The Boys' Crusade: The American Infantry in Northwestern Europe, 1944-1945

The Boys' Crusade: The American Infantry in Northwestern Europe, 1944-1945

by Paul Fussell
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Boys' Crusade: The American Infantry in Northwestern Europe, 1944-1945 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
ionestjames More than 1 year ago
I started out reading this book for class. I have always been interesting in World War II literature, but this one really got to me. As the synopsis describes, this book doesn't hold a veil over the horrors and atrocities that occurred during WWII and in my opinion, I'm very grateful for it. Movies based on battles during WWII usually take the action-y, explosion-y route because it brings in an audience. People want to see other people being blown up or shot. It's just a movie, right? Well, in a book, when someone gets shot or blown to pieces by an underground land mine, it becomes real. Especially, when you know the book is a retelling of actual events, not just based on a true story. Fussell brings to light all that most people forget about the war. The young men who fought and the young men who died and suffered. In his dedication, Fussell wrote: "To those on both sides who suffered." This book is a testament and a revelation that not only did the Americans fight, but the French, the British, and even the Germans fought and lost good, young men. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to know the truth about the war, through the eyes of a young man. In large part, this book is based off of the author's experiences. Not only does this ground the book into the genre of Historical Non-Fiction, it grounds it in the mind and the soul of the reader that "this actually happened, these boys actually died."
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By Bill Marsano. This book comes along just in time: Already I've been getting invitations from French tourism folks inviting me to learn all about their plans for next year's 60th anniversary of D-Day. (Do they actually give a damn any more, or are they just trying to revive their critically wounded tourist trade?) Think of it--sixty years. Soon enough there'll be no one left alive to tell the tale, and then the whole shebang--World War II from front to back--will be deeded over to Ken Burns for a series of sincere and oh-so-tasteful documentaries for his caramel-centered fans to lap up on PBS. It's probably all that 'good war' and 'greatest generation' stuff that drove Fussell to write this book; he doesn't have much truck with gooey backward glances, and that will probably make some readers mad. Well, you don't come to Fussell--author of, among other things, 'Thank God for the Atom Bomb, and Other Essays'--for good times. You come to Fussell for the hard stuff. And here it is his contention that behind and beneath all that 'greatest generation' nonsense was the Boys' Crusade--that last year of the war in Europe when too many things went wrong too often. The generals who'd convinced themselves that this war would not be a war of attrition--i.e., human slaughter--like the last one found they'd guessed wrong. Casualties were horrifyingly high and so huge numbers of children--kids 17-19 years--old were flung into combat. And they were, with the help of the generals, ill-trained, ill-clothed and ill-equipped. They were also faceless ciphers. As Fussell points out, the US Army's policy was to break up training units by sending individual replacements up to the line piecemeal--one at a time--so they often arrived as strangers among strangers, often addressed merely as 'Soldier' because no one knew their names. The result was too many instances of cowardice--both under fire and behind the lines--too many self-inflicted wounds to escape combat. Too many disgraces of every kind because the Army's system, Fussell says, destroyed the most important factor in the fighting morale of the 'poor bloody infantry'--the shame and fear of turning chicken in front of your comrades. Many of these boys--and Fussell is properly insistent on the word boys--funked because they had no comradeship to value. This is not in the least a personal journal. Fussell was seriously wounded as a young second lieutenant; he was also decorated. But he wisely leaves himself out of this narrative. There's no special pleading here, no showing of the wounds on Crispin's Day. Instead this is a passionate but straightforward report on what that last year was like for the poor bloody infantry--those foot soldiers, those dogfaces, those 14 percent of the troops who took more than 70 percent of the casualties. And yet there were those who stood the gaff, who survived 'carnage up to and including bodies literally torn to pieces, of intestines hung on trees like Christ,mas festoons,' and managed not to dishonor themselves. They weren't heroes, Fussell says, just men who earned the Combat Infantryman's Badge, which was the only honor they respected. In a brief but moving passage, he explains why: It said they'd been there, been through it, and toughed it out. This is a very short book. It's only 160 or so pages of text and they are small, paperback-sized pages. Nevertheless this book is an object lesson in writing that hits home like a blow to the solar plexus, that can double you over in pain and shock. I don't know a professional writer who wouldn't be proud to have written it.--Bill Marsano is a writer and editor with a long-time interest in military writing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was very cool story..I like this..