Reader Review: Under the Eagle

Book cover for Under the Eagle by Samuel HolidayI was drawn to “Under the Eagle” simply to fulfill an idle curiosity I had about the Navajo culture and the Code Talker program. But this book gave me way more than I bargained for.

“Under the Eagle” is a personal story of a quiet, dignified man. It is also a study of Navajo spiritual and cultural traditions and a US history lesson as well, with gripping first-person accounts of the battles for the Pacific Islands of Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima and others.

As a reader I was immediately drawn in by the unusual format. The introduction (something I don’t usually read but found invaluable in this case) explains that this book is a written oral history. What you read is Samuel Holiday’s story in his own words with no flowery narration to ease transitions or add extra details. Co-author Robert S. McPherson transcribed and edited many hours of recorded interviews with Mr. Holiday, so that what you read is what he said.

Mr. Holiday credits surviving the war to his strong faith  in the Navajo way. As a result, each chapter begins with a Navajo legend important to a particular stage in Mr. Holiday’s life. The legend is followed by Mr. Holiday’s story. Finally, each chapter concludes with a “commentary,” an overview of world events surrounding the eyewitness accounts.

As I read the book, I was appalled (once again) by the way our country has treated minorities. But, I was also amazed and humbled by the way Mr. Holiday and his family adapted to the hardships they encountered. I was impressed how the Navajo spiritual and cultural traditions forged Mr. Holiday into a physically fit young man who was eager to defend his country – the very country who did not treat all of her citizens as equals.

Throughout the war and the many years of suffering in silence from what we now call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Mr. Holiday maintained a quiet dignity. I would be honored to shake this man’s hand and thank him for sharing his story with the world. Books like this remind us that there are quiet heroes all around us. It also keeps us from forgetting the many who didn’t make it back.

Three words that describe this book: Heroic, Historic, Riveting

You might want to pick this book up if: you are interested in World War II history and native American mythology.


About patron reviewer

As part of the library's Adult Summer Reading program each year, we invite patrons - just like you! - to submit book reviews.
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