberian Tiger up near the 48th Parallel. Now my dad was a city kid from Chicago and not a hunter by any means. He and some other guy had to track this animal in deep snow with a Colt 45. He was scared beyond belief, and later told his CO they found nothing. In reality, my dad said, ‘Screw this, I’m scared,’ and ran back to the Jeep. I love that story. We Carrs are true warriors!
Roger Bushell’s sacrifice in Nazi prison camps and the 9-11 terrorist attacks prompted John Carr to sign up for military duty, and then serve in the Middle East. In this installment of Inside the Book, John explains why he made that important decision:
Q: How do you now view your decision to sign up for the military after 9-11? Was it worth it?
A: It was absolutely worth it. After the decision I made to marry my wife, Melissa, it is one of the best things I’ve ever done.
I view the decision to join the Army, as one about public service. I think the United States has lost something as a nation because we no longer have a draft. Since World War I, all American men have had to serve in the military. Military service, it seems to me, was a great equalizer, of race, class, geography etc. We have lost our sense of community in some ways.
Was it worth it? Well, sometimes I get anxiety attacks that are partially tied to my military service. Once since I have been home, I had an attack that was pretty severe. I also think our political leaders led us into an unnecessary war in Iraq, and a prolonged conflict in Afghanistan. I’ll finish with a ‘on-the-one-hand-on-the-other-hand’ answer. My decision to serve in the US military was worth it. Military service is worth it. The consequences of a screwed-up war were not.
Q: In the book, you talk about your reaction to 9/11 and the desire you had to do something about it. Now that we are more than 10 years removed from 9/11, what thoughts and emotions do you have now looking back on that fateful day in American history?
A: I think Bin Laden’s attack is even more terrible now, 10 years later. Those images are worse than some of the events I witnessed in Iraq.
2019 Update. This picture of Dulag Luft is the front gate of Camp King, an American Army Post that replaced Dulag Luft in 1945. After the war, it became the HQ for the West German intelligence services.
The front gate at Dulag Luft, now a German suburb. Taken in 2005, copyright John Carr, all rights reserved.
We all have heroes, people who inspire us to do more and strive further. But for John Carr, Roger Bushell was more than just a hero or inspiration. Here in this installment of Inside the Book, John explains more of Bushell’s impact on his life and why his story matters:
Q: Why does Roger Bushell and his story mean so much to you?
A: I was 11 years old when I watched the movie, ‘The Great Escape’ with Richard Attenborough, Steve McQueen and other stars. I loved the adventure (and gadgets) in that film. The next year, I read the book that was the basis for the film-Paul Brickhill’s Great Escape. It is one of the best books ever written about war. It was also one of the first adult novels I ever read. Brickhill made it easy for Bushell to become my hero.
Q: What is the one thing you want readers to take away from this book?
A: The greatest POW escape of WW2 became a cultural phenomenon because of the Steve McQueen film. That spawned a television series, ‘Hogan’s Heroes’ and several BBC shows. There are furniture stores in America named ‘The Great Escape.’ Of course there is that famous Simpsons’ episode where Maggie digs a tunnel out of her playpen. Yet no one knows there was a man who actually was behind this. More people should know about Roger Bushell – the real story.
In this installment of Inside the Book with author John Carr, we talk with John more about some new ground he covers in “Serving with Roger Bushell”:
Q: Can you give us a glimpse at some of the new ground about the Great Escape you uncovered here?
A: First, his sister gave me copies of his war time letters. They are now in the archives of the Imperial War Museum in London. They present a humane side to Bushell, who in other histories about the operation seems like some kind of RAF superman, which I knew was overblown.
Next, my book details his second escape from a German Army Camp in 1941, which had never been told. He and a confederate managed to hide underground in Prague until May 1942. There was a woman who betrayed him as well. The book tells the full story.
Q: In the book, you actually go to the ski sites Roger visited. What did you take away from that experience?
A: Actually, I thought the run was pretty easy. Maybe I also have the skills to fly a Spitfire, like Bushell had. Or not.
This is the first of a number of upcoming blog posts where we go Inside the Book with author John Carr. Here we look at John’s connection to Roger Bushell, the fighter pilot who inspired him to become a soldier himself:
Q: How did you come up with the idea for the book, and when did you realize it would become a book?
A: I actually looked for a copy of his biography in 2002, thinking that some Englishman had written it after the war. I was shocked when I found it did not exist.
Around that time, I’d believed maybe he was good enough for a long article in a history magazine. It was, however, when I went to South Africa and discovered that his mother, father and sister Lis Carter had saved all of his POW letters from WW2 that I thought, ‘Maybe there’s a book here.’ Dorothea Bushell wrote some amazing poems about his life, and there were letters from his POW comrades about him in some scrapbooks. None of it had been read by his family, much less published. There was even a picture of a ship named the ‘Roger Bushell.’ He was some dude.
Q: Roger Bushell means a lot to you personally. What would your readers like to take away from the life and times of Roger Bushell?
A: He was charismatic, talented and had flaws like the rest of us. Also, Bushell grew up in 1930s England and Europe when it was a wonderland. That world is gone. I tried to bring some of that to life in the book.
The Entrance to ‘Harry’ taken in 2004 at SL III, Zagan Poland.
Welcome to the Serving with Roger Bushell blog, about the new book from John Carr. We’ll kick off this blog with a short bio of the author. You can also find this in the About the Author section:
My name is John Carr. I am an attorney and retired US Army reservist from Chicago, Illinois. In 2013, I wrote the book “Serving With Roger Bushell, A Soldier’s Memoir from ‘The Great Escape’ to the Iraq War”. You can purchase it directly on Amazon.com or Apple IBooks.
I felt compelled to research and write about Bushell in 2002, when I discovered no one else had written his biography. Bushell was born in South Africa in 1910, lived most of his life in England and Europe in the 1930s and 40s. He had friends and admirers living across the world. Over the years, I have traveled the world in search of him, piecing together his wonderful life as it happened in Canada, Europe and South Africa. I wrote dispatches of his story while serving as a US Soldier in Iraq. What I found was his wartime experience was both enthralling and terrifying.
Make sure to visit back here frequently to find out more about the book and how John put it all together.