US European War memoirs

Discussions on books and other reference material on the WW1, Inter-War or WW2 as well as the authors. Hosted by Andy H.
Forum rules
You can support AHF when buying books etc from Amazon, Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.de by using these links.
It costs you nothing extra but it helps keep the forum up and running.
JonS
Member
Posts: 3935
Joined: 23 Jul 2004 01:39
Location: New Zealand

Post by JonS » 02 May 2007 02:18

Heh. I just got Other Clay, and headed over here to commend it to you :)

JonS
Member
Posts: 3935
Joined: 23 Jul 2004 01:39
Location: New Zealand

Post by JonS » 02 May 2007 02:28

Larso wrote:On Amazon, I've found it an excellent resource to firstly find, and even learn about books that are available. The review section is also useful, though too many of the ones posted lack the learned military experience/tone that writers on this forum often have. This said, these have helped me choose which books to buy for my 'project'.
I fullly agree, just be aware that Amazon pricing can be a bit ... predatory. It always pays to check what Abe Books are charging before you buy.

With the reviews, I have a few reviewers I tend to rely on (especially R. A Forczyk), and for the rest I tend to look at the negative reviews. If the reviewer seems to know what they are talking about, a negative review carries a lot of weight. IMO. Lots of caveats, of course, but generally it's fairly easy to spot the twonks who should have their internet access revoked. It also depends on how many total reviews there are - if there are only a few, read 'em all.

Incidentally, since we seem to have broadly similar tastes, you might find this of some - slight - use.

Regards
Jon

User avatar
Dan W.
Financial supporter
Posts: 8494
Joined: 12 Mar 2002 01:53
Location: IL.

Post by Dan W. » 02 May 2007 03:56

A Blood Dimmed Tide: The Battle of the Bulge By The Men Who Fought It

by Gerald Astor is first hand accounts from veterans who fought in the Bulge.
It is very well written, Astor is a great author and weaves a very interesting story, told from firsthand accounts of veterans of all ranks during and after the Bulge took place.

One of them is Jim Mills of the 106th, who was one of only seven to survive the Dresden bombing, along with Kurt Vonnegut. He also delves into the botched rescue mission ordered by General Patton to rescue his son in law, who till his dying day denied he ordered it solely for this reason.

Either way, it is full of stories from veterans, first hand accounts. Perhaps it was just my take on it but it seemed to me alot of these veterans exaggerated German losses, either that or the loss of life by inexperienced German troops was horriffic. The tales of "mowing down" hundreds of oncoming Germans was repeated by more than one veteran.

Astor also interviewed a few German veterans who share their perspective of the Bulge. He takes a particularly detailed look at Operation Auf , the botched parachute mission behind Allied lines led by Col. von der Heydte, as especially Operation Greif , and the English speaking German squads in American uniforms behind Allied lines.

As far as the German perspective goes he spends his most time, especially towards the end of the book, looking at the exploits of Jochen Peiper, likely because of the information from an American Major who was a POW and was invited to drink with Peiper on more than one occassion, the two of them staying up late into the morning hours discussing the war.

This Major would later testify in defense of Peiper during his trial.

But most of the book looks at the individual experiences of U.S. soldiers right before, during, and immediately following the Bulge, with German views and tactics thrown in for greater perspective.

Larso
Member
Posts: 1951
Joined: 27 Apr 2003 02:18
Location: Brisbane, Australia

Post by Larso » 05 May 2007 06:19

Thanks guys,

For a good collection of veteran's stories, I also recommend Mark Bando. He really gained the confidence of the men he interviewed and his books contain a lot of gripping accounts. I'm still annoyed that I wasn't able to get 'Vanguard of the Crusade'.

Jon - what did you think of 'Other Clay'? I actually found it a bit hard to review - it had such strengths but as I said, gaps too. Do you think I was fair/accurate about these?

