A journalist who served as a rifleman in Europe at the end of World War II, Stannard decided to collect his mates' recollections after attending a reunion of his battalion in 1985. He wound up interviewing 77 veterans and their wives, as well as checking government documents. The resulting book meanders from individual to individual, rarely forming a coherent whole. There are nuggets of interest. ``How to surrender was not part of our training,'' one veteran admits; a former prisoner of war says the experience helped him spiritually, teaching him that ``we should not waste anything''; a Jewish sergeant describes how, after meeting Jewish concentration camp survivors--``bean poles''--in Innsbruck immediately after the war, he and his buddies ``confiscated a hotel, threw everybody out, turned it over to the Jews, and got 'em food.'' Most descriptive is former second lieutenant Paul Fussell, but Fussell's own writings on the war are far more powerful than this book. Epilogues at the end of each chapter update the lives of the veterans; several consider Army service the high point of their lives. Photos not seen by PW. (Dec.)
Stannard has written an oral history of his World War II Army infantry battalion (2nd Battalion, 410th Regiment, 103rd Infantry Division). He has collected over 70 interviews that offer a view of combat from the perspective of the ordinary infantryman. Only in combat for a few months in 1944-45, this battalion sustained most of its casualties in 11 days of actual combat. It's all here: the bravery, cowardice, fear, pain, and sudden death as experienced by a diverse group of draftees from different walks of life. Not as well organized as some of the oral histories now appearing about the Vietnam War, this work is nevertheless a welcome addition to Twayne's ``Oral History'' series and does preserve the memories of American infantrymen in World War II. Recommended for military and oral history collections.-- Richard Nowicki, Emerson Vocational H.S., Buffalo, N.Y.