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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • MP3 CD
  • Publisher: Brilliance Audio; MP3 Una edition (December 11, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1469281163
  • ISBN-13: 978-1469281162
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.5 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,997,120 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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:

Customer Reviews

Everyone with an interest in WW2 history needs to read this book.
Patrick Carry
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.
Victor Groen
Beyond Valor is an excellent account of the heroism of american young men who risked everything to spearhead victory in WWII.
Brian Jones

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Aleister Crowley on February 21, 2001
Format: Hardcover
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 By Eric Minkoff on February 26, 2001
Format: Hardcover
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 By Victor Groen on February 27, 2001
Format: Hardcover
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 By A Customer on March 17, 2001
Format: Hardcover
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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