I had a look at your list and yes we do have a lot in common. I've got another 10 or so books in mind myself (amongst dozens more). Amazon has it's benefits - saving on shipping being one. I got stung by one of it's minions though on this. I hadn't realised that they charged individually for shipping, and then shipped everything together anyway. I ended up paying more than three times what was reasonable. Spewing!

Back to Amazon, those negative reviews are indeed quite useful. I'm trying here to be as honest as I can but so far all the books have been good reads so it hasn't been too difficult. I'm becoming increasingly aware that just slotting them in an order like I've been doing is not the best way to go about things. Each has strengths that need to be acknowledged. And as I have another 8, with my eye on 7 more, it's going to get too hard.

Larso
Member
Posts: 1951
Joined: 27 Apr 2003 02:18
Location: Brisbane, Australia

Post by Larso » 09 May 2007 10:49

‘Other Clay’, more than the others has emphasized the difficulties in trying to rank memoirs on the ETO experience, at least in a simple 'best to worst' list. The veterans accounts just differ so much in terms of descriptive powers, revelation and participation. Their roles and responsibilities for starters are so varied, not just at the battalion level but also in the various support forces. So I need a better way to rank the books and the best way, I think, is to evaluate them according to several different categories.

These are going to be :

Combat participation - Direct involvement in fighting. Lots - 5, to minimal - 1.

Combat experienced in general - What is seen happening around them. as above

General information of army life - Training, living in the field, medals, mail, points, authority, occupation, rations – well frankly a lot of things.

Quality of the writing -
• 5 - outstanding writing, exceptional prose, highly descriptive, compelling
• 3 - being a well written book.
• 1 - basic

Since so many of the veterans here were college educated, the standard of writing on average is quite high. This scores a 3. The very well written and the outstanding ones, often written by journalists, artists and professors score the 4s and 5s.

One of my intentions is to avoid the practice of many other reviewers (here I’m specifically thinking of Amazon), of giving every book liked 5 stars. So I’ve consciously tried to be keep things in perspective. So a book noted as 3/3/3/3 is a recommended read. It is not meant to convey average. It implies a good book with interesting experiences. It allows me though to then accord the truly outstanding memoirs suitably. This then allows readers of this thread, especially if they are familiar with a couple of the titles already, to choose books of similar or greater quality.

It seems likely, that at the completion of this project I will have read over 20 titles and at that point, I may well be able to nominate the best officer’s memoir, the best rifleman’s (maybe also the best paratroopers), the best tanker’s etc

Anyway, under the rating system outlined above, I’ve re-ranked my books as follows. (Nb: I’ve left out Gantters and Burgetts as it’s been a few years and I think I need to read them again).

Direct combat / general combat / other military life / Literary quality


‘Visions from a Foxhole’ by William Foley 5/5/4/5

‘Taught to Kill’ by John Babcock 2/4/4/5

‘If you Survive’ by George Wilson 3/5/4/3

‘Company Commander’ by Charles MacDonald 2/4/4/3

‘Other Clay’ by Charles Cawthon 1/3/4/4

‘Arn’s War’ by Edward Arn 1/3/4/3

‘Into the Mountains Dark’ by Franklin Gurley 2/3/3/4

‘Infantry Soldier’ by George Neill 1/2/3/4

User avatar
Dan W.
Financial supporter
Posts: 8494
Joined: 12 Mar 2002 01:53
Location: IL.

Post by Dan W. » 11 May 2007 01:18

Another good memoir is Foot Soldier by Roscoe Blunt.

He was a member of the 84th Inf. Div. "Railsplitters" and one thing I found remarkable about this man was how much Third Reich military insignia, hats and other personal items, including sidearms, he would send home. He has quite a collection.

In his book he mentions the time a Luftwaffe flier was shot down, and as soon as he hit the ground he was swarmed by U.S. soldiers, who grabbed off this flier whatever spoils they could find, only to then leave him, where he sat cursing.

