Myers finds inspiration for his first book in his grandmother’s bundle of letters from WWII soldiers

Author Andrea Myers found inspiration for her first fiction book “Behind the Wire” after discovering letters sent to her late grandmother, Barbara Neeley, by soldiers during World War II.

Andrea Myers, courtesy photo

She is loving and gives good advice and is the sweetest person you know. It’s your grandmother. What if your grandmother had a secret hidden in her albums? Well, that’s what prompted Andrea Myers to write her first book, “Behind the Wire.”

As the daughter of a journalist, writing was already in her DNA. She became a prolific blogger for over 20 years after earning a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Wyoming. After her youngest child left for college, the empty nest left Myers wondering what she could do.

She decided to visit her parents, Rick and Suzanne Myers, in Gering. While rummaging through the belongings of her late grandmother Barbara Neeley, she discovered a bundle of letters from soldiers written to her grandmother. Myers found inspiration for her first novel. “Behind the Wire” is a historical fiction novel inspired by letters sent to Myers’ grandmother by four American soldiers and a German prisoner of war, who was held at Camp Scottsbluff during World War II.

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Camp Scottsbluff was located near the current landfill in Scottsbluff. The prisoners held there played a vital role in the local agricultural industry during the war. Nationwide, more than 400,000 Germans were imprisoned in POW camps, providing much-needed labor as young men fought overseas.

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AuthorAndrea Myers

Andrea Myers/Courtesy Photo

“I was rummaging through my grandmother’s old belongings and discovered a bundle of letters written by several soldiers and some POWs from the POW camp,” Myers told the Star-Herald. . “I also found his POW work badge and trinkets which were all carved by German soldiers who were German prisoners. It was just like a book.

The family had no idea that Neeley worked at the POW camp, even though she was a private person. As a young woman in her early twenties, Neeley wrote to two soldiers who served in Europe and Asia during World War II.

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The actual letters sent to Barbara Neeley by soldiers during World War II sat on a counter with photos of Neeley on top. Neeley worked at Scottsbluff POW Camp during World War II. Her granddaughter, Andrea Myers, discovered the letters that inspired her to write a book.

Andrea Myers/Courtesy Photo

After reading the many letters, Myers began researching the history of World War II and POW camps across the country. She reviewed local news articles about the camp and used the reaction and tone of those stories to inform her writing. With a deeper understanding of what happened, she started creating this fictional story right after the Pearl Harbor attack of this college-aged woman, Margaret Murphy, who is studying journalism at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. Murphy also writes a monthly column for the Gering Courier to help Myers create a narrative. Neeley attended UNL for two years. Then his overprotective mother forces him to return to Gering after the Pearl Harbor attacks. Determined to be useful, Murphy works as an assistant quartermaster at the Scottsbluff POW camp.

“It’s fiction because my grandmother didn’t share any details except for all the letters except one that is real,” she said. “There are very few changes to their content or spelling. One of them was atrocious spelling.

The names of the soldiers have all been changed, as well as his grandmother’s name.

One of Neeley’s letters about working in the camp is also featured in the book, although Myers said she did not write regularly.

With 55,000 typed words, Myers hit a slump when the 2020 pandemic hit, saying it took away her joy in writing. For almost two years, the story remained unfinished in a file. Then, her passion for writing was reignited by personal grief – the death of her husband and the writing of his obituary.

Creativity overflowed, and Myers took over the story. She focused on the traumas of the men, sharing the changes in the tone of their letters after difficult days on the front lines. The book ends after the bombs are dropped and the camp prepares to close.

“It’s a story that really focuses on the trauma of each of the men,” she said. “He has the POW angle; he has PTSD, which they called battle rattle; and it deals with female friendships.

The book is available for purchase on Amazon. Myers said she will also be hosting an event at the Gering Public Library in December and hopes to host an event at the Legacy of the Plains Museum.

Myers hopes the book will spark discussion about POWs as workers, about trauma, and increase knowledge about the presence of POW camps.

For more information, the public can visit or contact Myers at 308-244-8448.

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