Destin man pens memoires of WWII

Savannah Vasquez
"Air Raid Nights & Radio Days," by Don Schroeder, is a book full of memoirs from WWII on the home front.

Those who lived through the harrowing era of WWII may be few today, but one Destin man, Don Schroeder, is keeping memories of the timeframe alive and well with his book “Air Raid Nights & Radio Days, Hanging on for Dear Life.”

“The book is memories and a bunch of antidotes from WWII and shortly thereafter,” said Schroeder. “I was born in 1936, so I was old enough to be a little kid when all these things were going on. I filtered everything through a little kid’s brain.”

The lighthearted novel is written from a child’s perspective and focuses on what life was like on the home front in Indianapolis, Ind. From collecting cans for the war effort to memories of horse-drawn garbage carts, Schroeder paints a picture of a simple yet patriotic time in America’s history.

“We had air raid drills once a month, where all the lights had to be turned out,” Schroeder said listing one memory. “We had no A/C so you had to have windows open, and if you had the radio on during the air drill you got hollered at to turn the radio off because they might be able to see your radio light.”

Another childhood memory Schroeder said was influenced by the war was their method of play.

“We didn’t play cops and robbers or cowboys and Indians, my buddies and I would play shoot the Nazi,” he said. “One day we targeted a man wearing a black shirt leading a German shepherd and we banged at him and scared him a good bit.”

Throughout the book an iconic drawing of a bald man peeping over a fence separates memories and chapters. The drawing is known as Kilroy and was a symbol of American presence during WWII.

“It was all started by a rivet inspector, James J. Kilroy, in New England,” Schroeder said explaining the origin of the doodle. “When he finished inspecting a ship he marked his name with chalk but some of the guys figured out they could get paid twice if they erased his name so he started using paint and would write in paint, ‘Kilroy was here,’ at the end of his inspection. The ships went off to war with that written all over them and when they landed in Europe the soldiers found the bald man doodle nicknamed Mr. Chad all over England and started adding ‘Kilroy was here’ to the picture and it caught on. Soon, soldiers would end letters home that way and kids did it all over the country.”

Since publishing the first edition of his book in 2009, Schroeder said he came across new memories and added them in his second edition, published in 2014. However, he said that every time he talks to others who lived through WWII, he is reminded of new memories.

“I keep hearing new ones and it brings back memories from my experience,” he said. “I need to have a third edition because there are things I need to add that I didn’t include. It’s been a very good thing, people are interested in WWII. Everybody had a role to play, even kids.”

When it comes to the audience the book is written towards, Schroeder said the age range really varies as those who lived through WWII enjoy it, but it is also a great tool to transport younger audiences into the by-gone era.

“The book is written for adults but it is also a good read for kids to learn about the life of their grandparents,” said Schroeder’s wife Helen.

“There is a middle school in Indiana that uses this book in their study of WWII since it is written from a kid’s perspective, the kids relate to it,” said Schroeder. “I’ve been asked to talk to several schools about writing and also memories and one thing I say, and I think is important is: ‘Memory is important to us as individuals in the same way that history is important to our nation.’”

To purchase a copy of “Air Raid Nights & Radio Days, Hanging on for Dear Life,” visit, email Don Schroeder at or call 654-7807.