Taught to Kill: An American Boy's War from the Ardennes to Berlin

Overview


By mid-1944, the U.S. Army was facing a critical shortage of the most important commodity in any war, the common foot soldier. Higher-than-expected casualties during the liberation of France had forced the Army to comb its ranks for replacement infantrymen. Plucked in 1944 from the safety and privilege of the Army Specialized Training Program (the World War II version of the college deferment of the Vietnam years), twenty-two-year-old John Babcock suddenly found himself an infantry private headed to Europe. ...
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Taught to Kill: An American Boy's War from the Ardennes to Berlin

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Overview


By mid-1944, the U.S. Army was facing a critical shortage of the most important commodity in any war, the common foot soldier. Higher-than-expected casualties during the liberation of France had forced the Army to comb its ranks for replacement infantrymen. Plucked in 1944 from the safety and privilege of the Army Specialized Training Program (the World War II version of the college deferment of the Vietnam years), twenty-two-year-old John Babcock suddenly found himself an infantry private headed to Europe. Raised in an upper-middle-class family, this sensitive and literate youth was thrust into a group of coarse, uneducated, and sometimes brutal draftees who were headed to the 78th Infantry Division as replacements. Babcock demonstrates that the “greatest generation” was not always that. Instead, it was like any other cohort—full of liars, cowards, and ordinary men who simply wanted to stay alive and go home.

Babcock lets us see the war through his eyes—just over the rim of the foxhole. Undergoing his baptism of fire in the Battle of the Bulge, he endures the trials of combat, advancing through attrition to become the senior sergeant in the company. This ordinary enlisted infantryman in “just another combat division” takes the reader from infantry basic training and seven months of combat to postwar occupation duty in Germany and back home. It is one infantry rifleman’s story rather than an account of how his division fit into the grander scheme of the war in Europe—though the author relates to that by providing the reader with a roadmap of dates and locations taken. Babcock offers an intimate taste of combat, casualties, how he fought, and with which weapons (in clear “civilian” language), and both the heroism and cowardice of his fellow soldiers. Published in cooperation with the Association of the United States Army, it is a gripping account of how an ordinary American boy felt and experienced the so-called good war.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781574887990
  • Publisher: Potomac Books
  • Publication date: 5/30/2005
  • Pages: 282
  • Product dimensions: 6.32 (w) x 9.28 (h) x 1.04 (d)

Meet the Author

John B. Babcock is a decorated World War II veteran and spent a career in broadcasting and communications. He is retired and lives in Ithaca, New York.
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Table of Contents


Foreword     vii
Introduction     ix
Preparing for War
Lay That Pistol Down, Babe     3
A GI Word That Says It All     9
From Home Front to The Front     11
Battle of the Bulge
Moving Up     19
Soldier's Soldier     25
My Longest Day     33
Imo in Action     44
Living with Death     50
Home in the Bulge     55
Letters Home     62
Getting Tough     66
Shooting Back     70
War Games     76
Common Senses     81
Winter Bath     87
Hard Road to Remagen
Dreaded Second Round     95
Fight in the Open     100
No-Man's-Land     106
Second Survival     113
Uniform of the Day     120
The Buddy System     125
Some Lose     133
Some Win     137
The Reporter     145
Basic Training: ETO     154
Learning Curve     160
Remagen: My Bridge Too Far
Regret to Inform You     169
Kitchen Commandos     178
Mop Up and Finis
Let's Roll     185
Getting Even     193
Prima     199
Follow Me     205
Sandbag     211
Ending with a Whimper
Punching Bags     223
Ignoble Death     229
Meaningless End     235
Berlin     238
Immortal Youth     245
About the Author     249
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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2005

    The real WW II on the ground

    As a 19-year-old enlisted man in a rifle company in the winter in Germany in WW II, I read for the first time the way it felt to be a grunt, not an officer. Babcock is uniquely qualified to write this as an Ivy League college student private who rose to become the top non-com. He knows what it feels like to be at the bottom of the pecking order when your life is on the line, and how it feels to survive when so many others weren't either lucky or skilled enough. I finally found words, 60 years later, for the feelings I had then.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted January 27, 2010

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