Author reveals the ‘Rails of War’

Aug 04, 2017
Steven Hantzis

Rockland — Author Steven Hantzis will present an illustrated talk about his book “Rails of War: Supplying the Americans and Their Allies in China-Burma-India” Thursday, Aug. 17, at 6:30 p.m. at Rockland Public Library, 80 Union St. After the talk, books will be available for purchase and signing.

In “Rails of War” (Potomac Books), Hantzis paints a gritty and realistic picture of the struggles that faced brave GI railroaders in India during World War II. In a theater of war long forgotten and barely even known at the time, the author’s father, James Harry Hantzis, and his fellow soldiers labored at a thankless task under oppressive conditions.

The author’s father served alongside other GI railroaders in overcoming danger, disease, fire, and monsoons to move the weight of war in the China-Burma-India theater. Torn from their predictable working-class lives, the men of the 721st Railway Operating Battalion journeyed 15,000 miles to Bengal, India, to do the impossible: build, maintain and manage 700 miles of track through the most inhospitable environment imaginable. “Rails of War” demonstrates that without the men of the 721st, the Allied forces would have been defeated in the China-Burma-India conflict in World War II.

Hantzis draws on his 12 years as a Conrail brakeman-conductor and intimate knowledge of the industry and its culture to illustrate the remarkable story of the extraordinary men of the 721st, who moved an entire army to win the war. With vignettes featuring the men who served and references to family letters, the narrative is told from an enlisted man’s perspective with all the color and detail readers enjoy.

Hantzis is a retired Grand Lodge representative for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. Both his father and his great-grandfather were railroaders.

This event, sponsored by Friends of Rockland Public Library and the library, is free and open to the public. For more information, call 594-0310.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115; or

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