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Beyond Valor: World War II's Ranger and Airborne Veterans Reveal the Heart of Combat [Kindle Edition]

Patrick K. O'Donnell
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $18.00
Kindle Price: $14.86
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Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc

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Book Description

Previous books have promised to describe the combat experience of the World War II GI, but there has never been a book like Patrick O'Donnell's Beyond Valor. Here is the first combat history of the war in Europe in the words of the men themselves, and perhaps the most honest and brutal account of combat possible on the printed page. For more than fifty years the individual stories that make up this narrative -- shockingly frank reflections of sacrifice and courage -- have been bottled up, buried, or circulated privately. Now, nearing the ends of their lives, our WWII soldiers have at last unburdened themselves.
Beyond Valor recaptures their hidden history. A pioneering oral historian, Patrick O'Donnell used his award-winning website, The Drop Zone, to solicit oral- and "e-histories" from individual soldiers. Gradually, working from within the community, O'Donnell convinced some of the war's most battle-hardened soldiers to tell their stories. The result is WWII seen through the eyes of the men who saw the most intense of its action. O'Donnell focuses on the elite units of the war -- the Rangers, Airborne, and 1st Special Service Force -- troops that spearheaded the most dangerous operations and often made the difference between victory and defeat.
From more than 650 interviews O'Donnell has chosen oral- and e-histories that form a seamless story line, a pointillistic history of the war in Europe from the first parachute drops in North Africa through the final battles in Germany and the long trip home. It is the story of the war not discussed in polite company. O'Donnell presents the wreckage of entire battalions nearly annihilated, invisible personal scars, and haunting revelations of wartime atrocities. But more important are the men who recount lives risked without hesitation for comrades and cause, and those who did not return: the friends who died in their arms. Their stories remind all of us that victory came only at the highest price.
Remembering the infamous cliffs at Pointe-du-Hoc, bloody Omaha Beach, the bitter fighting at the Battle of the Bulge, and Hill 400 in the Hürtgen Forest, the soldiers reveal war as seen, heard, and smelled by the GIs on the front line. Also included is the unique story of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, and the trailblazing African-American "Experimental" Test Platoon that had to fight its own battle behind the lines.
Beyond Valor captures the truths that exist among soldiers. It is one of the most inspiring accounts of the war ever produced.

Editorial Reviews Review

The success of Tom Brokaw's Greatest Generation has sparked a renewed interest in books about World War II and the people who fought in it. Patrick K. O'Donnell maintains, however, that behind those official histories and carefully crafted memoirs lies a "hidden war"--"a bottled up, buried version shielded even from family members because many of the memories are too painful to discuss." In Beyond Valor, O'Donnell brings this hidden war to the surface, allowing men from the elite forces to tell their own stories, thus creating a fascinating combat history of WWII.

O'Donnell introduces readers to some of the greatest of the greatest generation--men such as Robert Kinney of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, wounded by a mortar at Anzio ("it tore my fanny open, took a big chunk of meat out of there--I could afford that"). While in the hospital, wounded members of the regiment were asked by one of their officers to return to the front:

We all went down, about forty of us in casts, bandages, arms in slings and everything. He said, "Your buddies up there are catching hell and we've got to go back if we can. You don't have to, we're not going to order you, but we're looking for volunteers." We said, "Hell, we'll go." We had just the best-spirited bunch of scrappers you ever saw.
There are also stories about compassion in the midst of carnage. Albert Hassenzahl of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment was seriously injured on a drop during the Normandy invasion. While waiting to be rescued, the wind blew his blanket off him. A man on an adjacent stretcher reached over and carefully tucked the blanket in around Hassenzahl. The other man was a German POW. "I didn't say a word to him, but I was able to move my head a little and looked over at him ... neither of us said a word, but mentally I might have said 'thank you' with my eyes and he might have said 'you're welcome' with his."

Though it will certainly appeal to them, O'Donnell insists that Beyond Valor is not aimed at war buffs--it's for the soldiers themselves. "My work has been one of preservation, done in gratitude for a generation that sacrificed so much." By sharing these stories, O'Donnell has helped to preserve and honor their memory. --Sunny Delaney

From Publishers Weekly

Recalling harrowing rescue missions, gun battles and the knee-deep swamp mud that forced soldiers to hold up their comrades' heads while they slept to keep them from drowning, veterans from elite WWII units relive the Pacific theater in Into the Rising Sun: In Their Own Words, World War II's Pacific Veterans Reveal the Heart of Combat. Editor Patrick K. O'Donnell (Beyond Valor) interviewed hundreds of veterans for this oral history of the battles at Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, Okinawa and other locations. Brief testimonies of horrifying violence and hair-raising close calls are sometimes described with emotion, other times in brutally honest deadpan.

