A DOCTOR’S WAR: Letters and Reflections from the Frontlines of World War II

A DOCTOR’S WAR is one man’s resolute journey through the minefields of love and war and what he learns about himself along the way. It’s also a daughter’s discovery of the young man she never knew, before he became her father.

This riveting account of a Medical Officer and combat regimental surgeon on the frontlines of WWII, responsible for the physical and emotional well-being of traumatized and wounded soldiers, is a unique perspective of war.  Engaged in some of North Africa and Italy’s bloodiest battles: Kasserine, Fondouk, Hill 609, Monte Pantano, Cassino, and Anzio, Lt. Col./Maj. Arthur L. Ludwick earned both the Purple Heart and Silver Star, unusual combat commendations for an unarmed Medical Officer.

Keen observations on the landscapes, cultures, and people he encounters are packed into the eloquent love letters written home to his wartime bride, supplemented by well-researched WWII history for context.  Based on a rich archive of interviews, letters, photos, and military documents, this multifaceted narrative of our country’s last “good war,” is a captivating chronicle of history that gives new insights into true leadership, human character, and the irrational nature of war.

A DOCTOR’S WAR: Letters and Reflections from the Frontlines of World War II
Rick Atkinson endorsement

Rick Atkinson, best-selling author, historian, and Pulitzer Prize winner for The Liberation Trilogy, has this to say about A DOCTOR'S WAR:

“Intimate and compelling.  A DOCTOR’S WAR captures the vivid, often poignant   experience of a frontline physician during WWII’s brutal campaigns in North Africa and Italy. Dr. Arthur L. Ludwick, Jr., illuminates not only the war, but also the humanity to be found, despite the war.”

Praise for the Book

If you’re into books about history and war, particularly “The Big One”—WWII—you will enjoy “A Doctor’s War.” Author Peggy Ludwick does an artful job with her father’s meticulously written letters from the front lines of WWII. What strikes me about these letters are their detail. These are the “real deal” as experienced by a front-lines doctor who spent nearly two years in the thick of it. Any reader will apppreciate the freshness and rawness of the writing. The author provides her own unique perspective as Arthur “Lud” Ludwick’s daughter. It’s a wonderful story of a combat doctor told with love and compassion by a daughter who pays tribute to her father.

Amazon customer

Reading this book and being an “old” soldier with fairly extensive knowledge of the Italian and North African Campaigns, gave me a personal identity with many of Major Ludwick’s wartime letters. He wasn’t just a Medical Officer, he was an important part of a Regimental Combat team’s leadership. I can say this because of his references to “occasionally practicing medicine.” Good leaders of all branches are asked to do many duties of importance irrespective of branch within a good unit. The better the officer, the more was/is expected. Not fair to the officer I suppose, but very fair to the soldiers and mission. Ludwick’s references to Hollywood-ish ideas is as true today as it was in WW2. There are basic, time tested, human emotions that come to the forefront in combat. They are primitive in nature and are unchanging over the generations. Ludwick’s descriptions, innovative methods, and training schedules on the essentials all recognized this fact. He truly had his finger on the pulse of the combat soldier. Major Ludwick’s descriptions about how he had changed were very emotional for an old soldier. He is correct in his understanding of how combat, deployments, separation from loved ones, finely tunes one’s priorities. The periods of prolonged loneliness, sheer boredom, total chaos, unspeakable horror all add up to wearing down even the strongest soldier. No amount of understanding from someone other than a fellow comrade-in-arms can understand the toll it takes.

COL. (Ret) Mike Penhallegon

Just finished reading this book of love letters home from WWII by a young surgeon to his bride of two months. I was touched by the physical descriptions of locations, the well-written letters by the surgeon to his wife, and the research by daughter Peggy Ludwick who wove the timeline together based on letters home. The descriptions of the cold, wet weather these young soldiers endured made me wrap up in my cozy blanket. I was touched by Peggy's writing in the prologue and as the book winds down. She made me realize how little I knew of my own parents' lives as younger adults, before I came along. It's thought provoking and a tear jerker. I highly recommend this book for anyone remotely interested in history, especially during war times. Great writing by a father and his daughter.

D.D. LaBissoniere

"Your dad is an insightful, observant, and detailed writer with a strong specific voice."

Dorothy S. Clark , Boston University Master Lecturer in Communication Writing

I had the pleasure of practicing medicine for many years in the same community as Dr. Arthur Ludwick. Lud was a superb family physician, colleague and friend. During those 25 plus years I never heard him discuss his wartime experiences or the fact that he was separated from his lovely wife Jean for 28 months after just 3 months of marriage. The story of those years, discovered and so brilliantly recorded by his daughter Peggy from his extensive letters and her research into the movement of his combat regiments and the battles they fought in North Africa and Italy, is interestingly recorded. I was also overwhelmed by his love for his new young wife and his determination through his letters to keep that relationship intact and strong as the months dragged on. Despite this, he still risked his life going into the active battle zones to recover wounded soldiers, winning the Silver Star and earning a Purple Heart. I am grateful to Peggy for introducing me to this side of her father, the young physician who gallantly served his country during WWII. To meet this young hero you must read this book.

