After more than a decade in the making, state Sen. Hans Zeiger, R-Puyallup, is publishing a history book.
Called “Puyallup in World War II,” the book chronicles life in Puyallup during the second World War through the stories of residents who lived there.
The 200-page book will be released on Monday. For Zeiger, it’s meant to preserve stories for future generations to learn from.
“As our society changes rapidly, it’s all the more important to understand the places that we come from,” Zeiger said in an interview with The Herald on Oct. 23. “It’s important for elected officials to understand the roots of the community they serve, and that gives them a perspective about where those communities are going.”
All proceeds from sales of the book will be donated to local veterans organizations.
Zeiger said he’s always been interested in history, even before he was elected to the state Senate in 2011.
The idea to write the book was sparked in 2007, while Zeiger was enrolled at graduate school at Pepperdine University in California. He was inspired after watching “Band of Brothers,” a TV miniseries that included interviews with World War II survivors.
“I thought, ‘Wow, there’s a really narrow window of opportunity to talk to veterans from that generation,’” Zeiger said. “There are a lot of stories that need to be told, so I thought I was going to do something about that.”
Zeiger, who grew up in Puyallup and graduated from Puyallup High School in 2003, started searching for those stories in his own community.
He had help from organizations like the Puyallup Historical Society. PHS president Andy Anderson read copies of the book before it went to print, and Zeiger dedicated the book to Anderson and his wife, Ruth.
“We gave him full access to (our records) and our thoughts,” Anderson said. “We are tickled that he attacked that piece of work.”
Zeiger started writing about the topic as a columnist for local publications in 2007, including The Puyallup Herald and The Seattle Times.
“I think a lot of people, the children and grandchildren of that generation, have this deep wonder about that cohort of Americans, because there are a lot of unanswered questions,” Zeiger said.
Zeiger conducted a total of 120 interviews for the book, not including stories shared through letters archived in local libraries or given by family members.
Like many communities across the country, Puyallup residents were in the thick of the war. They were taught how to be ready for possible air raids. Women in Puyallup volunteered for military service. Women and children farmed to keep up with demand. Even the local hospital in Puyallup was critical to medical aid for the region.
“We haven’t really had an experience as a country quite like that since then,” Zeiger said. “There was something to do and everybody did their part. And it was amazing to see how that happened in the life of one community.”
While all memorable, some stories were particularly meaningful to Zeiger, such as the survivors of Camp Harmony, a Japanese internment camp located on the Puyallup fairgrounds. Another was Puyallup resident Frank Hanawalt, who Zeiger said had a vivid memory of the time.
“Probably the most significant letter collection is the one left behind by Leonard Kandle,” Zeiger said.
Kandle, a WWII veteran and 1939 Puyallup High School graduate, received the Medal of Honor in 1945 for his heroic actions in France. Currently, the Puyallup Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) is raising money to install a monument to Kandle outside Puyallup High School. It’s expected to be completed this spring.
“You look at the names at the Veterans Memorial in Pioneer Park … each name comes with a story,” Zeiger said. “I hope that others will look for ways to share the stories of people from our community who went through that war.”
A book signing will be held on Veterans Day (Nov. 11) at The Old Cannery in Sumner, directly following the Veterans Day Assembly at 1 p.m. at Pioneer Park Pavilion, 330 S. Meridian in Puyallup.
More book signings are expected to follow later in November.