From Philadelphia to the Battle of the Bulge
The Brief Life of Pvt. John “Lefty” Zagarella, As Told In Letters, 1941–1945
Edited by Donna Borrelli Long
From Philadelphia to the Battle of Bulge describes a pair of newlyweds from Philadelphia as they cope with separation during World War II. Personal correspondence and photographs demonstrate how the conflict affects U.S. Army, 28th Infantryman, Pvt. John “Lefty” Zagarella and his young bride Jeanne from 1941 to 1945. This compilation of letters, postcards and v-mails depicts their lives: his during training at Army camps in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Louisiana and Florida, and then later while serving in the European Theatre of Operations; and hers, as she waited anxiously at home; both of them contemplating their future together.
That future was not to be. John Zagarella perished in the vicinity of Wiltz, Luxembourg during the Battle of the Bulge. For nearly seven decades Jeanne preserved and treasured her collection of letters and memorabilia sent from Lefty. The letters reveal an extraordinary amount of courage, honor, sacrifice and love between two ordinary Americans during the most trying of historical circumstances.
“When I first began reading From Philadelphia to the Battle of the Bulge, I thought I was going to have a casual stroll down someone’s memory lane. I didn’t know who Johnny and Jeanne Zagarella were, but I figured I would get a glimpse of them through the many letters they wrote to each other during the war. How wrong I was.
“By the time I reached the last few pages of Jeanne’s letters — she didn’t know that Johnny had already been killed in combat — I had tears in my eyes and an ache in my heart. There is no surprise ending. The introduction lays out the honest truth — twenty-four-year-old Johnny is going to die and Jeanne will become one of thousands of young war widows.
“The author did a great job inserting timelines and historical notes at strategic points throughout the story. These allow the reader to visualize the two lovebirds’ lives in relation to unfolding dark events of the war. Johnny obviously shields Jeanne from the horrors and hell of combat. But, one can’t ignore the growing dread, apprehension, and sorrow knowing that tragedy is drawing ever closer.
“I highly recommend this excellent story of love, loss, and shattered dreams. From Philadelphia to the Battle of the Bulge opens up the very personal love life and heartbreak of a young war-time couple in a deeply emotional way I didn’t expect. For that, I am extremely grateful.”
—Jim Keeffe Author of award-winning Two Gold Coins and a Prayer: The Epic Journey of a World War II Bomber Pilot, Evader, and POW
“Private Zagarella, like all men in rifle companies, did the dirty work of the war…Shrapnel killed John Zagarella during the Battle of the Bulge… He left behind a loving wife he adored. These letters between him and his new wife are beautifully ordinary, and all of them together are moving…these written sources will steadily enrich our understanding of the human side of the war.”
— Michael E. Weaver, Ph.D. Author, Guard Wars: The 28th Infantry Division in World War II
“The devastation of war isn’t conveyed in history books. It is documented in letters like those of Pvt. Lefty Zagarella, whose dreams of a future with his young wife, Jeanne, were erased when he was killed in the Battle of the Bulge. If you want to sense the real cost of war, read these open, honest, letters — then think as well about the other 19,000 Americans killed in that battle alone. And think about their families, whose lifetimes were bereft of the kind of love and warmth that fills these letters.”
— Tom Flynn Founder and President of the Avenue of 444 Flags Foundation
“No author can capture the true essence of going off to war better than original letters from a person in uniform. ‘Lefty’ speaks for literally millions of fighting men…their main objective in war was to do their job with pride and get home to their loved ones as soon as possible.”
— John Maino Author, Frontlines—Personal accounts of World War II, The Pacific, and ETO – European Theatre of Operations