Larso
Member
Posts: 1951
Joined: 27 Apr 2003 02:18
Location: Brisbane, Australia

Post by Larso » 13 May 2007 11:50

'Another River, Another Town' by John P. Irwin

Subtitled ‘A Teenage Tank Gunner Comes of Age in Combat 1945’
Random House, 2002, 176 pages (slightly larger format)

Only a small review this time, partly because it’s only a small book. Given this, it’s good that the author doesn’t waste time and he starts off his account promptly with joining up with his unit, Company ‘I’, 33rd Armd Regt, 3rd Armd Div. This is the first ‘tankers’ view that I’ve had and it seems to have a different feel to it. I’m not quite sure why this is – whether it’s because the author’s experiences are restricted by the limited numbers in his tank crew or the vision of his gunner’s sight. The author does go into detail but not to the extent that I was hoping for. This said, he writes about fighting Tiger 2’s, JagdTigers and the vast numbers of panzerfaust troopers lying in wait for him. He is the gunner and he scores a good number of ‘hits’, so his account scores well in terms of personal combat. Maybe my issue here is that he doesn’t give a face to those he fought and this has made his account seem less vivid. More likely, it’s probably our differing perspectives, as a history buff it is just so interesting to me but to him it was just a ‘day’ job. He is more forthcoming giving voice to his own fears and those he shares his tank with though. Again, interesting but without giving me the feel of being in that smelly tank with him. The other thing I suppose, is that his time in the ETO is in the few months before VE Day, there is no Bulge for instance. His experiences do include liberating the V weapon slave camp at Nordhausen and fighting those Tigers near the training facility at Paderborn. He also found himself to be the lucky recipient of one of the first Pershings. There’s also some good stuff on street fighting, in support of infantry.

Overall, a solid read, with some different perspectives and experiences to those of the infantry. However compared to most of the others reviewed above, I feel it lacks depth, probably due to being a bit on the short side.

My rating 4/2/3/3

Larso
Member
Posts: 1951
Joined: 27 Apr 2003 02:18
Location: Brisbane, Australia

Post by Larso » 18 May 2007 02:21

‘Sixty Days in Combat’ by Dean P. Joy

Subtitled ‘An infantryman’s memoir of WW2 in Europe’. Presido Press 2004. Paperback 265 pages.

Dean Joy admits to being quite the reluctant soldier but he still has the fortitude to overcome a few physical ailments to take his place with the 5th Infantry Regt (2nd Bn), 71st Infantry Division when it reaches the front in March 1945. His fervent hopes that the war will be over before this deployment are therefore dashed . He is fully aware that other units and soldiers saw far more danger but he freely admits that his 60 days were more than enough for him. There is something beguiling about Joy’s openness regarding his reluctance and fears, he really comes across as an ordinary man, and his lack of pretensions and airs make him easy to identify with and very likeable. A series of drawings by him assist in this, showing him as rather awkward in a soldier’s skin.

This said, Joy does the job. Initially a mortar man he quickly finds himself heading an ad-hoc rifle squad and most of his combat occurs in this guise. Given the fluid state of warfare in this phase there is little in terms of big battles or extended awfulness in foxholes but there are quite a few sharp clashes. The highlight being his role in destroying the remnants of 6th SS Mountain. Joy’s disgust at several ‘atrocities’ (one by a medic!) is interesting given the general hatred he had developed for the Germans. Despite the pressures of combat though, he remains an essentially decent human being.

Joy never quite looses sight of himself as a civilian, so we essentially see his war from that point of view. He gives quite a bit of detail but there is a sense of being slightly removed from the impact of what occurred. There are some graphic moments though and he does fire upon and hit the enemy. Joy writes in a simple, understated tone. It is always clear what is going on. Overall, this is an interesting and worthwhile account of frontline combat, just delivered in a gentler manner than most of the others on this list.

Rating 3/2/3/2

Larso
Member
Posts: 1951
Joined: 27 Apr 2003 02:18
Location: Brisbane, Australia

Post by Larso » 25 May 2007 08:14

‘Mount Up! We’re Moving Out!’ by Vernon H. Brown, Jr.

