HARTFORD — When Matthew Rozell started teaching history, he felt a two-day lesson on World War II just wasn’t enough.
“I said, ‘How many of you have a parent or grandparent who was in World War II?’ and every kid shot up at least one hand,’ ” said Rozell, who taught at Hudson Falls High School for almost 30 years.
He sent home surveys with his students with the assignment to interview their World War II veteran relatives, who had spent years keeping their war memories to themselves.
“These guys were ready to talk,” said Rozell, sitting in a windowed room at his post-and-beam Hartford home with views of Crane and Gore mountains.
Rozell and his students spent years interviewing veterans, resulting in six books. Rozell’s latest book, the fourth volume of the series “The Things Our Fathers Saw,” is now available. He has sold more than 75,000 books based on the interviews he has conducted with local World War II veterans.
The fourth volume, “Up the Bloody Boot — The War in Italy,” tells firsthand accounts of combat and brotherhood from the war in Italy. One of the stories in the book is about local tailor Floyd Dumas, who was captured by the Germans at a major battle in Italy. He escaped and was on the run for four months.
Rozell will host a book launch, talk and signing at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Easton Library, 1074 state Route 40. Signed books will be available for $20. All his books are available on Amazon.
“A lot of these guys were ready to talk to young people,” Rozell said, pointing out that “some of the stories that they told, they had never told anyone besides their friends who’d had the same experience.”
For some veterans, they were realizing that people were forgetting and didn’t understand the enormity and aftermath of the war that left no American community unscathed.
Rozell knew he needed to do something with all the research and collection of personal stories. He published his first book in July 2015, two years before he retired from teaching. It was about the men and women in the Pacific.
For some unexplained reason, book sales took off two years ago, and Rozell was selling 100 books a day in e-books, print books and audio books.
Through his interviews, research and books, Rozell has been able to reunite 275 Holocaust survivors with their liberators and has seen them come together at reunions.
“This is the story of a person,” Rozell said, “who had an interest, that turned into a passion, that turned into a mission.”