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  © 1988 Glenn R. Shafer


Many times over the years, I have listened to my father tell about his experiences in World War II, about his childhood, and about the relations among the members of the Shafer family. Often he would conclude by saying that he would like, someday, to write an autobiography. After his retirement in 1980, and after his recovery from a couple of minor strokes a few years later, this ambition became more pressing for him, and he began to ask me for advice about how to write his story down.

My separation and divorce in 1985, and the self-examination that accompanied it, sharpened my own interest in understanding our family history, and in the summer of 1985 I began to help Daddy put his war stories into written form. During the past two and a half years, we have polished those stories, moved back into his childhood, forward into the early days of his marriage after the war, and finally on into the times of my own childhood and afterwards.

The result is a very personal story. It is the story of one man's life and ambition. It is about the family and the childhood that shaped his dreams, about the wartime experiences that sharpened those dreams, and about the struggle to fulfill them. It is the story of an honest man.

We have relied primarily on my father's memory. We have made use, however, of all the other help we could find. Our wartime chronology was greatly improved by a two-page history of the 180th Battalion that John Whitmore gave Daddy in 1985. We learned more about the early history of the Shafer and Esson families from my father's Aunt Lillian and Aunt Vivian and from genealogical materials gathered by my cousin Sharon Wiggins. The whole family, including my father's sister, my mother and her parents, and my own brother and sisters, helped us get more recent events straight. Many other family and personal friends have also made suggestions for improving earlier drafts. We are grateful for their help.

We hope that none of those who have helped us will be blamed for errors we have made or for things we have said that we might have left unsaid. We have told the story as my father saw it, as he heard it, and as he understood it. A few of the incidents we tell about some of those involved might rather forget. We hope they will forgive us. We have not tried to tell about every scandal in the Shafer family. What we have told we have told because it is part of the story of who my father was, how he thought, and how he felt.

For my own part, I hope that this document will help my own children understand some of what came before their own struggle with life. Someday they too will want to ponder not only where they are going but also where they came from.

Glenn Shafer
Lawrence, Kansas
December 30, 1987

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