Westlake Native Tells Epic Story From Korean War In Newest Book
Patrick O'Donnell tells unheard tale of George Company.
Give Me Tomorrow is the tale of one group of men struggling against the odds to defeat the enemy and protect each other. The book is Westlake native Patrick O'Donnell's seventh. With it, he hopes to tell a story of the Korean War -- the "Forgotten War" -- and chronicle the feats of the men who fought it.
"I wanted to really capture the entire Korean War experience and sort of give people an understanding of it," O'Donnell said. "Hopefully, it will build some understanding and other families will embrace that and find their own veteran stories."
O'Donnell is a longtime military historian with expertise in airborne forces and espionage during Word War II. He was consulted for the WWII mini-series "Band of Brothers" and worked on 15 documentaries for the History Channel.
After spending months as a military historian in Fallujah, even fighting house-to-house with Marines, O'Donnell returned to the United States to find a new story waiting for him.
When he arrived at Camp Pendleton in Southern California, O'Donnell had no idea how he would get to the train station to return home. He met some men from George Company who asked if he needed a ride.
"I told them about what I went through and they said to me, 'Wow, you're a Marine too,' " he said. "And they said they were very impressed with the generation of warriors that we have. They said this was the next greatest generation."
The men of George Company told O'Donnell about a Korean War battle at Chosin Reservoir where they, a company of less than 150 men, held off nearly 3,000 Chinese soldiers in 20 degree-below weather, with no tents, no food and frozen weapons.
"I asked myself, 'How did they do that?" That's really an amazing feat," O'Donnell said. "And that was a tiny thread. Just like everything else in my life, the story found me."
One of the men O'Donnell interviewed from George Company was Bob Harbula, a Pittsburgh native he met at a company reunion in California.
"I've waited 60 years for this book to be written because I couldn't understand how the story of our company hadn't been told: what we did and how we did it and against what odds," he said. "We were outnumbered 150,000 Chinese against 15,000 of us and that equates out to, we shouldn't be back. You don't come back from battles like that. . . The sad thing is that most of the American people don't know about it."
O'Donnell said one of the hardest parts of gathering information is that because Korean War veterans had not talked openly about their experiences, they were tight-lipped during interviews.
"This story has never been told," O'Donnell said. "I had to pull teeth in terms of interviewing these men because none of them had ever talked about it. It was worse than World War II vets. It was the most difficult set of interviews I've done in my life."
O'Donnell hopes the work pays off and that people walk away from it with an appreciation for veterans' sacrifices and a better knowledge of the Korean War.
"The book is about war and its aftermath," he said. "It's not an anti-war book, but it's quite powerful and I hope it captures what these men went through."