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 3099 KB
  • Print Length: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; Reprint edition (August 30, 2001)
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000FBJG7W
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #616,631 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
48 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must-Read Book February 21, 2001
Beyond Valor is a watershed in the reporting of World War II oral histories -- i.e., the actual participants of history describe the events they participated in in their own words, free from editorial embellishment and hindsight analysis. Mr. O'Donnell diligently interviewed hundreds of American paratrooper and Ranger veterans from the European Theater of Operations in World War II. What he has assembled in Beyond Valor is a collection of personal vignettes from young Americans that describe what hell was like during the bloodiest war ever. These men take us through training, North Africa, Sicily and Italy, Normandy and Southern France, Holland and Belgium, Germany, and going back home. Unlike other war books that use only selected quotes from veterans, embellish their words and otherwise bog you down with information and details that reveal nothing new, Mr. O'Donnell lets each veteran tell his full story. In some cases, veterans for the first time ever release emotions and bitter memories that have been bottled up inside their hearts and minds for 60 years. Many of the stories are powerful and moving, even emotionally overwhelming -- like the Rangers that describe the helpless feeling of seeing their buddies get cut down by machine gun fire right next to them as they rush up to attack a German bunker. In the vein of Stephen Ambrose, Patrick O'Donnell has put together an easy-to-read book with helpful maps that goes deep into the heart of combat as seen from America's living heroes. This book -- a tribute to the greatest generation -- is a definite keeper.
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beyond Valor captures WWII like never before February 26, 2001
Pat O'Donnell's unique way of capturing the heartfelt and poignant views of the Rangers and Airborne of WWII makes for an unbelievable book. These vets put their battle-line experiences in their own words and after keeping them perhaps bottled up inside for 50+ years they come out in such a passionate and unforgettable way. Mr. O'Donnell strings their stories together in a manner that only punctuates events which if not told by the soldiers who actually experienced them, the reader would not believe actually occurred. The stories of how the young men faced death and overcame it will forever change my outlook on the war. This book provides an amazing historical context to the war and reveals events that likely would not have been told if left up to interpretation by those not actually at the Battle of the Bulge, Salerno, Southern France or at the liberation of the camps. What is so unique about this book is that it is not a second hand account as told to an author but the actual words of the soldiers. Mr. O'Donnell's use of "e-histories" is to be commended. This book is as important to documenting the history of World War II as any I've read. The terror and triumph these men experienced played on my emotions as I read chapter after chapter of this book. Mr. O'Donnell serves as the curator of amazing works of history in his web site and I am forever grateful that he decided to share some of his masterpieces with the world.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book. February 27, 2001
Excellent book, I definitely recommend it. Most rewarding of all, is that exactly as the author states in his introduction, the narrative, in the veteran's own words, takes the reader to the middle of the action, whether it be tragic or heroic. How the author tracked down these veterans and coaxed them into sharing their personal histories, some for the first time in sixty years, is beyond me, and an achievement in itself; the book and what it represents in terms of historical value and human interest is invaluable. I do wish that the maps had been larger, but that might have been a function of the publisher and not the author. In fact the maps are exceptional in that they are quite detailed, and extremely accurate. The author, Mr. O'Donnell, has succeded in striking a very effective balance between his own narrative and that of the veteran's oral histories. Very well done. I'll be looking forward to future books from this author.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Book You Can't Put Down March 17, 2001
By A Customer
Beyond Valor is a testament to the slowly-disappearing heroes that were part of that generation that helped make this country what it is today. The book compiles easy-to-read, first-person narratives as personally experienced by these heroes, describing in their own words the brotherhood they felt for one another ("You just can't let the guy that you are with down, that's all" -- Herman Stein, 2nd Ranger Batallion), the anguish on Omaha Beach ("They were floating all over the place, there was blood in the water -- it was just dark" -- Ray Alm, 2d Ranger Batallion), the frustation of seeing your men wiped out ("One of the [German] 88s saw them and blew them apart . . . they were literally blown all to pieces" -- Don Burgett, 506th PIR, 101st Airborne Division), the pride in accomplishing the mission ("They never hesitated for a minute. When they didn't have an officer, a noncom took over. Nobody ever stopped. They took the railroad and Nijmegen bridges." -- Chaplain Delbert Kuehl, 504th PIR, 82nd Airborne Division), and the joy of being back home ("Oh, God, I can put my head down, the sheets in the bed, there's no bugs on them, there's no rain falling on you, your feet are warm, your hands are warm, you're gonna get a hot meal, there's nobody shooting at you . . . ." -- John Burke, 5th Ranger Battalion).
I highly recommend this book to anyone.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic, yet incomplete.
There is certainly something missing in O'Donnell's interactive accounts of Ranger and Airborne veterans in the European theater. Read more
Published 17 hours ago by nonsenso
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Extremely Brutal
Published 1 month ago by Charles Antoniak Sr.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Historical book
A great read about the American Airborne units during WW2 in particular that were of interest to me as my father was in the 509th PIB.
Published 10 months ago by Mark F Holdsworth
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic read!!!
Please read my review of his other book, 'Operatives, Spies & Saboteurs: The Unknown Story of World War II", etc. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Marjorie
5.0 out of 5 stars Great story
I did not listen to this it was a gift. I cannot rate this product. So very sorry. Thank you
Published 13 months ago by T. A. Barbella
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
Beyond Valor Great book ist hand accounts Never had seen accounts of shooting of enemy soldiers till this one. Read more
Published 16 months ago by James Maves
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent account
Excellent account by those who served in the US army ranger battalions and airborne division in Europe during world war ll.
Published 21 months ago by Steve Brendel
4.0 out of 5 stars Tip of the Spear
Beyond Valor is a very good book for what it attempts to do. It's not the spellbinding prose that some other reviewers seemed to expect and it certainly lacks the pace and... Read more
Published on October 2, 2010 by John E. Nevola
5.0 out of 5 stars This was a gift for my son
My son is both an avid and selective reader, and he enjoyed this book. Therefore, I am giving it 5 stars.
Published on June 26, 2009 by Ann M. Sikorski
5.0 out of 5 stars Beyond Valor
What a great book! It was wonderful to see my Uncle in this book, and all the brave men that served with him. Read more
Published on August 10, 2008 by Leslie E. Todd
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More About the Author

