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The Beardless Warriors: A Novel of World War II Paperback – May 4, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Originally published in 1960, this early novel by bestseller-list veteran Matheson (What Dreams May Come; I Am Legend) was probably inappropriately classified upon its original publication as just another post-WWII potboiler. Read again 40 years later, in the wake of more cynical and sophisticated literary responses to subsequent wars, it becomes evident what a marvelous character study it is. Pvt. Everett Hackermeyer arrives on the western front of the Allied advance into Germany on December 8, 1944. The Americans are preparing to storm the infamous Siegfried Line and advance into the Reich, knowing that they will meet their stiffest resistance yet. In the course of the next 14 days, Hack is transformed from a bewildered, somewhat indifferent teenager into a battle-scarred veteran. Gradually, he develops into a first-rate soldier, then into an almost maniacal killer of Germans, and finally into a reliable leader as he wrestles with his "inner war" and comes to terms with life, death and the meaning of human compassion. Guided by his squad leader, Sergeant Cooley, a believably drawn and nonstock father figure, Hack lives a full lifetime in less than two weeks and emerges from his "baptism by fire" as a fully developed man, warrior and hero but one without illusions. This is a sensitive and carefully wrought study in character, not only of the troubled protagonist, but also of the other squad members, each of whom must face his personal demons even as death and destruction rain all around.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


"Not just another war novel; it is one of the finest books that has come out of World War II or any other."--The Detroit News

"One of the most shocking accounts of war ever written . . . reminiscent of Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage."--Miami News
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Forge Books; First Edition edition (May 4, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780312878313
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312878313
  • ASIN: 0312878311
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #621,285 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Richard Matheson was born in 1926. He began publishing SF with his short story 'Born of Man and Woman' in 1950. I Am Legend was published in 1954 and subsequently filmed as The Omega Man (in 1971), starring Charlton Heston, and I Am Legend (in 2007), starring Will Smith. Matheson wrote the script for the film The Incredible Shrinking Man, an adaptation of his second SF novel The Shrinking Man. The film won a Hugo award in 1958. He wrote many screenplays as well as episodes of The Twilight Zone. He continued to write short stories and novels, some of which formed the basis for film scripts, including Duel, directed by Steven Spielberg in 1971. A film of his novel What Dreams May Come was released in 1998, starring Robin Williams. Stephen King has cited Richard Matheson as a creative influence on his work.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on July 4, 2004
Format: Paperback
Before Matheson became a prolific writer of science fiction stories, novels, Twilight Zone episodes, and films, he served as a replacement infantryman in World War II. Some fifteen years later, he set down his experiences as a novel about a teenager sent to the front lines for the Allied advance into Germany. The story covers the first two weeks of Private Everett Hackermeyer's war, as he joins an understrength squad under the leadership of a grizzled Sergeant who acts as a father figure. But having been abandoned by his drunk father to be raised by his nasty uncle, Hackermeyer has no conception of what a father figure is, or really of what it means when people are nice to him. The result is that when thrown into the tight camaraderie of small unit combat, Hackermeyer is often confused, and retreats into his head to analyze the meaning behind every gesture and phrase directed at him.
He survives his initial baptism by fire, and accidentally discovers that he has an actual talent for killing the enemy. The question becomes, will he be able to operate as a good soldier, or will his inner demons lead him into increasingly risky and bloodthirsty acts? He's a bit of a stock character, the poor kid raised by wolves and never given a chance, who blossoms under a firm and wise guiding hand. But his mental issues keep him from becoming the kind of everyman hero common to World War II stories. His fellow privates are also somewhat stock figures: the sardonic joker/college boy from California, the bumbling idiot, the religious nut, and so on. The Sergeant is an incredibly cliche figure, who even offers Hackermeyer a job on his ranch, should they ever make it back home.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Donald Occhi on April 17, 2001
Format: Paperback
I first read this book in about 1965, and it served at the inspiration for me to serve in the United States Army (Infantry) for 24 years. The book captures the essence of being an infantryman, the misery, the terror and heroism. It demonstrates the true meaning of war at the lowest level. The soldiers fight not for the country, but for each other. If you want to learn about soldiers and the profession of arms, this is the book to read. The military books about the generals and admirals cannot convey real combat operations as Mr. Matheson does. Of course, they just order the deaths of young soldiers. This books makes you feel the deaths.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Edward M. Erdelac on March 6, 2003
Format: Paperback
Penned by one of the greatest and most prolific writers of the 20th century and based in part upon his own experiences in one of the greatest conflicts of the 20th century, this is a novel that needs to be read -particularly by those in power anywhere who would send their troops to war. This is the most utterly enveloping account of front line combat I have ever read. The story is about a mere three weeks in the life of a young man named Hackameyer who participates in the latter offensive in Europe in the closing days of World War II. We are immersed entirely in the body of this introverted, easily confused kid who has sprung from a dead-end family that gave him nothing but self-doubt, only to find that it seems our one true talent in life is killing. While all the typical genre devices of the two-fisted World War II tale are here (the fatherly Sergeant, the pacifist religious guy, the incompetent private), this is NOT typical fare. We are THERE. We can feel the reverberation of the shells as they hit all around us. We are sick to our stomach at the squeaking sounds of the tank treads and the groan of the engines as they smash through the brush. We feel for the characters Hackameyer gets attached to, and we hate the ones he hates. We exhult in Hackameyer's accomplishments, even while we, as readers outside the character can plainly see the dangerous line he is treading between hero and maniac. We want desperately the same things Hackameyer wants - a home on a ranch with a real father. This should be read by anyone who wants to understand the experience of the soldier - ANY soldier on the front line.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Thompson on April 25, 2010
Format: Mass Market Paperback
So here we have the story of Hackermeyer, an 18 year old american sent to europe in december 1944. There he is met by the squad led by the 38 year old Sergeant Cooley, about which the story revolves as they attempt to capture a nothing smudge on the map called Saarbach. The story takes place over a period of two weeks. I read it all in one reading, so it is quite engrossing.

Apart from Hackermeyer, Cooley and Guthrie, the cast includes others like Fearfeather, Linstrom, Foley, Wendt, Tremont and others. Virtually all of them are children: 18 year olds, thrown into a maelstrom of death and carnage, fear and terror and truly surreal moments, as well as hellaciously grim ones. Matheson doesn't pull too many punches in that regard. His prose is rapid and spare, descriptive yet concise. While the plot is quite linear and sometimes a little predictable, nevertheless, he draws the reader in and doesn't let go. There is little respite. His real strength is his characterizations and complete understanding of his characters emotions and motivations. He gets inside their heads, particularly Hackermeyer's, and consequently puts you inside them as well.

While I don't consider the work as good as Comrades of War, Sven Hassel (isbn: 0304366889: Comrades of War (Cassell Military Paperbacks)), nevertheless it is a strong work that delivers a serious dose of real, unglamorous war, in all of its confusion and death.
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