A HELL OF A WAR by Jr. Fairbanks


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 The follow-up to Fairbanks's first volume of memoirs (Salad Days, 1988) finds him as charming and debonair as ever and abrim with tales of his naval service during WW II. Born in 1909, Fairbanks is, of course, the son of movie swashbuckler Douglas Fairbanks. Wisely, he reviews his first volume at length for those who haven't read it, and this proves a refreshing first course that sets up the reader for the author's hardships fighting his image as a glamour puss in uniform. With buddy and fellow-actor Robert Montgomery, Fairbanks enlists six months before the war, getting a Reserve commission from Secretary of the Navy Frank Know. Early duty as a deck officer finds him not only a greenhorn but green around the gills with mal de mer. He still moves among the famous when not at sea, being a great good friend of Lord Louis ``Dickie'' Mountbatten, who uses him as an ``American representative'' among the British in his Combined Operations staff for daring raids on Nazi-held Europe, with a grinning but inwardly foot-dragging Fairbanks slotted for amphibious landings. Many of Fairbanks's activities are quite exciting, especially on the beach at Anzio, or on board the US aircraft carrier Wasp, with planes making dangerous landings, or on convoy duty in the North Atlantic. During one run, the worst of the war, only 11 out of 35 merchant ships make it from the States into Russian ports. As for amusement, there's the showing of Fairbanks's last prewar film, The Corsican Brothers, on board the battleship Mississippi, attended by the ship's full company, thrilled and hooting, with Fairbanks red-faced throughout. Most satisfying, and a promised third volume should offer terrific dessert. (Sixteen pages of photos--not seen.)

Pub Date: March 31st, 1993
ISBN: 0-312-08807-8
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1993