New book preserves WWII veteran's fascinating war stories
Cleburne (Texas) Times-Review
With copies of his book in hand, two women approached World War II veteran Tom Cannon as he sat behind a table in the Cleburne Chamber of Commerce’s conference room on Wednesday afternoon.
“He still fits his uniform,” one of the women said as Cannon happily signed both women’s books. “I think that’s just amazing.”
Several others approach Cannon with a sense of awe and respect to buy his book, shake his hand and thank him for his service to the country.
Cannon seems to enjoy the moment, but at the same time take it all in stride. He’s thrilled to visit with everyone and share his memories of World War II, which, nearly 70 years on, remain razor sharp.
Memories of mortar fire, American prisoners of war and the waving blade of grass that vexed his sight line as he kept watch in the Philippines through binoculars.
Army Sgt. Cannon and his fellow soldiers engaged in six major battles in the Philippines. In one instance Cannon ran from a foxhole to his base camp moments before Japanese mortars landed, killing his commander and other officers.
While in Manila, loading a ship preparing to invade Japan, Cannon and others learned of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan. Instead of invading, Cannon and his company arrived in time to see Japanese officials sign their surrender.
Times-Review contributor Larue Barnes penned several stories about Cannon for the paper. Now comes “American Courage and Honor: The Tom Cannon Story,” detailing Cannon’s life before, during and after the war.
Cannon spent several hours Wednesday at the chamber of commerce joined by author Ronald Sisk, signing copies of his book.
Sisk, when asked about the project, deferred all credit to Cannon and Sisk’s brother, Randy Sisk.
“I really had little to do with it other than transcribing [Cannon’s words and memories].”
The book was more happy accident than planned project, said Sisk, who owns American Digital Films in Keller.
“Randy shot several hours of interview footage with Mr. Cannon back in about 2007, which basically sat on the shelf,” Sisk said.
Sisk pulled the footage not too long ago, more or less just to see what was on it with plans to possibly convert the digital footage to DVD at some point.
“I planned to watch just a few seconds to see,” Sisk said. “Next thing I knew, I’d sat through 4 1/2 hours of it just fascinated.”
Cannon owned and operated Cleburne Electric after the war, which is where Randy Sisk made his acquaintance several years ago.
“I just happened to go to [Cannon’s] shop to get an air conditioner part for a friend,” Sisk said. “Well, we got to visiting, we’re both talkers and Mr. Cannon said he didn’t want his story to die, which gave me the idea for [the video interview].”
Sisk, who had worked film and TV production while in the military, borrowed equipment from his brother to shoot the interviews.
“That first interview, I shot about five hours of video,” Sisk said. “I took my two kids, elementary school age. They just sat there in awe listening. Afterward, they told me, ‘Dad, that was like watching a movie.’”
Both brothers said Cannon’s recall of place and detail amazes them. They checked many of his war accounts against official records and remembrances from other soldiers.
Cannon’s numerous medals and commendations displayed on Cannon’s signing table and in the chamber’s lobby including his Bronze Star Medal awarded for meritorious service in ground combat in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater. Which arrived better late than never. Although Cannon officially earned the medal in 1945, his division had already departed Japan by then and he didn’t learn of and receive the medal until 1997.
“He’s truly a living piece of history and an American hero,” Randy Sisk said.
Although Cannon and both Sisk brothers are rightfully proud of the book, they called it more of a by product to the larger goal of creating a video documentary of Cannon’s life, or perhaps even a movie.
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