A young Jewish sergeant applies football disciplines to problems in the management of Nazi POWs.
Northwestern is on hold for 19-year-old gridiron star Sandy Delman. And, as this pleasingly old-fashioned war novel opens, his advancement in rank is on a downslide. He’s been busted from sergeant for reacting with a right hook to Jew-baiting from one of the Nazis in custody in a sordid prison camp outside Le Mans, France. The hotheaded Delman was set up by supply sergeant Mueller, a lifer whose best chum in the camp is prisoner Heinrich, a closeted SS officer. The exhausted and increasingly cynical camp commander, Lt. Col. Nelson, has had to set aside his sympathy for Delman—you just can’t be pummeling prisoners—busting him and assigning him as pretty much a slave to Sergeant Mueller, so Delman’s days are spent cleaning latrines and worse. But the boy has a plan. The prisoners are dying from their meager diet, and if starvation doesn’t get them, exposure will. The prison population swells daily, but materials to house the Germans fail to arrive. Delman proposes sending a convoy around to nearby supply points to requisition everything they need. And since the camp can’t spare any of the handful of guards running the place, he suggests using POWs for drivers. A desperate Col. Nelson takes Delman off latrine duty, restores his stripes, and gives him the go-ahead. Nasty Sgt. Mueller, hating Delman worse than ever, does everything he can to sabotage the convoy, including sending Heinrich as a replacement driver. Hardcore Hitlerite Heinrich, believing the Führer will prevail, is dead-set on escape, and when the chance comes as the convoy is underway, he bolts, taking with him a hostage and a POW who was, in a previous life, a race-car driver. Delman must round him up single-handedly to save the convoy and his bacon.
No-frills WWII action tale. A nicely done debut.