Irreverent tales that breathe some lightheartedness into the vast, dusty annals of World War II.
Misled by a newspaper ad to enlist in the Army at age 19, Bittner quickly became disgruntled. He intentionally failed an IQ test used to sift prospective officers from enlisted riffraff and then doggedly studied to become a barracks lawyer, whimsically using Army regulations for his own ends. Jumping quickly from one Army camp to another, these memoirs chart fond memories and the author’s high jinks, which include learning how to ride a motorcycle, chasing women and getting in and out of trouble. In late 1944, as a military police officer assigned to guard the general of the Third Army Corps, the author hopped the pond, where he had fly-on-the-wall access to Generals Patton, Eisenhower and Bradley. Sure, these adventures might pale in comparison to Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers, but they belong to the author, and he’s not reluctant to call a Frenchman a Frog or cite breaches in the Geneva Convention. Bittner plays a cranky court jester from France to the Battle of the Bulge and on through to the last push to drive the stake into the heart of Nazi Germany. He then heads home to prepare for what seemed to be the inevitable invasion of Japan. Fortunately for Bittner (and others) the U.S. dropped atom bombs Fat Man and Little Boy on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, quickly bringing to last of the Axis powers to its knees. Clunky transitions and odd parenthetical notes-to-self probably should have been smoothed out or deleted, but these flaws help establish a soft, casual tone, conjuring images of Grandpa, glass of scotch in hand, rocking gently through a fireside chat, pausing only to stir up memories and to let his antique zingers breathe. Humor is the book’s strength. The author recounts moments of great surprise and terror–such as when he thinks a German soldier is hiding in the attic of his billet–and quips that he nearly â€œgave birth to little green apples” in fear. And the butts of jokes get bigger up the chain of command. When referring to the sacrosanct day that Franklin D. Roosevelt died, Bittner decries the resultant closing of girlie shows in Europe.
Funny, personal war stories told by a feisty old soldier.