Always an avid reader, Stephen Previtera developed an early interest in military history after his maternal grandfather shared with him several $1 books from the legendary Ballantine Illustrated World War II history collection. Born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware, the author spent his early years painting military figures and conjuring up boyhood sketches of battle scenes. “Art and history share a very special place in my life,” notes Mr. Previtera. “When I was not painting or sketching, I read all the World War II books I could get my hands on. My most familiar environments are art and history museums, and of course, the public library.”
In 1986, Mr. Previtera moved to Richmond, Virginia, after being hired by an advertising agency as Art Director. “Richmond is so full of history,” he observes, “I felt lucky just to walk the hallowed ground where enormous sacrifices were made.”
Mr. Previtera began collecting military decorations in 1985 after a series of visits to Germany. Although the Iron Cross once formed the nucleus of his personal collection, he has since branched out to include Prussian decorations from all periods. with a concentration on World War One Aviation awards. “A decoration is portable, hand- held history,” Previtera notes. “You can research it, conveniently display, and store it. If you are lucky, you can trace it to an individual. Germany has been at the center of modern warfare, so it stands that its many notable decorations, including the Iron Cross, are the topics for my studies.”
Combining a love of writing, design, collecting, and history, Previtera has created a series of groundbreaking studies on awards and decorations ranging from as far back as Frederick the Great to the post-World War II era. He states, “I’ve spent so much time among books studying this or that fact. Books enrich us. They take us where we would normally never be able to visit. To experience war first- hand is the only other option. Reading has taught me I would never want to.”
Previtera hopes to expand into other fields of military history writing. He plans future works on the effects of combat upon individual soldiers, and how it changed their lives.