Chats with Champions

The perils of World War II GI railroaders in India

Posted:  Thursday, November 9, 2017 - 7:00am

Story Location:
184 Main Street
Damariscotta  Maine  04543
United States

Author Steven Hanzis is the Chats with Champions speaker for Friday, Nov. 10 in Skidompha Library’s Porter Meeting Hall. Please allow time for parking.

Hantzis has spent a good part of his professional career and working life, including 30 years in the American labor movement, at the top levels of union administration. He retired from the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in 2013. He will be discussing his book, “Rails of War: Supplying the Americans and Their Allies in China-Burma-India,”  in which 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. Nonetheless, as “Rails of War” demonstrates, without the men of the 721st Railway Operating Battalion, the Allied forces would have been defeated in the China-Burma-India conflict in World War II.

Steve grew up in Central Indiana in a time when industrial and transportation jobs were the backbone of the middle class. Before his union career, Steve worked in the railroad operating crafts as a brakeman-conductor for 12 years in Central Indiana. He also taught high school and held an adjunct faculty position for Indiana University Division of Labor Studies. It was here that Steve studied political science at Indiana University and later taught there. He received a bachelor’s degree from Antioch University in labor studies.

In 1974, Steve left teaching and began working as a brakeman on the Penn Central Railroad. He was promoted to conductor in 1979 and took a buyout from railroad service in 1986 after starting his career in the labor movement.

He and his wife, Kathleen, lived in the Washington, D.C. area for 20 years. At their home in Maine, Steve enjoys peace, writing, fishing, kayaking, and the glorious Maine coast.

Chats with Champions is a free community offering from your national award winning Skidompha Library and is sponsored by Sherman’s Maine Coast Book Shop. For more information call 207-563-5513. The library is located at 184 Main Street in Damariscotta.