Book Review: Into the Mountains Dark. Franklin L. Gurley

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Larso
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Book Review: Into the Mountains Dark. Franklin L. Gurley

Post by Larso » 20 Dec 2006 04:46

Subtitled: A WWII Odyssey from Harvard Crimson to Infantry Blue

Aberjona Press. Published 2000. 252 Pages. $30 AUD - US 22ish

I had been looking forward to getting hold of this book due to the glowing comments on the book ad pages in various military magazines. I don't think it lived up to the hype.

The author was one of those 'College' soldiers who was being educated by the army in order to be ready for employment in various technical fields down the track. Instead, like most others in this program, he found himself in the infantry (100th Div) following the casualties in Italy.

The author does a good job outlining the various changes of the program and how this affected him. There are also some reasonable passages describing basic training and the characters he trained with. This went on to about Page 100, which I thought was a bit long given the total length of the book. Once, the 100th arrived in France it was sent to the Vosges Mountains. Here the author details his companies experiences in combat in the first few weeks. Again, some reasonable stuff here, a fair bit of attention is given to the constand digging of foxholes, the hunger and the tension. The author, essentially gives a company history, with the points of view and experiences of many others in his unit told. He does write about his own experiences but these were of a modest nature and hence my issue with the 'breathless' comments made in those reviews. The most bizarre thing though is that the book stops with the first events in the Vosges. The author soldiered on to the end of the war and earned himself a Bronze Star in December 44!! I am at a loss as to why the rest of his story is missing.

Compared to other memiors, this account lacks the punch and the gore that make this genre so compelling. It is certainly well written, and the author is the 'real deal' as a soldier but it was hard to get involved in the story. It seems he meant to do a sort of company history and here there is a lot on the other men in the unit, the incompetents, the cowards and the many who just did their best. So there is value in the reading of this book but for me, it is on the second level of such things.

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B Hellqvist
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Post by B Hellqvist » 20 Dec 2006 08:05

I agree with all your points. The book is well written, but the bit about his frontline duty is a bit trivial. Not to belittle his and his unit's experiences - the actual fighting was fierce enough, earning the unit a citation - but they appear like an ordinary week at work for an Eastern front German veteran. The detail in the everyday life in the company and his platoon is good reading for those who appreciate detailed accounts. My favourite US memoirs are "Currahee!" by Don Burgett and "If You Survive" by George Wilson, both with enough punch and gore to make them page-turners. And, yes, Gurley's book ends abruptly, not even a postscript about the further fortunes of the company.

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