Synopses & Reviews
Discover the never-before-told true story of the paralyzed World War II veterans who started America's first-ever wheelchair sports competitions -- and changed the world forever.
Wheels of Courage reveals the inspiring story of the world's first wheelchair athletes: U.S. soldiers, sailors, and Marines who were paralyzed on the battlefield during World War II. They organized the first-ever wheelchair basketball teams within V.A. hospitals after the war, which quickly spread across the nation and changed the perception and treatment of disabled people. This book follows the lives of three of these vets, describing their time in the military, their injuries, their recovery, and their role in creating wheelchair basketball.
These men changed the narrative of disability, from one of pity to a new story of hope and endless potential. Their doctors changed the way the medical community looked at and treated disabled patients by treating the whole patient instead of just trying to make people as comfortable as possible in hopeless situations. And laws started changing to make the world more accessible to the disabled -- things we take for granted today, like sidewalk ramps.
For the disabled, for sports fans, for veterans, for history buffs -- this is a narrative of hope, perseverance, and acceptance.
Out of the carnage of World War II comes an unforgettable tale about defying the odds and finding hope in the most harrowing of circumstances. Wheels of Courage tells the stirring story of the soldiers, sailors, and marines who were paralyzed on the battlefield during World War II-at the Battle of the Bulge, on the island of Okinawa, inside Japanese POW camps-only to return to a world unused to dealing with their traumatic injuries. Doctors considered paraplegics to be "dead-enders" and "no-hopers," with the life expectancy of about a year. Societal stigma was so ingrained that playing sports was considered out-of-bounds for so-called "crippled bodies." But servicemen like Johnny Winterholler, a standout athlete from Wyoming before he was captured on Corregidor, and Stan Den Adel, shot in the back just days before the peace treaty ending the war was signed, refused to waste away in their hospital beds. Thanks to medical advances and the dedication of innovative physicians and rehabilitation coaches, they asserted their right to a life without limitations. The paralyzed veterans formed the first wheelchair basketball teams, and soon the Rolling Devils, the Flying Wheels, and the Gizz Kids were barnstorming the nation and filling arenas with cheering, incredulous fans. The wounded-warriors-turned-playmakers were joined by their British counterparts, led by the indomitable Dr. Ludwig Guttmann. Together, they triggered the birth of the Paralympic Games and opened the gymnasium doors to those with other disabilities, including survivors of the polio epidemic in the 1950s. Much as Jackie Robinson's breakthrough into the major leagues served as an opening salvo in the civil rights movement, these athletes helped jump-start a global movement about human adaptability. Their unlikely heroics on the court showed the world that it is ability, not disability, that matters most. Off the court, their push for equal rights led to dramatic changes in how civilized societies treat individuals with disabilities: from kneeling buses and curb cutouts to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Their saga is yet another lasting legacy of the Greatest Generation, one that has been long overlooked. Drawing on the veterans' own words, stories, and memories about this pioneering era, David Davis has crafted a narrative of survival, resilience, and triumph for sports fans and athletes, history buffs and military veterans, and people with and without disabilities.