Naked Heart: A Soldier’s Journey to the Front is a powerful statement about the dark and vainglorious side of combat as experienced in World War II by a young private, Harold Pagliaro. His true story is a gripping, authentic account of men’s behavior in the face of death on the battlefield.
Pagliaro is sent to the front in 1944 as a solo replacement in a reconnaissance unit, isolated from the men he trained with. Facing death moment to moment, without friends or a sense of belonging, he sees firsthand how the reality of battle distorts men with fear. They look for relief in pathetic shows of false courage or the exercise of arbitrary power. Throughout Naked Heart, Pagliaro’s army life and war experiences connect closely with his personal life: unfulfilled love, friends, family—in particular a younger brother.
Shocked by a lack of truth revealed in letters he sent home from the war, Pagliaro gathered his memories into a book. He committed himself to relate the true story behind the letters’ white-washed surface. His straightforward, informal style blends fact, feeling, and perspective.
It is beautifully written—a simple pungent style—it seems to me frighteningly honest, and Pagliaro has sketched a scene or a character in a few telling strokes…. His book gave me an acute sense of what was really happening and I am full of admiration both for the way he endured it and for the way he tells it.
—William Appleton, emeritus professor of English, Columbia University
To those of us old enough to remember the hopes and fears of the WWII years the book will refresh old memories; for those younger it may move a recognition of both the waste and folly of war and the individual endurance, courage, and self knowledge that it calls forth.
—Tom Blackburn, professor of English, Swarthmore College
I found Naked Heart profoundly moving and totally authentic. It was WWII as I lived it and remember it…. It is a book that should be read by every WWII combat veteran and a much wider audience.
—Edward O. Shakespeare, WWII veteran