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Monday, October 15, 2007

Buffalo Soldier

"Ollen Hunt was born in McLemoresville, TN, July 25, 1923, the youngest of 11 children. While serving in the Civilian Conservation Corp he attained the rank of Mess Sergeant. When the CCC was disbanded Ollen was drafted into the US Army 92nd Infantry Division E Company, 370 Regiment (Buffalo Soldiers) where he saw action in Florence, Poe Valley, and and other front line battles in Italy until the war ended..." - from the back cover of Buffalo Soldier, written by Ollen Hunt himself.

After the war, Ollen was sent to France and later to occupied Germany, not returning to the United States until 1957. He retired from the Army in 1963 and hired on with Northwest Airlines, which is how he ended up in Anchorage Alaska just in time for the Good Friday Earthquake. After Ollen left Northwest Airlines, he opened the Hof Brau, a legendary Anchorage restaurant, where he often carved the roast beef and served customers himself. Eventually he retired from the restaurant and, at age 83, wrote Buffalo Soldier, which, a short year, later is on it's second printing.

I'm four chapters into Buffalo Soldier and I can't put it down. It's fascinating. Utterly fascinating. I've been awed by the Buffalo Soldiers since I learned about them as a kid, reading about the 10th Cav and the Roughriders at San Juan Hill.

I met Ollen today.

He was doing a book signing at the Elmendorf/Fort Richardson Exchange. 84 years old, and the guy was in better shape than most people half his age. Funny, interesting, articulate. I got there just as he was setting up his table. He signed my copy of Buffalo Soldier and, since nobody was around yet, we talked for twenty minutes or so. Then the line started to form, and I had to move on, which was a dammed shame because I could easily have spent a couple hours with him. It was a privilege talking to him.

So, if you're looking for something to read, try Buffalo Soldier, just don't ask to borrow my copy.

2 comments:

  1. A writer and an old soldier, those are the best people to meet. I always enjoy meeting new (to me) authors,

    I once was lucky to drink (along with twenty other people) with an old soldier who fought for the Poles, Germans, and Russians before defecting to the US (and serving as an advisor for our military). I wish I could remember half of what he told us, it was just damn amazing.

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  2. I bought a copy for my uncle, who loves military biography. Amazon and B&N don't carry it, though - I ordered it from "Publication Consultants - Books by Alaskans for and about Alaska!" If it's in its second printing, you'd think the majors would carry it.

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