Phil Nordyke’s “Four Stars of Valor: The Combat History of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) in World War II” is excellent. It is a must-read for any student of World War II.
Mr. Nordyke does a great job as he takes us with the 505th PIR from its beginnings and training in the United States, through its deployment to North Africa, and through its campaigns in Sicily, Italy, Normandy, Holland, the Bulge, and Germany before returning home.
Record Four Combat Jumps
The book takes its title from the 505 PIR’s record four combat jumps in Sicily, Salerno/Naples, Ste Mere Eglise/Normandy, and Nijmegen/Holland. Stars representing participation in combat jumps had been worn unofficially on parachute wings during and after World War II. FYI – this practice did not gain official sanction until after the 1983 invasion of Grenada, Operation Urgent Fury.
Sicily and The Secrets of Ultra
I found it a book that that demanded I read every word on every page. Be prepared for some very graphic descriptions of the training and combat. You’ll feel the heat of North Africa. I was disappointed as I read the Hermann Goring Fallschrim Panzer and 15th Panzer Grenadier Divisions were on Sicily, that General Bradley knew it, and because of secrecy of Ultra they did not pass this information on to the attacking forces! “This was a cruel deception of our own forces, but necessary in order to protect the secrets of Ultra.”
Excellent Job of Using Primary Sources
Mr. Nordyke does an excellent job of using primary sources. At first, I was a little confused when I encountered an incident that was described from multiple people’s points of view, but quickly saw the value in seeing the way more than one person viewed/remembered an incident. It helped paint a more complete picture. Pages 300 – 301 and the actions of Private Camille E. Gagne’s response to the killing of First Lieutenant John Dodd is one example. The coverage giving to the 505th’s role in Nijmegen Holland is very detailed and had me feeling I was there.
The Battle of the Bulge
The 505th PIR’s involvement didn’t stop after its fourth jump into Nijmegen/Holland. They played a key role being deployed by truck into Belgium’s Ardennes Forest as the 82 Airborne Divisions helped stop Hitler’s in The Battle of the Bulge in freezing December 1944 and January 1945.
The book has exception maps and an amazing index. This book should be required reading for active duty members wearing jump wings. It is a must addition to any military historian’s library and would be an excellent addition to all university and community libraries.
I have read six books dealing with the Eastern Front in World War II. All were either memoirs written after the fact or traditionally researched works. “Eastern Inferno: The Journals of a German Panzerjager on the Eastern Front, 1941-43” by Hans Roth, edited by Alexander Christine and Mason Kunze is different.
The book is the results of three diaries of Hans Roth. He was accounted as missing in action in 1944. Amazingly a buddy on leave delivered the three volumes of diaries to Roth’s relatives. They cover the years 1941, 1942 and 1943. Sadly, Hans Roth vanishes as another MIA unaccounted for casualty of war.
The diaries are incredible. They show that he viewed part of the actions as being pre-emptive (p. 27). There was a clear fear of the Russians being on German soil and killing his loved ones. We learn that the diaries include content that would have never cleared the censors plus he was glad to keep the horrors away from his dear wife.
The book is spectacular. Hans Roth provided a wonderful service for his family and future generations by recording what he witnessed and what he was ordered to do.
You can feel the fear he felt. You can sense the mixed emotions he experienced. The day to day log of his units actions with his understanding of what was going on are amazing. The detail and description he provides of the surroundings paints a remarkable portrait of the times.
Hans Roth realized that luck was a key part of survival. He makes this clear time and time again. The amount of artillery and equipment the Russians had seems to have caught the Germans by surprise. The aircraft strafing runs and Russian counterattacks in 1941 caught me by surprise. Other works reported little or none on these until 1942 and later.
Note: As I read I could feel the growing fatigue and cynicism Hans Roth had a result of the war. His love of his wife and family shows regularly in his comments. The book is an important resource for anyone interested in the Eastern Front as well as those who want a realistic look at the terrors of war. It is gripping and paints one of the clearest pictures ever of how war is horrendous.
Christine Alexander and Mason Kuntze deserve a big thank you for the editing and translation of this project.
Jimmie Aaron Kepler is a novelist, poet, book reviewer, and award-winning short story writer. His work has appeared in over twenty venues, including Bewildering Stories and Beyond Imagination. When not writing each morning at his favorite coffee house, he supports his writing, reading, and book reviewing habit working as an IT application support analyst. He is a former Captain in the US Army. His blog Kepler’s Book Reviews was named a 100 best blogs for history buffs. He is old enough to collect Social Security if he wants, but not yet old enough for Medicare. You can visit him at http://www.jimmiekepler.com.
General Albert C. Wedemeyer: America’s Unsung Strategist in World War II by John McLaughlin. Be there no doubt, the author is a fan of General Albert C. Wedemeyer. The book is a statement of admiration for the general. This is not bad. I am very knowledgeable in military history as a historian by education and a former US Army officer. This book made me aware of a large gap in my knowledge. Yes, I had heard of General Wedemeyer. I was aware of his leadership in China. No, I had no idea he was the architect and strategist of the “Victory Program” which conceived the plans for US mobilization and included the D-Day invasion.
In the late 1930s he was an exchange student at the German Kriegsakademia, the Nazis’ equivalent of Fort Leavenworth’s Command and General Staff School. Because of this,he recognized the revolutionary tactics of Blitzkrieg once they were unleashed, and he knew how to respond.
The book is researched with the skill of a scholar and told in a straight forward way that is very engaging. We learn of a man who held key roles of strategizing on both the European and Asian fronts.
General Wedemeyer was an amazing intellect, one of the brightest minds the US has ever had. Dr. John McLaughlin did a great job of giving us the facts, telling the story, and leaving a tribute to General Albert C. Wedemeyer who was America’s Unsung Strategist in World War II. The book is very good. It has lessons for military leaders, politicians, and strategic strategist.