Updated: Oct 2, 2021
Here at last is a prequel to Earl's famous bestselling book, Walking With Spring. Written by Earl during the 4-1/2 years he served in the U.S. Army during World War II, Before I Walked With Spring uses humor and verse to describe in detail the wartime experiences that helped propel him to later become the first Appalachian Trail thru-hiker. The main text of the book is Earl's epic poem "The Doughboy Odyssey," which traces Earl's wide-ranging wartime travels, first training stateside as a Signal Corpsman, then serving in the Pacific theater for most of the war.
BOOK DESCRIPTION - Before I Walked With Spring: The Doughboy Odyssey and Other Poems of World War II
In describing his feelings at the beginning of his historic 1948 Appalachian Trail hike, Earl Shaffer wrote:
"And now the time had come. This was the threshold of my great adventure, long delayed by World War II and without my trail partner, who had been killed on Iwo Jima. Those four and a half years of army service, more than half of it in combat areas of the Pacific, without furlough or even rest leave, had left me confused and depressed. Perhaps this trip would be the answer."
The adventure Earl had in mind was of course his 123-day backpacking trek from Georgia to Maine, the first continuous end-to-end hike of the Appalachian Trail ever documented. Thanks to his seminal work, Walking With Spring, (first published in 1981) much is known by many about that epic journey. Few, however, know anything at all about those four and a half years that Earl served in the Army during the war. Appropriately entitled Before I Walked With Spring, this book serves as both a prequel to Walking With Spring as well as a rich stand-alone history of an American soldier's wide-ranging experience in World War II's Pacific theater.
In the words of an observant young Signal Corps specialist who wrote with playful rhyme and rhythm, Earl has provided a sometimes humorous and always insightful first-person look at the frightening terror as well as the lonely daily grind of America's war in the Pacific. In his epic poem, "The Doughboy Odyssey," Earl leads the reader on an island-hopping journey that covers tens of thousands of miles, helping us to better know the man and understand the accumulating trauma that helped propel him to become the Appalachian Trail's first thru-hiker.
Also included are 46 other poems plus a number of photos that Earl took during the war as well as a detailed map showing all the Pacific islands that he visited.