For most people, having the honor of making a difference to a veteran who served their country is not an everyday activity.
Perhaps that is why when John Lambert was approached and asked to detail the account of those who served on the USS Independence, he could not turn down the request.
After being approached by Al Hiegel, a World War II veteran who served on the ship during the Pacific Campaign, Lambert knew he would write the book and explained why he has dedicated the last four years to making sure the book was not only chronologically correct, but a true depiction of the efforts made by those who lived and served aboard the ship.
“The group of men that served on the ship are sadly, becoming extinct,” Lambert said. “When Al asked me if I would write the book, I thought if I could honor them and acknowledge what they had done so they might get to see it, I had to try. It was a lot of time and a lot of work, but I was glad to do it.”
Hiegel said the idea for the book came to him when he signed up to be the historian for the Independence reunion group that meets every year.
As the historian of the group, Hiegel had a closet full of information that he intended to work into a book, but just didn’t know what to do with it, until a chance encounter afforded him the opportunity to ask Lambert to take on the project.
“I was receiving an award from the FAA for 50 years of flying without an accident and John was in the audience,” Hiegel said. “I had heard he was a writer, so I thought I would ask if he needed a new project. He told me he would take it on so I got him in touch with shipmates of mine and also gave him whatever material I had to get him started.”
Lambert collected all the information he could from Hiegel and his shipmates before setting off to the National Archives in Washington to obtain the details that Hiegel couldn’t provide. During repeated trips to the archives, a lot of interviews and a collection of journal entries from men aboard the ship, the book, titled “USS INDEPENDENCE CVL-22: A War Diary of our Nation’s First Dedicated Night Carrier”, became a reality in September, just prior to the reunion group’s gathering.
Hiegel said his group, which has dwindled to about twelve over the years, was very excited to see the finished product.
“None of us had envisioned a book this big,” Hiegel said. “John’s a stickler for digging to the bottom of things, so this a historic and comprehensive account of what happened on the ship. We are very proud of it and when we all saw it at the reunion, we were signing each other’s books like a bunch of high school kids.”
In an effort to share the book with the public, Lambert and Hiegel will be participating in a book signing on Saturday, hosted by Hastings. The event will run from 1-3 p.m. and as well as having the opportunity to meet the author and have the book signed, the public has the opportunity to meet one of the men that served on the ship and hear first-hand accounts of events featured in the book.
Lambert said he hopes the book is well received and he is looking forward to sharing the story of the ship and her crew with the public.
(Candie Beck is a staff writer and can be reached at 505-1238 or at email@example.com)