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Another River, Another Town: A Teenage Tank Gunner Comes of Age in Combat--1945 Hardcover – May 7, 2002

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (May 7, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375507752
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375507755
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.7 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #388,328 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Irwin, a 76-year-old retired philosophy professor at Pennsylvania's Lock Haven University, offers a brief account in 10 chapters of his WWII service. Born in Norristown, Pa., Irwin enlisted in the army in August 1944 at age 18 and was honorably discharged in July 1946. An eventful march through Germany, including a surprise capture of enemy soldiers that turned out to be more of a nuisance than a triumph for the American side, accentuates the battle-weary and ultra-realistic tone of the memoir, puncturing illusions about the so-called grandeur and glory of war. Its tragic culmination occurs when Irwin and his company arrive at the Nordhausen slave labor camp, where the V-rockets that destroyed much of London during the infamous Blitz were manufactured. This undeniably important and exciting historical setting is rendered in a deliberately flat style that conveys the tedium of service, interspersed with moments of combat. Trying for general conclusions tends to twist that style into knots (e.g., "There is something about the semi-conclusion of a battle-not-lost that encourages men to continue to believe in a future"), and sometimes a mildly bemused stretch at humor effectively bowdlerizes the account: "I choose to omit here the captain's ensuing tour de force of specialized military vernacular." Yet readers looking for a balanced first-person report from the greatest generation will find this measured look-back genially winning.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

"In spite of the disaster, it seemed almost glorious." This spare, honest memoir of an 18-year-old GI tank gunner on the German front in 1945 conveys the romance of combat as well as the fear and slaughter with a wry honesty and with no slick talk of innocence lost. Now the writer is a retired philosophy professor; in the memoir, he's a high-school dropout, a virgin ("Somehow war and testosterone mix well"), a civilian in uniform. His commentary frames the history, but the heart of the book is the daily slogging action. He sees his friend die. He shoots a 12-year-old boy to death point-blank. He bonds with his combat crew, obeys his decent officer, shares a cigarette with a captive, ridicules the pompous army authority. He cannot forget the horror of Nordhausen: the piles of stinking corpses and skeletal survivors in the slave-labor camp where the Nazis assembled the V-3 rockets. Military buffs will appreciate Irwin's ironic detachment, which still never denies the righteousness of the cause and the courage of those suddenly at war. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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The story is well written.
Amazon Customer
This was a book that I think should be read by all World War 2 history buffs.
This book is well written and easy to read.
John P. Rooney

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By John P. Rooney on January 4, 2003
Format: Hardcover
"Another River, Another Town" by John P. Irwin, sub-titled "A Teenage Tank gunner Come of Age in Combat-1945." Random House, New York, 2002.
With the Battle of the Bulge, December 1944, there was a great demand on the United States Army for replacements in the European Theater of Operations. Pennsylvanian John P. Irwin had just completed tank gunner training in Fort Knox and was shipped to France. He was immediately put in charge, as ranking soldier, of a Sherman tank, and, after completing repairs, instructed to join up with the 3rd Armored Division. Running as a single tank, trying to catch the main column, Irwin and his crew promptly get lost. They end up in a German occupied town, and, happily for them, the Germans want to surrender. Corporal Irwin leads the German column back to American lines, where he is chewed out by Captain Harker for delivering unwanted prisoners! Thus begins Irwin's tour of duty in the closing period of World War II in Europe.
His book describes the relations among the five-man crew, the agony of having a tank shot out from underneath them, and the daily drudgery in going from town to town, river to river, bridge to bridge. Their replacement tank is one of the new Pershing Tanks, and Irwin describes how the Pershing's extra armor, its ability to fire while still moving and the Pershing's rapid gun turret movement saved them in many situations. (For a complete comparison of Sherman and Pershing, see, "Death Traps" by Belton Y. Cooper.) This book is well written and easy to read.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on June 17, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This brief story of a teen's experience in combat in the final months of WWII in Europe gives the reader a nice perspective of the war from the armor branch of the US Army. It kept my interest as the unit advanced across Germany toward Berlin. The
author writes a running narrative as they move from town to town in pursuit of the retreating Wehrmacht trying to prevent the final collapse of the Reich. The story is well written. I highly recommend it for your consideration.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Eric San Juan VINE VOICE on October 1, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Take one teenage soldier who later earns a PhD in philosophy. Place him in the midst of a conflict in its final days. Stir generously with passable writing ability.

What you get is Another River, Another Town : A Teenage Tank Gunner Comes of Age in Combat-1945.

This is something different in the way of soldiers telling their tale. Here's a guy who got into the war when it was practically over, during the final few months of the European campaign, all post-Bulge. And he's a tank gunner. Most books of this sort are from the perspective of the grunt, and usually from guys who saw more "action" (which is not to say the author did not - his life was in grave danger on a number of occasions).

With Another River, Another Towns we get some insight into the mind of a soldier and a good glimpse at the life of a tank gunner during the last days of World War II, when the European Theater saw more surrendering and looting than actual combat. This isn't a "becoming buddies in the foxhole" book ... but it did have some merits, primarily in that it looked at a period of the war usually glossed over fairly quickly. Once you get past the Africa campaign, Sicily, D-Day and the Bulge, the European conflict becomes much less "sexy" from the American perspective. This book fills in some of those gaps and shows us what the soldiers experienced during this late period in the way.

It was not a melodramatic or sepia-toned book, which is a positive, and offered a glimpse into an aspect of World War II not often explored - the mass surrendering at the tail end of the conflict, and how the Army often did not want to deal with prisoners of war because they only served to slow down the advance. German soldiers intent on surrendering were often turned away.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Bert Krages on June 11, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is an especially interesting memoir because it describes the experiences of an ordinary eighteen-year who serves as a tank gunner towards the end of WWII in Europe. I thought the book was well written and the author does an excellent job of presenting the war from the perspective someone who was neither privileged nor publicly known. Irwin does a good job of describing combat as well as other aspects such as the relationships with other soldiers and how they dealt with fear.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By John E. Larsen on January 7, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a small book. Given this, it's good that the author doesn't waste time and he starts off his account promptly with joining up with his unit, Company `I', 33rd Armd Regt, 3rd Armd Div. This is a `tankers' view of war and it seems to have a different feel to it. I'm not quite sure why this is, maybe it's because the author's experiences are restricted by the limited numbers in his tank crew or the vision of his gunner's sight.

The author does go into detail but not to the extent that I would've liked. This said, he writes about fighting Tiger 2's, JagdTigers and the panzerfaust troopers lying in wait for him. He is the gunner and he scores a good number of `hits', though he doesn't give a face to those he fought and this has made his account seem less vivid. He is more forthcoming giving voice to his own fears and those he shares his tank with though. Again, interesting but without giving me the feel of being in that smelly tank with him. The other thing I suppose, is that his time in the ETO is in the few months before VE Day, there is no Bulge for instance. His experiences do include liberating the V weapon slave camp at Nordhausen and fighting those Tigers near the training facility at Paderborn. He also found himself to be the lucky recipient of one of the first Pershings. There's also some interesting street fighting, in support of infantry.

Overall, a solid read, with some different perspectives and experiences to those of the infantry. However compared to most of those, I feel it lacks depth, probably due to being a bit on the short side.
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