The True Story of Catch – 22: The Real Men and Missions of Joseph Heller’s 340th Bomb Group in World War II

Did Joseph Heller commit a disservice to the members of the 340th Bomb Group when he wrote Catch-22? Did author  Patricia Chapman Meder write an apologetic defending the real four officers some feel Joesph Heller blindsided when he made them into Catch-22’s four heavy hitters?
“The True Story of Catch – 22: The Real Men and Missions of Joseph Heller’s 340th Bomb Group in World War II” is a combination of both plus I feel some admiration for Joseph Heller making those men infamous.
There is a reason the original Catch-22 is found in the fiction not nonfiction section of bookstores. Joseph Heller didn’t write a memoir of his service during World War II. He wrote a satirical and somewhat historical novel.
Patricia Chapman Meder uses rare and unpublished photos to bring our actual heroes to life through use of first person narrative.
There is a third part in her book that is actually the book’s heart. She takes twelve men of the 340th and relates twelve true tales.
Fans of Catch-22 will enjoy the book. It makes good use of diaries, logs, and photos to bring the people to life. For those unfamiliar with Catch-22 the book will make you curious enough to pickup Heller’s book.
“The True Story of Catch – 22: The Real Men and Missions of Joseph Heller’s 340th Bomb Group in World War II” would make a nice companion volume or commentary for the serious student of the original work. It would make a nice inclusion in university or community libraries as a resource for Joseph Heller’s book.
I recommend “The True Story of Catch – 22: The Real Men and Missions of Joseph Heller’s 340th Bomb Group in World War II” by Patricia Chapman Meder. The publisher is Casemate Publishing. Read and reviewed by Jimmie A. Kepler.

Valor in Vietnam 1963 – 1977: Chronicles of Honor, Courage and Sacrifice

I enjoyed reading “Valor in Vietnam 1963 – 1977: Chronicles of Honor, Courage and Sacrifice” by Allen B. Clark. I can easily recommend the book. In the vast literature on Vietnam that is too often  memoirs full of hubris or tomes that bore you with action killing details, Mr. Clarke has given us a wonderful, fresh look at one of the most seminal events in the life of those who experienced the 1960s and 1970s. You experience the Vietnam War from the personal point of view of  some of the men and women who were there. You get both a unique boots on the ground and narrative perspective.   
 
I need to give a spoiler warning. I was left wondering if the actions Colonel Clyde R. Russell was the catalyst that started the war. It was interesting to see his son in high school in Saigon in 1964. Later, we learn of his son, Lieutenant Chris Russell – the reluctant warrior as the author called him. We see how his dad got his college student deferment pulled where he had to go in the Army. We see when he is in Vietnam he returns to the halls he walked as a ten grader. The building is now used for a very different purpose.
 
The book is full of wonderful, well told stories that sequentially take us through the war. The stories of men and women of various branches of service and ranks, both officer and enlisted gives a you were there feel.
 
I especially enjoyed the combat leadership lessons that were shared as we made our way through the years of the war. I would hope that such venues as the Infantry School, Command and General Staff College, and War College would include this insightful work in their required or recommended reading. I pray these are lessons that will not have to be learned over and over, but can be taught through case studies from this book.
 
While every chapter was well written and action packed, a couple of chapters especially touched me. They were the chapters on The Real Horrors of War covering Captain Wendy Weller’s tour as a nurse in 1969-1970 and the chapter titled Ranger’s Ranger covering the 1965 – 1970 tours of duty of Staff Sergeant Patrick Tadina. I was amazed at how low the casualty rate was for the units/missions he led and how long he was in Vietnam.
 
The book’s title caught my attention when it had the date range going to 1977 instead of stopping in 1973 or 1975. Spoiler alert – the last chapter covers 1975 to 1977 and a couple who were left behind when the last Americans fled. It is intriguing.
 
Congratulations to author Allen B. Clark and Casemate Publishing.  You have published a special book. “Valor in Vietnam 1963 – 1977: Chronicles of Honor, Courage and Sacrifice” by Allen B. Clark. The publisher is Casemate Publishing. 
 

Review: We Were Soldiers Once and Young

There is a movie based on this book. I read the book before seeing the motion picture. I was very surprised when I saw the movie. They had left out the second battle. It was a battle that was just as bloody as the first, but without LTC Moore commanding.

General Moore and Joseph Galloway have written a fine book. It should be must reading for every military officer and politician. I found this book to be consuming my attention. It was very hard to put down. The narrative of the training, deployment, battle, wives back at Fort Benning, battle, deaths and death notifications by cab drivers, and the stupidity of the leadership that lead to the second battles terrible losses.

We Were Soldiers Once and Young is terrific book!

I was in junior high school when the battle of Ia-Drang took place. I remember it vividly. My dad had returned months earlier from his first duty in Viet-Nam. I was living in a military family on a military base. I watched soldiers march to and from training daily from my school’s playground.

I can still vividly recall the CBS evening news story with Walter Cronkite discussing the impact of all the deaths on Fort Benning and Columbus, Georgia. I wish I had read this before I served as a US Army Infantry platoon leader.

Buy it, read it, and keep it in your library.

Fighting With the Filthy Thirteen: The World War II Story of Jack Womer – Ranger and Paratrooper by Jack Womer and Stephen C. Devito

Travel with Jack Womer from the steel mills of Dundalk, Maryland through his being drafted (which he resented) and assigned to the 29th Infantry Division to his deployment to England. Experience with him his selection to and the nearly yearlong training with the British commandos as a member of the 29th’s elite Provisional Ranger battalion. You will learn how he joined the 101st Airborne Division after the disbanding of 29th Ranger Battalion.

You will meet the group of demolitionist he joined in the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment’s demolition platoon as they fight in Normandy, Holland, the Ardennes and Germany. The detail of the combat jump into Normandy gives you the sensation of being there as well as showing the confusion on the group. Wormer shares examples how his Ranger training helped him survive in combat. Unfortunately, he does not share the same level of detail in the campaigns following Normandy.

Co-author Stephen Devito did a great job of interviewing Wormer and putting his stories into a first person narrative. The book gives the feel of a veteran telling the actions of his youth.

Wormer shares how he and other soldiers had girlfriends when in England, but his heart yearned to return to the United States and his fiancée Theresa. A side note I enjoyed was the story of how he asked Theresa for a new picture and she refused. He told the story of his desire for a replacement picture. The press picked up the story. The Baltimore newspaper carried the story. We see his fiancée Theresa’s response/reactions.

The book’s title “The Filthy Thirteen” is the nick-name of the section in the 506th’s demolition platoon that Wormer was assigned. It operated/used special equipment like flame-throwers and explosives to attack and clear German positions. These men were infamous for hard living, tough fighting, and poor personal hygiene that earned them their name. The claim is made that The Filthy was an inspiration for the film the Dirty Dozen.

I recommend this well-written and interesting book.