Combat historian, bestselling author, and public speaker Patrick K. O'Donnell has written eight critically acclaimed books that recount the epic stories of America's wars.

Dog Company: The Boys of Pointe du Hoc The Rangers Who Accomplished D-Day's Toughest Mission and Led the Way Across Europe is his most recent work.

His bestseller, Beyond Valor, which tells the gripping tales of U.S. WWII Ranger and Airborne veterans, won the William E. Colby Award for Outstanding Military History. O'Donnell's We Were One: Shoulder to Shoulder With the Marines Who Took Fallujah is required reading for Marines and is on the Commandants' Professional Reading List.

His other books include Into the Rising Sun; Operatives, Spies, and Saboteurs; The Brenner Assignment: The Untold Story of the Most Daring Spy Mission of WWII; They Dared Return; and Give Me Tomorrow: The Korean War's Greatest Untold Story - The Epic Stand Of The Marines Of George Company.

His books have been Main or Alternate selections of the Book-of-the-Month, History, and Military History Book Clubs. Reviewers from media outlets as diverse as The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, Jerusalem Post, Los Angeles Times, CNN, C-SPAN, and National Public Radio (NPR) have hailed his publications.

O'Donnell has been studying World War II and modern war since childhood. He has a passion for finding ways to preserve the oral histories of America's combat veterans for generations to come. Nearly two decades ago, he founded The Drop Zone, the first online military oral history project and virtual museum. This award-winning website contains many of the thousands of interviews O'Donnell personally conducted with veterans and their adversaries, making it one of the largest private collections of historical materials from elite and special operations troops.

As an expert on WWII espionage, special operations, and counter-insurgency on the modern battlefield, the historian has helped with production and writing for numerous documentaries produced by the BBC, the History Channel, and others. He has appeared as a guest on countless television and radio shows on NPR, CNN, MSNBC, FOX, and other networks.

O'Donnell not only writes about combat--he's experienced it firsthand. During the Iraq war, he was embedded with military units as the only civilian combat historian to volunteer and spend three months in Iraq documenting the experiences of troops in battle. He fought with a Marine rifle platoon (Lima Company 3/1) during the Battle of Fallujah, surviving several ambushes, and carried a mortally wounded Marine out of a firefight with Chechen insurgents. (See and The History Channel's: Shoot Out D-Day Fallujah.)

On his second tour to Iraq, he served as a war correspondent for Men's Journal and Fox News, reporting on the conflict in Iraq from the perspective of the Marines on the ground. He has written for Military History Quarterly (MHQ) and WWII Magazine and is a contributor to The National Review, as well as a variety of nationally recognized publications.

He also provided historical consulting for DreamWorks' award-winning miniseries Band of Brothers, as well as for the billion-dollar Medal of Honor game franchise.

His skills and expertise have been tapped by private sector firms and government agencies, including DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). For the agency, O'Donnell worked on modern weapons systems for urban warfare, researched and analyzed counter-insurgency strategies and tactics, and assessed German technology from WWII, focusing on its application to the modern battlefield.

Because he believes in experiencing the places and people about which he writes, O'Donnell has traveled to nearly all of the battlefields of North America and many of the WWII battlefields in Northern Europe. In addition, each one of his books contains scores, if not hundreds, of oral history interviews, combined with years of archival research. For example, The Brenner Assignment was based on 10,000 primary source documents.

The author credits serendipity for leading him in the right direction, because the stories he tells somehow always find him.
His websites include:


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