Subtitled – ‘The WW2 memoir of an Armoured Car Gunner of D Troop, 94th Cav Sqn, 14th Armoured Div’. Merriam Press 2005. Paperback, 177 pages.

One of my guidelines with selecting books to review was that they should be at least 200 pages long. This book to start with, was a bit on the skinny side with 177 (though slightly larger format) and then I found that the text stopped on page 124, with the remainder being photos and other documents. So on length it really hasn’t qualified but as it was quite an enjoyable read and as it also had the advantage of being from the unique perspective of a trooper with a cavalry outfit, it’s here anyway.

Brown was firstly a gunner on a peep (jeep) and then in an armoured car but there is little action described from these vantage points. It’s not quite clear whether there are omissions from the author or whether contacts were mostly made by other sections and his role remained minor. I think Brown has held back a bit but there is a good sequence at the start of Operation ‘Northwind’, where he fires willingly, gets injured and escapes in a jeep while being chased by a tank. He is careful to give his fellow troopers their due, recording their names, adventures and fates. Indeed it seems Brown is a modest man and his purpose in writing the book was to commemorate others in the unit, rather than focusing on his own experiences. Even so, I think he could have revealed more, in particular on what it was like to operate in an armoured car. This said, he is still in the front line and has his share of time (and luck) while under direct fire. This occurs to a great degree in ‘Northwind’ and then to varying degrees during the drive through Germany.

The author has a wry sense of humour and a good eye, often offering a fresh perspective and where he does go into detail things are very interesting. He sees his share of horror and a couple of ‘friendly fire’ casualties are wrenchingly described. These incidents are very sobering and reveal better than most how horrid war can be. I had thought this book would naturally sit with other armoured corps accounts but the experiences tended to relate more to those of the infantry. Overall, an interesting read for what there is but too short for me to rate it too highly here.

My rating 2/3/3/4

NB – I got this and several other books from Merriam Press, who specialise in getting veterans to write their memoirs – a very laudable project indeed. They have quite a range of accounts, which provide perspectives that aren’t normally covered by major publishers. Some of the books are on the short side but if the above example is indicative, the veterans have recorded their best stuff and not padded it out for the sake of it. In my rankings though, I am giving greater weight to those memoirs which say the most – providing it’s good - particularly in relation to descriptions of personal combat.

Larso
Member
Posts: 1951
Joined: 27 Apr 2003 02:18
Location: Brisbane, Australia

Post by Larso » 14 Jun 2007 09:43

‘Not Me’ by Alexander H. Hadden

Subtitled ‘The World War II Memoir of a Reluctant Rifleman’. Merriam Press 2007. Paperback 357 pages.

Hadden served with ‘B’ Co, 1/112th Regt, 28th Division, which he joins on it’s final day in the Hurtgen and so in time for the Bulge. It is a good sized book but the combat experiences revealed make up a relatively small part of it. He starts this though with some very good detail relating to his introduction to the front. The way he records what he sees, hears and learns, conveys the sense of wonder he feels, despite the absolute terror of the situation. He is, as the subtitle says, a reluctant rifleman. The main title itself, reflects his continued efforts to avoid any move that will take him towards battle. There are quite a few occasions when he is confronted with a chance to get into ‘things’ but he responds with a heart felt “Not me” (and a couple of these are hilarious!), not that it ultimately helps him.

I’ve said above that this book is a little shy on combat accounts. Partly this is because Hadden can not remember what happened. A few events he was able to recall after talking with fellow veterans almost 50 years later but there are days which he admits are completely blank. He does though write about shooting a German for the first time. The way he reveals the sense of astonishment at what he has just done is quite compelling. His contrasting this with a later occasion is quite revealing of the affects of long term combat. He is also shelled heavily in the open and later attacked by tanks. The later came so furiously that he flees weaponless into the forest. There is detail for what he recalls in these incidents but I think the reality of Hadden’s Bulge is so overwhelming that quite a lot of stuff is blocked out or remembered in only a fleeting way. There are then a few more accounts of general front line combat before he is sent to officer school, thus missing the final months of the war. Still, some of his experiences are very clearly expressed and graphic battle accounts.

