The Odyssey of the 517th Regimental Parachute Combat Team 1943-1945
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 The annals of an US Army airborne unit whose fine showing in WW II was often superior to that of more celebrated outfits. Drawing on extensive interviews with surviving veterans as well as on archival sources, Astor (A Blood-Dimmed Tide, 1992, etc.) delivers a tellingly detailed account of the 517th Regimental Combat Team's 33-month life span. After providing background data on the wartime use of paratroops, he follows the RCT from its tough but somewhat chaotic training regimen in the backwoods of Georgia through its formal deactivation in 1946. After shipping out for the European theater, the 517th gave a fine account of itself in five major campaigns. It first hiked (not jumped) into battle north of Rome in mid-1944. Subsequently dropped into southern France, the regiment went on to fight bravely in the Rhineland, the Ardennes (in the Battle of the Bulge), and the Buertgen Forest, meanwhile earning a Congressional Medal of Honor, six Distinguished Service Crosses, and nearly 1,600 Purple Hearts (at the cost of 244 killed). Astor (who served as an infantryman in the ETO) devotes almost as much attention to the hard-nosed team's out-of-action antics as he does to its valor and sacrifices under fire, providing valuable perspectives on what gave the 517th (whose never-approved shoulder patch featured an irate vulture) remarkable esprit de corps during its relatively short-lived, albeit immensely productive, existence. An absorbing, informative take on how the American military once managed to make elite forces of a few professionals and hordes of citizen-soldiers. (Maps, 16 pages of b&w photographs--not seen)

Pub Date: Sept. 10th, 1993
ISBN: 1-55611-363-3
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Donald Fine
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1993


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