Where the Birds Never Sing: The True Story of the 92nd Signal Battalion and the Liberation of Dachau

Where the Birds Never Sing: The True Story of the 92nd Signal Battalion and the Liberation of Dachau

4.4 22
by Jack Sacco
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

In this riveting book, Jack Sacco tells the realistic, harrowing, at times horrifying, and ultimately triumphant tale of an American GI in World War II as seen through the eyes of his father, Joe Sacco — a farm boy from Alabama who was flung into the chaos of Normandy and survived the terrors of the Bulge.

As part of the 92nd Signal Battalion and Patton's

…  See more details below

Overview

In this riveting book, Jack Sacco tells the realistic, harrowing, at times horrifying, and ultimately triumphant tale of an American GI in World War II as seen through the eyes of his father, Joe Sacco — a farm boy from Alabama who was flung into the chaos of Normandy and survived the terrors of the Bulge.

As part of the 92nd Signal Battalion and Patton's famed Third Army, Joe and his buddies found themselves at the forefront of the Allied push through France and Germany. After more than a year of fighting, but still only twenty years old, Joe had become a hardened veteran. Yet nothing could have prepared him and his unit for the horrors behind the walls of Germany's infamous Dachau concentration camp. They were among the first 250 American troops into the camp, and it was there that they finally grasped the significance of the Allied mission. Surrounded by death and destruction, the men not only found the courage and will to fight, but they also discovered the meaning of friendship and came to understand the value and fragility of life.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

James Bradley
“If you are looking for a great book about heroes in a dark place, read Where the Birds Never Sing.”
Publishers Weekly
Written in an unusual style by the son of a G.I., this episodic WWII chronicle covers the career of the author's father, Joe Sacco (no relation to the comics artist), from his induction into the U.S. Army and stateside training during 1943, overseas deployment to Great Britain in early 1944, and his experiences in combat and behind the lines at Normandy through the end of the war. The account of the liberation of Dachau concentration camp, in late April 1945, comprises only one short chapter in the book. Although the narrative is first-person, the author's father is given neither co-authorship, nor "as told to" credit. This peculiar style limits the impact of some of the writing. "They say that war is comprised of one surreal moment after another, millions of them all strung together until nothing is real anymore except for one's own mortality"-loses some punch if linked back to "a director, writer, and composer living in Los Angeles," as this debut author is credited. Yet the extensive reconstructed (or invented?) dialogue is largely successful: Sacco's barracks life and period profanity make for one of the more accurate and compelling recreations of the G.I. experience in recent years. The book is particularly good on Sacco's first few days in the service, combat action in a small German city in March 1945, and on the liberation of Dachau, but readers expecting extensive tales of armed conflict will be disappointed. While not a classic among World War II memoirs, nor particularly historically significant, this odd duck quacks convincingly. (Oct. 1) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060096663
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
11/02/2004
Edition description:
First Paperback Edition
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
280,723
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.84(d)

Read an Excerpt

Where the Birds Never Sing
The True Story of the 92nd Signal Battalion and the Liberation of Dachau

Chapter One

The Journey Begins

Birmingham, Alabama
October 1942

In all my memories of the farm, there is one day I remember the most. I suppose it's because I learned more about myself in the time it took me to read a simple letter that day than I had in the previous eighteen years of my life. When I looked up from that page, I realized that life is not a given, it's a gift, and that a man's destiny can lead him far from the home and the family he loves into places he never knew existed. Perhaps in all my years there, this was the first time I actually made an effort to remember the many people and things that had surrounded me for so long. Perhaps it was the first time I really took stock of what I had and realized its truest value. For whatever reason, it was the memory of that day -- and the thousands exactly like it that I had allowed to go unnoticed -- that would carry me through the years and the journey ahead. And for that I have been grateful every day since.

It was the afternoon of Friday, October 16, 1942, and the heat and humidity of a prolonged Southern summer was finally giving way to the welcome freshness of autumn. The nearby hills, covered with trees and just beginning to sparkle with the colors of fall, draped themselves down until they blended softly into the fields of the farm.