The books strength for me though, was the beautifully revealed sense of wonder Hadden feels at being a young American soldier in liberated France. This can be a tedious hold up to the action in other books but here it is fascinating and enjoyable. Hadden had taken the chance to learn French (while otherwise avoiding much else) and this serves him well as he befriends some of the French people he meets. There is something very wonderfully human about these exchanges. Following the end of the war, Hadden, now an officer, is posted to various roles in Berlin and the Potsdam Conference. And again, there was much that was interesting about this phase of his story. I felt my interest slip a little though – no doubt because the war ‘stories’ had stopped. An interesting aspect of his memoir is his thoughts on his commanders, including Cota and the ‘Unconditional Surrender’ policy. He has some strong, heart felt views of the follies/incompetence of all these!

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Hadden is very honest, very human and very likeable. Indeed, there are a host of glowing endorsements from various people, including historians Paul Fussell and John Keegan. As with many of the books here, I wanted the author to reveal more about his combat experiences but I completely understand the difficulties associated with that. This said, Hadden was a rifleman. He was shot at and shot back.

My rating 2/3/5/4

Larso
Member
Posts: 1951
Joined: 27 Apr 2003 02:18
Location: Brisbane, Australia

Post by Larso » 19 Aug 2007 09:22

‘Roll me Over’ by Raymond Gantter. Subtitled: ‘An Infantryman’s WW II’. 397 pages.

This is an outstanding account of the author’s time with G Company, 16th RCT, 1st Infantry Division. I’ve mentioned above that I held this book in high regard based on my first reading of it and I can now say it was even better second time around.

Gantter was a university graduate, a jazz band piano player (his love of music is very apparent, the title is from a song – I’d assumed wrongly it was the first part of something rude) and at 30, with a wife and two sons, could have avoided the draft but he chose to enlist - out of personal convictions. He is a very literate man and his maturity is also evident from his many telling observations of army life. In format, this book is best described as a diary but so many of the entries are long and detailed that they seem more like chapters. The structure varies a little, an Amazon reviewer noting that Gantter writes in 1st, 2nd and 3rd person. Also, some of the text is from letters – Gantters wife, clearly a courageous and articulate person herself, prompted him to think deeply about his experiences. Gantter organised these writings shortly after the war, clearly adding in extra information and reflections and to me, creating a very fluent account of his time in the army (though perhaps a little disorientating in the opening stages – the book was published some 12 years after his death, he may not have gotten round to fine tuning all of it to the same high standard).

Gantter joined his unit at the end of it’s time in the Hurtgen (though mercifully he and the other green replacements were not sent straight forward) and spent a lot of time in cold, wet foxholes during the Bulge. His activities here were fairly mundane. There is a lot on fox-hole construction and the awfulness of living this way. There are some patrols, V1s and shelling but once his unit starts to advance into Germany, this becomes a true ‘combat’ memoir. Unlike many, Gantter writes about killing Germans – never in a boastful or sadistic way but in a manner that reveals his sensitive and reflective nature and also his changing state of mind from persistent exposure to the frontline. The first instance in particular, when he is left in no doubt of what he has just done, is poignantly described (not that it deterred him - it was only the first counterattack that afternoon). On other occasions he is quite casual about killing and once there is a suggestion of something approaching savage satisfaction. During the battle of Geisbach however, a double incident leaves him all too aware that he has snuffed out very human lives. He shots one German and when his comrade runs back to help, he shoots him too. With the rest, it is harrowing stuff. It is rare to read such innermost thoughts on what is virtually, even in a war memoir, a taboo subject.

This battle, featuring a strong German armoured attack, also reveals the brutality of house-to-house fighting. There are some atrocities, one by a German officer towards a German Red Cross girl (for helping Americans) but what stuck in my mind were the occasions when Americans killed Germans who had taken them prisoner or were trying to take them prisoner. War is hell but it is very unsettling when an act of humanity/mercy is ‘rewarded’ with death.

