“[Never before] has an American nonfiction writer reached into history and produced a testament of young men in terrible battle with the stateliness, the mastery of cadence, the truthfulness, and the muted heartbreak of James Carl Nelson in The Remains of Company D.” Ron Powers, New York Times bestselling coauthor of Flags of Our Fathers
“One of the best. Nelson is an excellent stylist…he knows how to tell a story with a capital ‘S'.” The Star Tribune
“A beautifully-crafted anthem to doomed American youth, James Carl Nelson's The Remains of Company D is a must-read.” Alex Kershaw, New York Times bestselling author of The Longest Winter and The Bedford Boys
“Not since Henry Berry's Make the Kaiser Dance has there been an intimate history like this one to illustrate the doughboys' contributions in World War I. The story of Company D, 28th Infantry Regiment, First Division, is one not soon to be forgotten…The author's meticulous and persistent research in tracking down the descendants of the combatants to uncover their letters and diaries makes his work the standard for research into the story of the American Expeditionary Force. Essential for all students of modern war.” Library Journal
Nelson's grandfather fought in WWI. Wounded in 1917, he survived until 1993 but said little about his experience. Inheriting only his grandfather's dog tag, a Purple Heart and a few postcards, Nelson, a former staff writer for the Miami Herald, resolved to tell his story and that of his 250-man company. Using these scraps, old newspaper accounts, government archives, secondary sources and a good deal of imagination, Nelson delivers biographies of dozens of young men, poor and middle-class, swept into the American Expeditionary Force and shipped to France, where General Pershing, anxious to prove the superiority of American fighting men (and convinced that trench warfare was for sissies), flung them at German lines, where they performed magnificently but suffered terrible casualties. Despite a dearth of primary material (no diaries turned up), Nelson delivers a creditable performance, bringing to life an America of 90 years ago in which many eagerly answered their president's call, but others (Nelson's grandfather among them) went about their business until drafted and then dutifully joined the carnage. 16 pages of b&w photos. (Oct.)
Not since Henry Berry's Make the Kaiser Dance has there been an intimate history like this one to illustrate the doughboys' contributions in World War I. The story of Company D, 28th Infantry Regiment, First Division, is one not soon to be forgotten. Nelson, grandson of a member of this unit, here follows the men from their enlistment, through the battles of Cantigny, Soissons, the St. Mihiel offensive, and the Argonne, to the Armistice and beyond, including the efforts of the families of the fallen to recover their sons' remains. The author's meticulous and persistent research in tracking down the descendants of the combatants to uncover their letters and diaries makes his work the standard for research into the story of the American Expeditionary Force. Essential for all students of modern war.
Journalist Nelson mines his grandfather's wartime experience in an attempt to shed light on what became of his company during their time "over there."The author's mission to unearth the past reflects the efforts of thousands of American families to literally dig up the remains of lost sons and bring them home, or, at the very least, find closure and relief from the emotional roller-coaster ride that comes with a soldier being tagged "missing." As Nelson demonstrates in his thorough, diligent narrative, many families were denied even this paltry comfort. Younger brothers traveled to the fields of Cantigny and Soissons to search, mostly in vain, for mass graves or even just rings and dog-tags. Mothers and fathers were forced to endure the pain of simply not knowing, like the parents of the missing Rollin Livick, who suffered hallucinations of their beloved son walking down the street while they awaited word about his fate. In many ways, Nelson's choice of the word "remains" in the title is indicative of his larger theme-a search for the mark of the Great War on the American consciousness, be it through letters, memories, family history or a grave. As he follows the men of Company D, the author maintains a quick pace and provides evocative imagery. Drawing heavily on the company's letters and diaries, Nelson occasionally loses the voices and personalities of these men amid the larger story arc. However, the author does an excellent job honoring the specific American experience in WWI-from immigrant diasporas to the shattered illusions of a quick campaign-and the lives of an extraordinary group of men. A personal, moving journey that will be a welcome addition to any military-history shelf.Agent: Jim Hornfischer/Hornfischer Literary Management