These people really were part of the Greatest Generation

We told you a little while ago about McFarland Publishing and the fascinating array of books on transportation subjects that they produce. Here’s another one, brand new, and the work of the widely respected Southern California racing historian, Art Evans. World War II Veterans in Motorsports is about men (and two women) who returned from combat and defeating tyranny to learn that the pastoral, relaxed reality of life in the unfolding Fifties wasn’t really for them. Instead, they turned to fast cars in a world of racing had exploded out of nearly nothing.

A former racer himself and a onetime production executive at Paramount Pictures, the author is responsible for innumerable books and magazine articles on early competition history. He focuses here on people who traded warfare for a whole new kind of combat: In the book’s 196 paperback pages are the stories of Dan Gurney, Steve McQueen, Rodger Ward, Bill Stroppe, Paul Newman, Johnny Von Neumann, Max Balchowsky and a gentleman I got to know well late in his life, the international racing star John Fitch. Most of them experienced the Southern California racing scene in its earliest, formative years. The book focuses on closed-circuit racing, bypassing the revolution in drag racing, which involved a lot of people who were veterans or worked in the defense industry, that was going on at the same time. No matter. Any work that salutes the lives of World War II veterans is worthy, and this one tells compelling stories. The retail price is $39.95. You can order it from the publisher or else pick it up at Autobooks-Aerobooks in Burbank, California, which is always worth a visit when you’re in Los Angeles.

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