Along the western edge of our land -- and occupying the flattest portion of the valley -- was the small airport serving the town of Birmingham, Alabama. In earlier years, when we were kids, my cousins and I used to stand at the fence for hours watching the planes take off and land. They seemed magical to us, so big yet somehow able to fly, their noisy engines announcing their arrival, their wheels kicking up smoke as they touched the runway. Sometimes we'd even try to throw rocks at them as they came in for a landing, not out of malice but because kids on a farm try to throw rocks at most everything, and a low-flying plane was just too hard to resist.

Now, years later, as we went along with our duties in the fields, we barely seemed to notice the buzz of the machines flying overhead and landing nearby. For the most part, the soothing sounds of nature abounded here -- the mooing of a cow, the occasional bark of a dog, the gentle breezes rustling through the trees as an old tractor hummed its way through the neatly groomed rows of corn, squash, tomatoes, cabbage, and other crops.

This rustic scene was, of course, musically enhanced by the everpresent sound of my uncles singing Italian songs. Each one apparently considered himself to be a great opera singer, each constantly trying to outdo the others in pitch and volume. Fortunately, they all seemed to be able to carry a tune, so on the rare occasions when they would harmonize instead of compete, it gave the farm the feel of a movie-sort of an Italian farming movie.

Papa and Mama had come from Sicily in the early 1920s. They sailed into New York Harbor before moving on to Chicago, where Papa began working at a factory. Before long he was offered a job by a childhood friend from Sicily named John Costa, aka John Scalice. Costa wanted Papa to drive a car for another Sicilian: a man named Al Capone. Papa refused. Capone was said to have felt disrespected, so he sent Costa to try once again to convince Papa to accept. Costa, by the way, was rumored to have been one of the hit men in the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. But Papa, being a decorated veteran of World War I in the Italian army and a man of considerable bravado, told Costa to tell Capone to shove it. It was just in keeping with Papa's personality to piss off the most powerful Mafia chieftain of the twentieth century. Which, is exactly what he did. Which is exactly why we moved. Papa had heard talk of jobs and land in Alabama, where the weather closely resembled that of Sicily and the Mafia didn't exactly have a stronghold. And so to Dixie we came.

Upon our arrival Papa immediately learned one fact of life in the South -- Italians were not welcome there. Alabama didn't have a Mafia, but they did have rednecks and the KKK. Neither liked anyone who wasn't a hick. So they designated certain areas of town -- the rundown areas -- as the places where blacks, Jews, Italians, Catholics, and anybody non-WASP had to live. Papa therefore bought a farm on the eastern edge of Birmingham, adjacent to the airport and near the farms of fellow Sicilians John Musso, Joe DiGratta, Tony Sciatta, and Mike Renda.

Now, along with an extended family that eventually included grandparents and a large assortment of aunts, uncles, and cousins, we worked the land until it yielded a rich harvest. We had settled in the South, but our language and customs were Italian. Thus, we held paramount in our hearts the two traditional sources from which we drew our daily strength: faith in God and love of family. These values, along with a willingness to work long and hard, saw us through the difficult times of the Great Depression and brought us even closer together.

Now, just four days after my eighteenth birthday, this Friday afternoon seemed entirely typical. We had worked in the fields all day and had just finished loading the truck with vegetables for the next morning's delivery to the farmers' market downtown. The sun was completing its long journey toward the distant clouds in the west, and a cool, refreshing breeze silently swept through the valley The smells of supper cooking began to rise from the house, calling us home for the quiet of evening ...

Where the Birds Never Sing
The True Story of the 92nd Signal Battalion and the Liberation of Dachau
. Copyright © by Jack Sacco. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Read More

What People are saying about this

James Bradley
“If you are looking for a great book about heroes in a dark place, read Where the Birds Never Sing.”

Meet the Author

Jack Sacco is a director, writer, and composer living in Los Angeles. His writing and directing credits include the documentaries Beyond the Fields and The Shroud, and he has composed the soundtracks for such works as TR: The Heroic Life of Theodore Roosevelt and Once Upon a Starlit Night.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >