Charles J. Shields

Charles J. Shields
Charles J. Shields is the author of And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: A LifeMockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee, the highly acclaimed, bestselling biography of Harper Lee, and I Am Scout: The Biography of Harper Lee (Henry Holt Books for Young Readers). He grew up in the Midwest and taught in a rural school in central Illinois for several years. He has been a reporter for public radio, a journalist, and the author of nonfiction books for young people.
Focus On: WWII
Kurt Vonnegut and the Dresden Bombings
By: Charles J. Shields | February 13, 2012
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At 10:05 pm, the target finder over Dresden in a howling Mosquito bomber dropped a red flare and called out into his headset, “Tally ho!” The first attack had begun.

One Lamp Louie roused the POWs out of their bunks, hurried them across to the yard, and then sent them down the precipitous steps of the storage building toward the lower basement, sixty feet underground. A German corporal and three privates rushed behind, shutting the steel door after them.

There was room for everyone on the floor between the sides of beef hanging in rows from the ceiling on tenterhooks. Vonnegut listened, as “Giants stalked the earth above us. First came the soft murmur of their dancing on the outskirts, then the grumbling of their plodding towards us, and finally the ear-splitting crashes of their heels upon us.” Each convulsive blast overhead shook the rows of beef, making them dance, and white calcimine dust fell from the ceiling.

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Focus On: WWII
And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: A Life by Charles J. Fields
POW Kurt Vonnegut and the Battle to Slaughterhouse Five
By: Charles J. Shields | November 11, 2011
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CP Note: Kurt Vonnegut was born November 11, 1922. In a November years later, he was preparing for battle—and then captured, prisoner of war. Vonnegut's fall of 1944 is shared here, leading into the winter and Slaughterhouse-Five.

From the forest surrounding them, a German-accented voice, amplified by a loudspeaker, echoed through the late afternoon gloom. “We can see you. Give up.”

When no one got to his feet, hands up, German half- tracks lowered their antiaircraft guns and fired into the branches above Vonnegut and the others, sending bursts of shrapnel in all directions.

Wounded men screamed.

“Come out!” ordered the voice.

Vonnegut got to his feet and rapidly began breaking down his weapon, fumbling with his frozen fingers to remove the piston, the trigger mechanism, and the bolt, the pieces falling into the snow.

Last, he grabbed the barrel and slung the rifle, end over end, as far as he could.

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