A judge report: Book focuses on WWII soldiers from Amsterdam


Recorder News Staff

For local author Robert Going, the five-year journey to completing his newest book has been an emotional one.

Earlier this month, Going released "Where Do We Find Such Men?" a 363-page book detailing the extraordinary lives of the Amsterdam residents who did their duty during World War II, both home and abroad.

Throughout the pages of the book, Going follows the true stories of the Amsterdam residents who served during the war, and tells the tales of the medals they received, the struggles they faced, and the memories they left behind on the battlefield.

Going said some of the people he spoke with during his research period had never told the stories to anyone, not even their families.

"The astounding thing I discovered in my research is that no matter what was happening in World War II, somebody from Amsterdam was there and usually doing something heroic in one fashion or another," he said.

The stories are those of the general who kept the supplies flowing from D-Day onward, the Sanford heiress who was captured as a spy and escaped, the doctor who cared for the world's greatest war criminals, the National Guard men who had the parade send off, the man who died on the first day in Hickam Field, Hawaii, and about 26 other men who were in the Pearl Harbor area.

"I knew about most of them, but then I find out what they were doing afterwards and find out that these guys were in like 13, 14, 15, sea battles after that," Going said.

About 10 percent of the book is about the son of the former circulation manager of the Recorder, Going said, who became a prisoner of war and as a private first class helped a company of POWs to escape and make their way to freedom.

"It's a story he didn't tell for 50 years, even to his own family, but once he did, he sat down with me before he died and went over some of the details."

One of the stories Going recalled was about the Bigelow Sanford Soccer Club in Amsterdam, who after playing as amateurs in the professional league because of their skill and winning the title in 1942, went out around the world the serve, Going said.

The folks at home kept a newsletter for them, that detailed what was happening in Amsterdam as they detailed what was happening around the world where they served. It was their way, Going said, of staying connected to home.

"All of these stories have been told before but they've never been collected and for me the exciting part was rediscovering them and preserving them," he said.

The research for the book and the stories within it were in part thanks to memoirs he was provided from World War II veterans, the stories he was told, as well as the Recorder archives from that time, Going said.

It took him five years to do the research. The book was originally supposed to be about the men killed in World War II, but that turned into its own book that came out in early 2010, called "Honor Roll: The World War II Dead of Amsterdam, NY." So the research continued, and it was an emotional ride.

"It's all people I knew. The guys who fought in World War II were my father and his generations. They were the parents of other kids I grew up with," he said. "I haven't even counted the number of fathers of my classmates."

They were just normal people who were working in carpet mills or at the local confectionery store, he said, some of which came home to be aldermen and mayors.

Going said residents will be stunned to see what their neighbors were doing during the war.

"Was Amsterdam that unique, that we had so many heroes coming of here?" he posed. "I'm thinking probably not. I suspect every small town in America had the same experience, just nobody told their stories. ... But who knows, maybe not, maybe this really is the place where heroes are born."

Going will be doing a book signing at The Book Hound on Main Street today from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the Spring Fling.