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Not Bad, Not Great
on April 22, 2014
Look, it's hard to ever criticize a veteran's memoir. That is especially true when you do so from the comfort of a home and country for which the veteran shed his blood, no matter how long ago. Nevertheless, and as I have said before, there are great warriors and there are great writers, but great writer-warriors are few and far between.
Lt. Wilson takes you on the D-Day walking tour of Europe. The battles are all there, along with the names of places we all know from WWII history. His service was exemplary - three Purple Hearts, two Bronze Stars, and a Silver Star. That, along with his service as a company commander, puts him in the category of bad a##.
But this book is missing something. Detail, for one. You learn virtually nothing about the men with whom he served. You learn virtually nothing about the places he goes. The hardships are described in perfunctory fashion. In short, there is little context to go with what would otherwise be an amazing journey. What we are left with is essentially a diary of where Wilson went and brief descriptions of what he did, and little else.
There is also little introspection. This cuts both ways. I've never been in combat but I've read enough books by people who have to understand that introspection is a luxury for which one does not have time on the front line. Indeed, it seems that introspection at the moment leads to nothing but badness. Rather, the combatant is most concerned with staying alive from one moment to the next, and that is all. But when you later write about your experiences, introspection is what makes a story good. And there just isn't enough here. By the time it does come at the very end, it just feels forced and contrived.
Again, I'm not criticizing the man; I'm critiquing a book. And as far as WWII memoirs go, there's just a lot better out there.