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.
George Koskimaki was 101st
Airborne Division commanding general, General Maxwell Taylor’s radio operator. He wrote the three-book history of the 101st
Airborne during World War Two. Hell’s Highway: Chronicle of the 101st Airborne Division in the Holland Campaign, September – November 1944 is the second book in the series.
I had previously read Cornelius Ryan’s “A Bridge to Far”, Stephen Ambrose’s “Band of Brothers” and “Citizen Soldiers”, Robert Kershaw’s “It Never Snows in September: The German View of Market-Garden and the Battle of Arnhem, September 1944”, Martin Middlebrooks’s “Arnhem 1944: The Airborne Battle” (focusing on the British specifically at the Arnhem sector), and James Gavin’s “On to Berlin”. All of the books gave good presentations and different points of view of Operation Market Garden. George Koskimaki’s book is based on interviews with more than six hundred paratroopers journals the soldiers intense personal accounts. It gives the vivid previously untold versions of the Screaming Eagles’ valiant struggle.
Hell’s Highway gives us something not covered in the other books. It tells of the Dutch people and members of the underground and their liberation after five years of oppression by the Nazis. It shares how they have never forgotten America’s airborne heroes and how the 101st endangered and even sacrificed their lives for the freedom of the Netherlands and Europe.
While some readers may find the book hard or even tedious to get through because of the detail, I did not. The personal accounts gave vitality to the story. It kept it flowing instead of reading like a military after action report. Mr. Koskimaki did a superb job of telling the history the 101st Airborne Division during Operation Market Garden.
The book is just right for beginners and experts of the 101st Airborne Division. The three books George Koskimaki wrote on the 101stAirborne Division are 1) D-Day with the Screaming Eagles, 2) Hell’s Highway: Chronicle of the 101st Airborne Division in the Holland Campaign, September – November 1944, and 3) Battered Bastards of Bastogne. I highly recommend the book.
Company Commander: The Classic Infantry Memoir of World War II by Charles B. MacDonald. I highly recommend Company Commander: The Classic Infantry Memoir of World War II by Charles B. MacDonald. At just 21 years of age, Captain Charles B. MacDonald first commanded I Company, 3 Battalion 23rd Infantry, 2nd Infantry Division from October 1944 to January 1945 and later G Company, 2 Battalion 23rd Infantry, 2nd Infantry Division from March to May 1945. This memoir was written in 1947 when recollections were still sharp. It resulted in a very detailed account of what it was like to take command of a line infantry company and lead it into battle. The book gives us template for writing a personal military memoir.
It is by far the finest memoir of any junior officer in World War II. Charles MacDonald does a great job of keeping his focus on his own experiences. He does not speculate or waste my time by giving conjecture on the big picture. We only have first hand information from the events of his personal participation. He sticks to what life was like for a junior officer in command of an infantry company, sleepless, hungry, dirty, stressful, and very dangerous. He takes us from the Siegfried Line in the Ardennes, through the Battle of the Bulge, and to the end of the war in the Czechoslovakia.
This book is a must-read for all army officers who seek to command at company-level and it is informative for military historians as well. It is still required reading at West Point and on the company level officer (second lieutenant, first lieutenant, and captain) recommended reading list by the U.S. Army today. Upon this book’s publication in 1947, Charles B. MacDonald was invited to join the U.S. Army Center of Military History as a civilian historian, the start of a career during which he wrote three of the official histories of World War II in Europe and supervised the preparation of others. The book is simply the best. Read and reviewed by Jimmie A. Kepler in June 2006.