Gerald Gibbons, MD , The Human Costs of War

The author did a nice job of mixing her Father’s letters with diligent research from official military records to create a seamless narrative that mixes personal experiences with official records. The letters illustrate the war experiences with the deep longing, care and concern for his new bride. Great insight into the WWII North Africa and Italian battles, particularly from a doctor’s point of view. A must for WWII buffs.

Kindle customer

I have read many books on WWII in both the Pacific and European theaters. This book was different in the respect of the detailed accounts of the daily duties on the front lines in caring for the dying and wounded soldiers with Dr. Ludwick's dedication to his profession. This is a well written book and a compelling read for those interested in learning about the sacrifices made by Americans and their Allies in one the largest wars in World history.

Leonard, Amazon Review

I was most impressed with “The Doctors War” book! Major Arthur Ludwick, Jr., a Combat Surgeon, was able to pass on the most descriptive details of his service, while assigned to the 133rd and the 168th Infantry Regiments, of the 34th Infantry Division, while they fought in North Africa and Italy, during WWII. Major Ludwick recorded his thoughts and interesting details in the 265 letters sent to his home front wife, while he served 2 1/2 years overseas in the combat zone. What really impressed me, was the first experiences he described of the war in North Africa, the forward medical support he personally provided at the Battle of Mount Pantano, in Italy, and his thoughts on how to treat “The Walking Wounded”, who were Shell Shocked men, that we now call PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) soldiers. This is a book that will teach the most ardent WWII historians something new about the war, the life of combat infantry soldiers and the power of positive leadership by a caring soldier doctor.

Russell V. Bierl, COL (Ret)

One might ask, "What remains to be learned about WWII"? This book opens a window and gives insight in a very personal way of what it was like during the hard fought campaigns of North Africa and Italy. Through very detailed letters written home to his new bride, Dr. Ludwick gives us a true picture of what he and others endured. His daughter, Peggy, does an exceptional job of including more information about each battle and location. This book also delves into how the experiences of those who served during WWII affected them and others upon their return home. I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in this genre.

Sue, Amazon customer

"Peggy Ludwick’s depiction of the life of a combat Medical Officer in World War II draws from her father’s letters home to his young bride, from whom he was separated for two and a half of years after just two months of marriage. With the 34th Infantry Division in Northern Ireland, North Africa, and Italy, Lt. Col/Maj. Arthur “Lud” Ludwick treated soldiers suffering from injuries, PTSD, malaria, Hepatitis "A", and other illnesses, while keeping the troops’ spirits high amid 14 major engagements with the German Army. This personal account reflects Lud’s feelings, cultural observations, and successes in a way most WWII narratives fail to do."

Chris Rader , writer/editor, author of PLACE OF PLENTY

"The letters are notable for their detail and insight—riveting reports by an astute observer of the violent drama that was evolving all around him. Lt. Col./Major Arthur L. Ludwick was a stickler for accuracy, describing in moving detail the medical challenges, as well as the human suffering he witnessed. This book is both a love story and a war story. For World War II history buffs, in particular, A DOCTOR’S WAR will be a valuable addition to their library."

Ed Stover , journalist, poet, editor

"Peggy Ludwick's exploration of her father's military service during World War Two as a medical officer stands out as a valuable contribution to our understanding of that war because it also takes into account, from a very personal perspective, the postwar legacies of the brutal wartime conditions in North Africa and Italy. It is a remarkable reconsideration of the hidden costs of war, not only for those who suffered physical and emotional wounds from combat experience, but also for their families back home, both during and after the war. It is an admiring, but clear-eyed look at the hidden stories that shaped the father she thought she knew, and it will resonate with anyone who has known a person who rose to the occasion of wartime service—even heroically—while attempting to shield those they loved from the full psychological and physical impact of that service."

Max G. Geier , Ph.D. Professor of History, Emeritus Western Oregon University

"They endured the unimaginable. They saw mankind at its worst and its best. They lived and loved and suffered with enormous intensity. No one but their few fellow survivors understood. They never talked about it for decades and still the very few alive cannot explain what really happened to them. They will soon be all gone. So few are alive who tell it in the raw, who can summon the energy to say how broken they were. It’s nearly all gone. Just myth and fake patriotism swallowing what little truth emerged. . . . I miss their decency. I miss their courage and humor. I feel old and cynical when I see the narcissism and self-interest of our present movers and shakers. They were giants. Please just remember them."  Alex Kershaw, author of Against All Odds


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