About Joseph E. Garland
The author of Unknown Soldiers was supposed to be the fourth in a distinguished line of Dr. Joseph Garlands—a healer, not a killer. But after he failed Organic Chemistry, Joe took a leave of absence from college, swapping the expected career path toward medicine—and a guaranteed military deferment—for a gun, a gas mask, and a position at the bottom of the United States Army. The year was 1943; the destination, Italy's “Winter Line,” where the Nazis held the high ground and were ready for target practice on the Americans.
Born in Brookline, Massachusetts in 1922, Garland grew up reading voraciously, hiking, and sailing—a sport that would become a lifelong passion and subject of many of his books. He was voted “most temperamental” in his high-school yearbook, and his joining the Army infantry was typical of a life punctuated by impetuous decisions. He left the States with his father's oft-quoted exhortation ringing in his ears: “Come back with this shield or on it.”
He would likely have come home on the shield if fate hadn't intervened, in the form of an officer seeing “Harvard” on his papers and figuring he'd know how to read a map. He was recruited to an Intelligence and Reconnaissance platoon—on the front, but supposed to observe the enemy and “stay out of trouble.” The private diary he kept during the war became the basis for a work that, in true mercurial fashion, he would love, hate, spurn and embrace for 65 years before its publication. Meanwhile, he became a journalist, wrote Lone Voyager and twenty other non-fiction books, and had two daughters with his first wife, Rebecca Choate. His work as a union organizer and newspaper strike leader once brought him before the Maine Supreme Court for inciting to riot; more recently, he was awarded a regional lifetime achievement award from the City of Gloucester, Masssachusetts, for his cultural contributions.
Throughout his life, Garland has found a fellow companion—temperamental, tempestuous, halcyon—in the Atlantic Ocean in front of his home in Gloucester. He gave up sailing because he figured that if he wasn't agile enough to captain a boat, he didn't want to suffer along as a mere passenger. His second wife, Helen (originally a wartime pen pal), played a leading role in enabling Unknown Soldiers to emerge from its many decades of draft states and silence. His “big book” shows that he “feels strong as hell about this country.” He planned to live to be 100 along with Helen in their house by the sea.