By Kaitlin Gill ’13
For the past three years, Jim Breig ’68, ’71G has been working on his book, “Searching for Sgt. Bailey: Saluting an Ordinary Soldier of World War II,” but he’s no stranger to the writing world.
Religion, media, and history were among his specialties. Breig worked in Albany, N.Y., with a diocesan newspaper for 37 years as a reporter, assistant editor, and editor. Throughout his years with the newspaper, he worked for various magazines as a freelance writer and wrote a weekly syndicated TV column that reached more than one million readers. In addition to these aspects of his career, Breig contributed a script to “Hawaii Five-O.”
The idea for Breig’s book sparked when he and his wife, Mary, were driving to Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. On the way, they stopped at Marketplace Antiques in Gloucester County to take a break from driving. As Breig looked around the store, he came across a stack of small pages, which were Sgt. James Boisseau Bailey’s World War II V-mails – letters he wrote from overseas that were reduced to microfilm and enlarged when delivered in the U.S. These letters, which Bailey wrote to his mother, became the foundation for his book.
“I accidentally found the letters and thought they might make an article,” he says. “I was looking for something different but became more interested and fascinated with who this man was, what his town was like, and what his experiences were.”
Breig began researching Bailey in January 2009. The following six months included detective work as Breig traveled to Bailey’s hometown, Prince George Courthouse, Va., to meet people who knew him and conduct interviews.
The book’s theme is that, while the heroes of Iwo Jima and D-Day have been rightly honored, average soldiers have been neglected; yet they served faithfully and returned to their lives, rarely speaking about their experiences. The book traces Bailey from life in his hometown to New Guinea, explaining what it was like as a soldier who marched away from home in the 1940s. Bailey’s story is an example of the stories of millions of people who served in World War II, many of whom returned to little commendation.
“I want to present him as an ordinary soldier,” Breig says. “I wanted to tell the story of his life, family, and what he experienced in New Guinea.”
Breig conducted additional research about Bailey and realized he had enough information to write a book. He wrote the first draft in six months. During the winter of 2010, he thought he had enough of a finished product to present to a publisher. Breig presented his book to Naval Institute Press, which responded within 24 hours letting him know it was interested. After Breig sent a manuscript, the publisher encouraged him to continue to work on it. Naval Institute Press told Breig it had never seen anyone do what he was doing – trying to understand a person on a deeper level by analyzing letters he wrote.
However, Breig’s publication process took a complicated turn when, one year later, Naval Institute Press decided not to continue to work with his book and was no longer interested in publishing it. After a year of progress, Breig had to start at the beginning of the publication process again and needed to find another publisher.
Christopher Gunty, a friend in religious publishing who works for Park Chase Press in Baltimore, formerly named Cathedral Foundation of Baltimore, called him expressing interest in the book. It wasn’t particularly religious; however, Gunty wanted Bailey’s story to expand and sell to a broader audience. Breig’s book, which can be purchased at www.amazon.com, will be one of the first – if not the first – titles of Park Chase’s expanded offerings.
“The feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction is greatly fulfilling,” Breig says. “Writers work in isolation with their thoughts and research, occasionally communicating through interviews with sources or experts for information. From that isolation, I sent the book into the world with high hopes.” JCU