Book Reviews -- My War by Andy Rooney

Article excerpt

Rooney, Andy. My War. New York: Times Books, 1995. 318 pp. $25.

If you dabble in psychohistory, this book by one of America's best-known television commentators may explain some of the darker moments in those Sunday evening monologues that often are the best part of CBS's "60 Minutes."

Andy Rooney's most recent book--he's written eleven now--goes back a half century to World War II to recount his involvement and to reflect on the ordeal that engaged the world in a struggle to restore freedom to subjugated nations around the world. Like millions of others, he changed from self-assured college boy to manhood and, along the way, started on the road to success in journalism. Paradoxically, he had no love for the Army, but it was the Army which put him in the company of a band of journalists in uniform and taught him how to be a reporter.

Rooney's story is in many ways a metaphor for the war culture which engulfed everyone, both in and out of uniform. "For three of my four years in the Army," he writes in the introduction, "I saw fighting from close up. I can't forget much of what I saw and I want to write it down. For one thing, writing is a cathartic experience. Once you've put something down on paper, you can dismiss it from your mind. Having told it, I'll be able to forget it." We really doubt, given all that be witnessed, that he really has forgotten it, any more than millions of other service men or women ever forgot all they did or witnessed.

Rooney was at Colgate when he was drafted. College did not bring out the best in him, he confesses, even though he was a football player and had a lot going for him. He wrestled with conflicting interests--football, writing, and philosophy--and edged into pacifism. He debated such issues as "Resolved, that the American Press should be under the control of a Federal Press Commission," recalling that he was on the opposite side. He thought he had outsmarted the draft, if only temporarily, by registering in Hamilton, New York, where he went to school, instead of his home town. It did not work. His notice came, and his brief mental debate over becoming a conscientious objector was put aside. He reported for duty on July 7, 1941. …

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