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Will and Dena: Love and Life in World War II by Bob Rogers

Will and Dena: Love and Life in World War II

by Bob Rogers

320 pages
Soldier and lover overcome classism and terrorism in WW II.

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Category: Fiction:Historical
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About the Book
Early in 1943, Hirohito, Hitler, and Mussolini are near the apex of their powers. The three Axis powers are successfully ruling most of the countries of Europe, North Africa, and Southeast Asia. In the same year, Will, a lumberjack and amateur baseball player, and Dena, a beautiful and head-strong co-ed, fall in love.

While a world war rages, their dreams are threatened, first by Dena’s mother’s classism. Dena’s mother declares Will is “not good enough” for her daughter and orders Dena to stop seeing him. Dena vows never to give up her love for Will and won’t have anything to do with the suitor, a young teacher, her mother chooses for her.

Meanwhile, a group of powerful businessmen have designs to exploit Will’s extraordinary baseball skills for their financial gain. A member of the business cartel is a county judge and former professional baseball player who leads the drive to have Will make the baseball team in their small North Carolina town into a major attraction and moneymaker.

The carefully laid baseball business scheme fails when the Ku Klux Klan attacks Will’s family. Dena and Will are forced to separate as he flees for his life. As he departs, Dena provides Will writings of Langston Hughes. Hughes’ poems and columns become central to Will’s determination to survive all hardships and reunite with Dena.

Will finds refuge in the US Army’s 366th Infantry Regiment and the famed Buffalo Soldiers of the 92nd Infantry Division fighting Hitler’s Wehrmacht in Italy. He bonds with three members of his infantry platoon. Their leader calls them the “Four Musketeers.” They are of the generation that becomes known as America’s greatest.

Together, the friends become a tight-knit family, at times fighting among themselves, and at other times, uniting to take on all-comers – other American servicemen, perverse use of courts-martial, and the Wehrmacht. They pool their skills to make the best of army life while continuously evolving their own unique reasons as to why they should fight the Germans. They discover a second enemy – their American commanding general who tells them, “I will see to it that you suffer your share of the casualties.” The “Musketeers” meet and embrace Italian Partisans in their homes and side by side on the battlefield. Together with the Partisans, they fight against the Germans during the harsh winter of 1944-1945 in Italy’s Tuscany.

In the face of hardships and certain death in both North Carolina and Italy that threaten to keep the lovers apart, Will meets challenge after challenge on the path to living the life he and Dena dream of having together.


In Will and Dena, we witness the evolution of a remarkable man. Will is a gentle, polite, somewhat awkward, and unlettered country boy who is armed with a phenomenal baseball talent. Under the tutelage of a wise and caring father, and with the steadfast love of a beautiful girl, he emerges to become a brilliant soldier and a solid figure of a man... Bob Rogers’ story is peppered with memories of days in the old south during the forties; hog butchering, chicken feeding, cooking on wood burning stoves and making do... A great read.
- Barbara P. Grainger
Reading Will and Dena was like sitting on the sidelines and watching the action. I felt like I was there. I enjoyed every word. You will too!
- Audrey Quick Battiste
Readers will find Will and Dena both a beautiful love story as well as a walk through the times of World War II…. I loved the way that Bob Rogers wove the works of Langston Hughes into this book... Readers will be captivated by Will and feel his struggles...
- Joyce M. Gilmour, Military Writer's Society of America
Bob Rogers' story-telling in Will & Dena, engages the imagination for those who missed an era forever renowned for its honor [– America’s greatest generation].
- Pat J. Schulz, publisher, ENHEART Publishing, Inc. and author, Making Sweet Lemonade
Will and Dena: Love and Life in World War II represents historical fiction at its finest. Author Bob Rogers skillfully conveys the irony of a country that combats racism abroad while simultaneously promoting the most insidious form of racism within its own borders. Will and Dena calls to mind such satires as Joseph Heller’s Catch 22 as protagonist Will Wallace confronts one form of institutionalized insanity after another. In the end, love and baseball conquer all, a one-two punch you won’t want to miss.
- Shelley Kirilenko, author, The Blue Kimono
…Bob Rogers’ careful attention to dialog consistent with the time, culture, and geographical setting, his strong word choices, excellent characterizations and story transitions give life to his complex plot [in Will & Dena: Love and Life in World War II…]. Rogers uses the platform of fiction to convey a valuable message relevant to today’s reader.
- Richard R. Blake, Reader Views
Will and Dena is impressive. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel.
- Lew Berry


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About the Author
Bob Rogers, an IBMer for thirty-three years, is president, Global Medical Data, Inc. in Charlotte, North Carolina. He is a former army captain, Vietnam War veteran, and charter member of the Baltimore, Maryland chapter: 9th and 10th (Horse) Cavalry Association. Bob is an avid baseball fan and lives in Charlotte.



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