Posted in Books and E-Books

G.I. Joe & Lillie

Over the weekend, I read the book, G. I. Joe & Lillie by Joseph S. Bonsall. I will confess that the main reason I bought the book was because of the author. He is one of my favorite singers. Yes, singer. Joe Bonsall is the tenor with the wonderful Oak Ridge Boys, and I have enjoyed hearing him (and all the Boys) sing since 1977. There is a second reason that I bought this book and that is the same-titled song Joe wrote about this story. This story really moved me, and I want to share some thoughts with all of you.

This is essentially the story of a generation of men and women. They came from all walks of life, all parts of the USA, from all sorts of families and home situations. They lived through some of the roughest times this country has faced – the Great Depression, World War II, and the aftermath of that war. They were our fathers, mothers, grandparents. They were to put it simply – patriots.

The book recounts the lives of two of these people. One is a boy from an alley next to the train tracks in North Philadelphia, growing up in a, sad to say, very dysfunctional family. The other is a girl who grew up on a cotton farm in North Carolina. In its own way, this family too was not the picture-perfest American Dream family. But G.I. Joe and Lillie shared some extraordinary qualities: determination, focus, a desire for more than what their circumstances seemed to have in store for them.

G.I. Joe dropped out of school and went to work. But in 1943, he enlisted in the Army. His decision to serve his country nwas met with scorn by his father and seeming indifference by his mother. But he went nevertheless. Mr. Bonsall describes G.I.Joe’s journey from basic training in Maryland to the 359th Regiment of the 90th Infantry Division – the “Tough Ombres.” And G.I. Joe turned out to be tough. From Texas to California to the beaches of Normandy, he toughed it out.

In the meantime, Lillie also dropped out of school and left North Carolina in 1943 at age 16, walking away alone, and apparently missed only by her mother. She ended up in Baltimore, and went then Detroit to learn how to make airplanes for the war effort. After a while, Lillie heard about the Women’s Army Corp, the WACs, and decided to join up – “It just couldn’t be any harder…and besides, I would get to travel.” Quite the adventuress, our Lillie!

Many twists and turns, battle scars and wounds, G.I. Joe and Lillie met. In Hempstead, New York, at the Mitchell Field which served by now as a clearing and processing center for the many wounded returning from the European theater now that the war was over. “Hello, Doll,” was his greeting to Lillie. Pretty standard fare, but in this case the results were spectacular! Six days later, they were married! And they remained married and devoted to each other all their lives.

This book is a beautiful tribute to this special bond these two amazing people shared. Their lives were not the easiest ever, but their love for and commitment to God and each other saw them through it all. They raised 2 children and had a lasting impact on the lives of many, including readers of their story. I admit that I found myself sobbing at the end of the book just because of this wonderful love they shared

I highly recommend this to anyone who likes people stories, or love stories, or true grit stories. Oh, and spoiler alert: It was written by their son!


I am a Daughter of the Almighty King, a 60-something knitter, reader, Oak Ridge Boys fan to the max!

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