Tomorrow is Veterans Day, a time when the American populace needs to stop whatever is going on in their chaotic lives and reflect on the sacrifices made by veterans and their families. Whichever war, conflict or tension they took part in, these men and women dedicated themselves to be of service to the people of the U.S., and they deserve our hearty applause and gratitude.
I know many relatives, friends and co-workers who have been in the armed services. I have a nephew in the Army in Kuwait right now, a cousin who retired from the Navy and a friend who’s currently teaching at the Naval Academy in Annapolis.
My father-in-law was on a ship in the Korean War, and a neighbor is currently in the Marines. Take a moment to tell them thanks, and pick up some of these new books, which tell the stories of these American heroes at work.
In “Operation Swallow: American Soldiers’ Remarkable Escape From Berga Concentration Camp” by Mark Felton, we read personal affidavits, testimonies and official documents about a small group of soldiers who worked to save POWs from the tragedies of the Nazi concentration camps.
In a story that hasn’t been widely reported, we learn about a plan of the SS officers to have American prisoners of war serve as slaves in the camps. It is a story of courage, determination and despair as this small group worked out an escape for hundreds of their own soldiers.
Author Mark Felton has written over 20 books and is thought to be one of the pre-eminent wartime experts in Great Britain. Often a commentator for documentaries on the Discovery Channel, The History Channel and PBS, he has two books that are in development as feature films.
World War II is the focus again in “Every Man A Hero: A Memoir of D-Day, The First Wave At Omaha Beach, and A World At War” by Ray Lambert and Jim DeFelice. Prolific author DeFelice helps out 98-year old veteran Lambert to tell his story about his experiences as an Army staff sergeant.
Growing up during the Great Depression, Lambert knew that the primary goal was simply to survive. Getting a job at the local veterinarian’s office didn’t pay much, so Lambert figured that joining the Army was his best bet to help out his family.
The Army decided to make him a medic, and the job seemed pretty simple. In the midst of enemy fire, run out to the injured soldier, stop the bleeding, give him morphine, call for a stretcher, then move on. The medics were supposed to be unarmed, but they found that the big red crosses on their helmets and armbands made them targets for the Germans, so many staff ripped off the patches and secretly carried guns.
Lambert won the silver star in North Africa, rescuing injured soldiers, then his bravery continued as he trekked into minefields, pulled soldiers out of a burning tank and then headed to Normandy. They were going to liberate France. After saving many lives, being shot in the arm, filled with shrapnel and having a boat ramp collapse on his back, he gave himself some morphine and continued the job.
After dozens of medals were awarded after that fateful day, Lambert commented, “It is a tiny fraction of the men who deserved one. The vast majority of heroes went unrewarded, at least officially. Every man on that beach was a hero.”
Can’t get enough of the action? “The Winter Army: The World War II Odyssey of the 10th Mountain Division, America’s Elite Alpine Warriors” by Maurice Isserman is an interesting story about a unique squadron of soldiers who trained to fight the Germans in the Italian mountains.
Made up of civilian skiers, athletes, hikers and park rangers, this fascinating group became a tight brotherhood. Fighting for only four months before the German surrender, they suffered great casualties, but facilitated the end of the war.
Moving on to another continent, “On Desperate Ground: The Marines at The Reservoir, the Korean War’s Greatest Battle” by well-known historian Hampton Sides, describes the harrowing circumstances involving the Marines who were cornered by 300,000 Chinese troops.
Fighting freezing temperatures and completely outnumbered, the 1st Marine Division used unimaginable fierceness to fight back. Using first-hand accounts, intensive research and a nail-biting narrative, Hampton Sides brings us right into battle.
Popular thriller writer Stephen Coonts joins aviation historian Barrett Tillman to present “Dragon’s Jaw: An Epic Story of Courage and Tenacity in Vietnam.” Called Dragon’s Jaw, the bridge at Thanh Hoa in North Vietnam was the setting for many years of anti-aircraft fire against American airmen. Those shot down were killed or captured and taken to the “Hanoi Hilton,” a wretched POW camp. Campaign after campaign, the Americans tried to take down that bridge, but it unbelievably stayed strong.
Counting on official reports and eyewitness accounts, the authors piece together the struggle of trying to defeat the strength of the bridge and its anti-aircraft missiles. With a powerful narrative, and engrossing details, the authors bring the battles to our laps. A fine combination of strengths in writing and journalism create a must-read book.
In “They Will Have To Die Now: Mosul and the Fall of the Caliphate” by James Verini tells the story of journalist Verini who traveled to Iraq in 2016 to follow up on the capture of Mosul by the Islamic State.
Weaving background information about the city of Mosul, Verini focuses not only on the urban warfare in the city, but also on the families affected. The girl who watched her mother die, the townspeople who believed the Islamic State would improve their lives and the victims who fled to refugee camps.
Journalist Verini was imbedded with the Counter Terror Services during the fighting and witnessed the most violent and devastating forms of urban warfare imaginable.
Brutal hangings were not uncommon, and trust placed in Iraqi soldiers were not always warranted. Verini lays blame on both sides of the conflict and does an excellent job of bringing the reader the whole picture, through history, culture and the citizens of Mosul. An experienced journalist, he has written for The New York Times and National Geographic and has covered tensions in Sudan, Rwanda and Afghanistan, as well as Iraq.
Please, take a moment to show your appreciation for our armed services.