One fascinating feature of this book is Gantter’s detailed record of the German civilians he encountered (he speaks some German), often after he and his man had stormed their homes and while German dead still lay about. They were all pathetic in their own way, some shattered in spirit, others fawning for American approval, some grateful, some cunning, some still ordering their Polish or Russian slaves around. There is also a fair bit on displaced persons and at the end the inmates of a liberated slave workers camp but all is only as a backdrop to the fighting. One jarring note on this is the love/hate relationship with US tankers. Vital as they were, many was the time the infantry would fight through and secure a village and then while they were digging in, the tankers would roar in behind them and loot everything – much to the fury of the ‘doggies’. Finally on combat – Gantter does not leave things out. The affect of weapons and tank treads on human bodies is graphically revealed – not in a sensationalistic way – but as clear as can be.

I was reminded in this second reading of a thought I had the first time around. Over time Gantters platoon captures many Germans, that I was again left with the impression, that if all these Germans could’ve been organised properly, they could’ve held the Americans out. Especially as, the US forces were consistently under strength and being pushed forward relentlessly, virtually without rest and proper food. There is a lot more to it than this of course but I really felt for Gantter and his exhausted men.

Gantter himself wrote that this memoir is ‘Intended as a combat record’ – and it certainly is – however the author includes in a postscript, a series of very unsettling cases of American abuses. These include, the appalling treatment of enlisted men by some officers, profiteering and corruption and worst, the sexual exploitation of German women. For me these final pages offered a sober note to Gantter’s story. He was honest about so much, that he found himself unable to ignore US criminality and I think, rightfully, recorded it all, good and bad. He might have survived the fighting but it seemed, he returned home damaged by what he saw of the occupation.

As for my rating, Foley’s ‘Visions’ is the only one that compares. As a writer and as a rifleman Gantter is top shelf. He doesn’t write about his training but this is more than made up for by his general attention to detail, in particular his march across Germany. His writing is very detailed and he is a very articulate and sophisticated man (he writes about religion, sex and wishes he had someone to talk politics with), there are some very powerful passages indeed. I think he is clearer than Foley, who’s style is a bit more breathless (they both have some brilliantly written passages though). The straightforward narrative structure is very helpful, he gives dates and places and you could plot his journey easily. The reviews on Amazon, for what they’re worth, are not mixed as they are for Foley (even more so for Roscoe Blunt) – there seems absolutely no question about authenticity. I’m pressed as to which one I’d recommend, they both have many strengths but on the basis of depth and clarity I’m just tipping Gantter. So ‘Roll me Over’ is top of my list. Very highly recommended!

Rating 5/5/5/4.5

Larso
Member
Posts: 1951
Joined: 27 Apr 2003 02:18
Location: Brisbane, Australia

Post by Larso » 15 Sep 2007 08:12

An update of my list. My ratings don’t necessarily decide where a book is on the list. They help with rough positioning and then I’ve made a decision as to which I’d recommend to someone. Where books aren’t separated by a line, it’s because they’re very similar in quality. A double gap indicates a bit of difference between those groups of books. Interesting to see that the acknowledged classics (Wilson & MacDonald) are stacking up well. Where book ratings are close, I’ve tipped the one with the most direct combat involvement.

Rating guide again : 5 lots/outstanding – 1 minimal/basic
Direct combat / general combat / other military life / Literary quality


‘Role me Over’ by Raymond Gantter 5/5/5/4½
‘Visions from a Foxhole’ by William Foley 5/5/4/5

