A Doctor's War: Letters and Reflections from the Frontlines of World War II
Peggy Ludwick never intended to write a book. She merely interviewed her father about his WWII experiences a few years before he died so his remarkable stories would not be lost or forgotten.
Then, after his death in 2008 and her mother’s passing in 2013, Peggy spent three years reading through 265 typed love letters “Lud” had written home to his wartime bride of just two months, while serving for 28 months on the frontlines as a Medical Officer. The letters were so powerful and such a revelation, she decided to excerpt their most compelling passages. Together, with the interviews’ transcript, a book began to take form.
Read below to learn more about A Doctor's War.
Rock Chalk Jayhawk, Go KU! Even though I was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, I grew up chanting the Jayhawk cheer and singing the KU fight song. My father, Arthur L. “Lud” Ludwick, Jr., MD’36, was a devoted, lifelong Jayhawk sports fan and financial supporter of his Alma Mater.
Lud lived in Wenatchee, Washington, the “Apple Capital of the World” for sixty-three years where he was a beloved family physician for generations of families. A year before he retired in 1989 at the age of 75, he was honored by the Washington State Medical Association for practicing medicine in Washington State for over 50 years.
As a speaker at one of the KU School of Medicine reunions, Lud’s dry sense of humor and deadpan delivery stole the show. When it was his turn to speak, he lugged a box of Wenatchee’s famous apples to the podium, handing out samples along the way, and lamenting how difficult it was to make a living as a doctor in Wenatchee. (You know the old adage, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away . . . “) The twinkle in his eye shone brightly.
In 1930, right before Lud graduated from Shawnee Mission High School in Overland Park, Kansas, his physician father died unexpectedly of a massive heart attack, leaving few financial resources. As an only child of older parents, this sudden and traumatic loss might have been crippling for many; but Lud coped by setting himself on a focused course of college and medical school, while also helping support his widowed mother. The demands of his higher education and new role as head of the household suddenly ratcheted his life fast forward, forcing him to grow up quickly.
Lud entered the University of Kansas at age sixteen as a freshman, then was accepted into medical school at eighteen via a special fast-track program for bright, ambitious students coming out of the Great Depression. His mother followed him to Lawrence, Kansas and operated a boarding house near campus. As an undergrad freshman, Lud lived in the Delta Upsilon fraternity house, enjoying the companionship of “brothers” he’d never had, as well as his first real social experiences. However, he was overcome by guilt at the thought of his elderly mother with high blood pressure shoveling coal into the furnace every night. So, after six months of living the consummate college/fraternity life, Lud moved into his mother’s boarding house to help with the daily chores. This was just one of many examples that epitomized my father’s life slogan and definition of success:
Success is doing something you don’t want to do, and doing it well.
My father was a modest and humble man and most people didn’t know of his heroism during WWII. He served on the front lines from 1942 to 1944 as a Battalion and Regimental Surgeon in some of North Africa and Italy’s bloodiest battles. As part of the celebrated 34th “Red Bull” Infantry Division, he insisted on positioning his medical aid station as far forward as possible to ensure that wounded soldiers were quickly treated where they fell and properly evacuated. As a result, he earned the Purple Heart in Tunisia and the Silver Star for “gallantry-in-action” on Monte Pantano, Italy, both unusual combat commendations for an unarmed medical officer.
After my father’s death in 2008 and my mother’s in 2013, I gave myself permission to read the 265 long, detailed, typed letters Lud wrote home to his wartime bride, my mother, during their 28 months of separation. These eloquently written letters were sheer poetry, filled with longing, hope, and despair as well as a unique, never-before-seen perspective of war: the daily, multifaceted duties of a combat regimental surgeon responsible for the psychological and physical well-being of his men. His keen observations of the landscapes, cultures and native people he encountered are insightful and astute, as are the riveting reports of the violent drama and suffering unfolding all around him.
This discovery of my dad’s life as an army officer and young adult, before he became my father, was both a revelation and a gift. As a result, A DOCTOR’S WAR was born.
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 meaning to true leadership, human character, and the irrational nature of war.
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.
Visit adoctorswar.com for additional information about how the book came to be, photo galleries, reviews, and letter excerpts. The book is available from McFarland Books and Amazon.
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About Peggy Ludwick
Peggy Ludwick’s professional background is in Microbiology and Public Health. Her work experience includes supervising hospital clinical labs and gender equity work in the Yakima, Washington public school system. She has always been interested in history and the lost art of letter writing. Discovering her father’s 265 eloquent letters home as a young Medical Officer/Regimental Combat Surgeon on the frontlines of WWII, was a revelation and a gift she felt compelled to share. In 2015, Peggy returned to live in her hometown, Wenatchee, Washington, where she continues to pursue a variety of writing projects in between visits to her three adult children and grandchildren.