An American Army veteran’s memoir of his experiences in the European theatre of World War II.
This excellent memoir details the author’s life as a dogface in the Third Infantry Division of the U.S. Army. Starting his career on March 12, 1943, with the war already in full swing, the young Brown recounts his basic training exploits in an almost halcyon tone. This lack of pretension or existential dread will surprise many readers weaned on Vietnam-era satire and the first 40 minutes of Full Metal Jacket. Brown delivers his choice experiences matter-of-factly and makes no apologies for doing so. However, into these sunny memories Brown deftly weaves the telling wisps of death. When digging an ominously measured 6x6x6-foot hole in the ground as punishment during training, Brown discovers a small cache of ordinance. After Brown finds a stray grenade, his commanding officer orders him to dig more and see what else is there. It’s a perfect image with the young untested man already digging a grave-like hole and discovering the dangers of war can be found even in South Carolina. This subtle style advances forth as Brown’s company learns proper grenade throwing technique; a flub during training results in nothing more than a few nervous seconds, but without overt exposition, it’s understood that it might have been his first experience with a casualty of war. Brown moves the reader brusquely to Italy and here the war proper begins. The grind and anxiety of guard duty, and in perhaps the most intense and confessional moment, Brown reluctantly describes one of the few nagging dreams he still has that’s inspired by the war. It’s about as gory as he gets in the memoir and also as honest, which gives the narrative an incredible dimension. Throughout the memoir, Brown explains that the charge of his book comes from the many children of veterans looking for information about their very reticent fathers. So here is an honest and articulate summary of experience that can’t be so easily explored by the calcified clichés of popular culture. Brown admits his generation is in its twilight, and so these chronicles are more important and rewarding than ever.
An impressive and eloquent account of a soldier’s life and culture.