A GI Everyman fights his way through Italy, France and Germany in these absorbing World War II memoirs.
From the bloody stalemate at Anzio to the frigid winter fighting along the Rhine and the climactic Allied invasion of Germany, Brown, an American infantryman in charge of a machine-gun squad, saw as much of the war in Europe as anyone did. His episodic reminiscences paint a vivid picture of an ordinary soldier’s travails. The author recounts scenes of misery and terror as he shivers in a foxhole filled with stinking water while shells whistle overhead, plays cat-and-mouse with an enemy patrol that has him pinned down with machine-gun fire and cowers in a bomb crater while a German tank looms overhead. There are also exhilarating spectacles as he watches American bombers flying through storms of flak, a warm interlude with French peasants, a hair-raising encounter with Army dentistry and a generous sampling of bawdy GI poetry. There are magnetic commanders who sacrifice themselves for their men as well as arrogant officers, greener than the soldiers they give orders to, who waste lives through incompetence. And there is horror when a maimed German prisoner blows himself up with a grenade to end his pain, and quiet anguish when the author spends Christmas Eve sitting in a room with a dying comrade. Although given to occasional flights of soldierly sentimentality, Brown’s prose is usually as straightforward and matter-of-fact as an after-action report. Still imbued with a staff sergeant’s professionalism, he pens lucid combat narratives—photos, maps and diagrams help clarify the action—and engrossing disquisitions on everything from the shortcomings of American bazookas to the fiendish cunning of German mines and booby traps. The pathos he conveys is all the more moving because it emerges on its own from his clear-eyed depiction of the business of war.
A restrained yet evocative account of life on the front lines.