‘Taught to Kill’ by John Babcock 2/4/4/5


‘If you Survive’ by George Wilson 3/5/4/3

‘Company Commander’ by Charles MacDonald 2/4/4/3


‘Not Me’ by Alexander Haddon 2/3/5/4

‘Another River, Another Town’ by John Irwin 4/2/3/3

‘Other Clay’ by Charles Cawthon 1/3/4/4

‘Arn’s War’ by Edward Arn 1/3/4/3

‘Sixty days in Combat’ by Dean Joy 3/2/3/2

‘Mount Up, We’re Movin out!’ by Vernon Brown 2/3/3/4

‘Into the Mountains Dark’ by Franklin Gurley 2/3/3/4


‘Infantry Soldier’ by George Neill 1/2/3/4


I might now move onto some of the paratrooper accounts (I have 5) and then some more infantry (5 again). I think I’ll also do a couple of Arty (1 with 1 more to get). There are another 4 or 5 that I hope to get off Amazon by the end of the year. Then there’s a few hardcovers that I’m hoping will become paperbacks. So quite a ways to go. Odd that there’s so few accounts by tankers?

Larso
Member
Posts: 1951
Joined: 27 Apr 2003 02:18
Location: Brisbane, Australia

Post by Larso » 27 Sep 2007 09:49

‘A Paratrooper’s Panoramic View’ by Robert L. Wilson and Philip K. Wilson

Subtitled: Training with the 464th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion for Operation Varsity’s Rhine Jump with the 17th Airborne Division. P/back 229 pages.

This is a fairly unique, if slight, account from a veteran of an under-recorded unit in an often glossed over battle. Robert is a veteran of the jump with an artillery battalion of the 13th Airborne Div, which is attached to the 17th division for this operation. Philip is his son.

There is a lot about the training of an airborne trooper. The author, a young and fit farm boy quite enjoyed this. Fleshing out his recollections are also reproductions of lots of posters, cartoons and pages from manuals about the training process. So in terms of primary source material, this book is quite useful. There are also many quotes from other memoirs and histories – all these being well referenced. But too much is expressed in terms of ‘we’ and ‘us’ as opposed to ‘I’ and ‘me’, so it read more like a general history at times than a personal account. I was also thrown when the author revealed he became the company cook but he also trained as part of a gun crew and he performed this role for several days in battle.

Prior to ‘Varsity’ there is a reasonable amount of detail and thinking about this first combat jump, though the actual fighting phase is quite brief. Upon landing Wilson assists with finding, assembling and firing his piece. He is under fire on the ground (and in the air beforehand) but this is not delivered in a gripping or minutely detailed way. He sees casualties and dead and captured Germans but the author is a reticent/reserved man so this phase is lacking much in the way of excitement.

The author is clearly the real deal in terms of being a combat soldier (and was being shipped to the Pacific for more – back with the 13th Division I think) so full credit to him but this book is an uninspiring read. He just didn’t see enough combat to rate well on my list. And while there are spots of interest, there is not much in the training phase that stands out either. This book does fill a void in that it deals with a unit and a battle that is not often mentioned. However, it offers very little to change this state of affairs. Not recommended for anyone who is not an airborne obsessive.

My rating 1/1/3/2

Andreas
Member
Posts: 6938
Joined: 10 Nov 2002 14:12
Location: Europe

Post by Andreas » 27 Sep 2007 10:36

Hi Larso

Great thread, and a great effort by you to keep this up. Very nicely done.

All the best

Andreas

Larso
Member
Posts: 1951
Joined: 27 Apr 2003 02:18
Location: Brisbane, Australia

Post by Larso » 29 Sep 2007 01:52

Thanks Andreas

The projects gotten bigger than I expected. I always thought there'd be quite a few memoirs on the ETO but the number has surprised me. Even keeping within the confines of - ground force, combat soldier, paperback of 200 pages or more and easily obtainable - there is still a ways to go. I still have 10 here to read and I'm about to buy another 10 (lucky I can claim the expense on my tax! Another reason I chose to stick with the cheaper paperbacks as well). There also appears to be another 10 in either hardcover or only available outside Amazon that I would like but that's a decision for next year. Indeed given the numbers and the time it seems to be taking to read them this thread should be alive and kicking for a couple more years yet.

I am quite enjoying it all and I've been pleased to see that quite a number of readers pop in to see what I've had to say. Thanks for your interest guys! My new girlfriend finds it all a bit odd though. Oh well.

Return to “Books & other Reference Material”