HUDSON FALLS — Matt Rozell may be busier in retirement than he is as a full-time history teacher at Hudson Falls High School.
“It’s going to be a busy year,” he said of the remainder of 2017, starting when his teaching duties end in late June. “At least now I will have more time to do the writing. We have all these interviews, but it’s not as simple as just transcribing them. There’s a lot of work involved in turning them into books.”
For the past two decades, Rozell and his students have been interviewing World War II veterans, which has led to two books and a series of reunions among Holocaust survivors and the U.S. soldiers who rescued them in Germany in April 1945.
“The more you look into it, the more you find. People read about our interviews, then they have our stories to tell,” said Rozell, who has already published “The Things Our Fathers Saw,” which focused on his interviews with Pacific War veterans; and “A Train Near Magdeburg,” about Jewish captives during the Holocaust and the U.S. soldiers who rescued them.
This year, he is turning to the air war in Europe for another volume of “The Things Our Fathers Saw,” which he hopes to have done in time for Memorial Day. That book will be on the air war in Europe, and Rozell said it’s really the first half of an air war book that he hopes will be completed by the end of the year and eventually published in a single volume.
As a taste of the first new book, Rozell is going to offer his regular readers — “They are sort of my fan club,” he said — a shorter publication called “A Tuskegee Airman Over Europe,” from his interviews with Clarence Dart of Saratoga Springs.
“You get some of these interviews, and they are really stories in themselves,” he said. “This interview is about one-sixth of the first air war book, and I want to get it out there so the people who have been buying my books can see it.”
More to come
Rozell wants to complete a multi-volume history of World War II, much like nationally known author Rick Atkinson did with his three-volume set on the war in Europe and James D. Hornfischer and Ian Toll have done for the Pacific.
“I could see one on the Mediterranean theater, another on the European war with D-Day, and then the invasion of Germany,” Rozell said. “And of course, I will need to revisit the Pacific.”
Rozell said he has done more than 200 interviews with veterans and is looking forward to digging into the stories he has not gotten to yet.
Working on video
At the same time, Rozell is working with Mike Edwards, a documentary filmmaker whose film, “Searching for Augusta — The Forgotten Angel of Bastogne,” won an Emmy in 2015 for best historical documentary.
That film grew out of the book and movie “Band of Brothers,” and in it, Edwards chronicled historian Marin King and his search for a nurse from the Congo who helped care for U.S. soldiers at Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge.
Her name was Augusta Chiwy and she was the biracial daughter of a Congolese woman and a Belgian veterinarian. The Augusta Chiwy Foundation was created to celebrate the strength of the human spirit and encourage selfless service to humanity through a combination of education and inspiration.
One of the ways the foundation is pursuing its goal is to produce additional films on similar topics. Edwards and his company, “The 5 Stones Production Group,” is now working on a film called “Farsleben,” which focuses on the train, Rozell’s discoveries and the reunions that followed.
Edwards was at Hudson Falls High School last week for Rozell’s presentations to students.
“We have done our initial interviews, but we are really getting started,” said Edwards.
“It’s really amazing all the work he has done, and all the people he has connected,” Edwards said of Rozell.
Rozell’s readers know the stories are not done coming.
You can read Bill Toscano’s blog at poststar.com/blogs or his updates on Twitter, @billtoscano_ps.
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