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The Bedford Boys: One American Town's Ultimate D-day Sacrifice Audio CD – Unabridged, April 30, 2004


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Product Details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Chivers Sound Library; Unabridged edition (April 30, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0792732073
  • ISBN-13: 978-0792732075
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 7.2 x 6.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (106 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,523,860 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This accessible and moving group biography portrays the men of Company A, 116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division, who were part of the first wave at Omaha Beach in WWII. Initially, 103 of them left the small town of Bedford, Va.-now the site of the national D-Day memorial-when the local National Guard was called up in 1940; 34 were still with the company on D-Day. Of these, 19 died in a matter of minutes and three more perished in the Normandy campaign. Men lost ranged from the company commander, Captain Taylor N. Fellers, from a wealthy Bedford family, to Frank Draper Jr., a fine athlete and soldier from the wrong side of the tracks. Long-time National Guardsman John Wilkes died as the company's top sergeant, while Earl Parker left behind a daughter he never saw. Both Holback brothers and Ray Stevens died, while Ray's twin Roy Stevens was one of the handful of survivors. Kershaw (Jack London) includes combat sequences that give a vivid private's- eye view of the particular hell that was Omaha Beach, while one of the most moving portions of the book is the simultaneous arrival in Bedford of nine "We regret to inform you..." telegrams. A capsule history of Bedford before the war, its role as part of the home front during it and its current place as (controversial) memorial site are all covered, but the book's central focus is on the town where a good many survivors remain whose memories have not faded and whose emotional wounds have not healed.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

On June 6, 1944, Allied armies launched their massive invasion of Europe--D-Day, in other words. Among the thousands of soldiers headed for France were 34 men from the town of Bedford, Virginia, aboard Empire Javelin, a British troopship. Nineteen of them were killed in the first minutes of combat, when their landing craft dropped them into the water off Normandy. Two more were killed later in the day from gunshot wounds. No other town in the U.S. endured a greater one-day loss. Kershaw's book is more than just another war story; here is an in-depth account of this blue-collar town and its 3,000 people. The soldiers included three sets of brothers, a pool-hall hustler, husbands, farmers, and a couple of "highly successful Lotharios." Kershaw describes in painful detail how the next of kin were notified of the soldiers' deaths via Western Union telegrams and how the news devastated their lives. Drawing on interviews with survivors and relatives, newspaper clippings, letters, and diaries, Kershaw has chronicled one community's great sacrifice. George Cohen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Alex Kershaw is the New York Times best-selling author of several popular WW11 titles. He is a British born journalist.

Please visit alexkershaw.com for his full bio and some great web-sites devoted to his books. He would be happy to answer any questions and sign books and help in any other way.

You can also catch up with him and his work at his facebook page - alex kershaw, author's page.

He blogs at www.alexkershawauthor.com and provides video/images/posts on facebook.



THE LIBERATOR Q&A

What inspired you to write the book?

I was researching a story about men who liberated the camps in WW11. I came across an extraordinary photograph which showed a young American officer, Felix Sparks, firing his pistol into the air on 29 April 1945. He is in a coal-yard at Dachau, which he has just liberated, and some of his men have opened fire on SS soldiers. He is firing his pistol and shouting to make them stop. The image captures an amazing moment of incredible humanity when one considers that Sparks had by then spent over 500 days in brutalizing combat, losing an entire company at Anzio and a battalion to the SS, since landing on the first day of the invasion of Europe. Most people would not have stopped the killing of such evil men, just minutes after discovering the full horrors of Hitler's first concentration camp. I had to meet this man and in 2007 I interviewed him, literally on his death-bed. No other American fought for longer or suffered more to free more people from the greatest evil of modern times.


- What surprised you the most during the writing process?

I was often astonished by the sheer violence and trauma endured by the so-called Greatest Generation. Over 150,000 mostly working-class Americans died to liberate Europe. Hundreds of thousands came home and never talked about it. Why would you want to recount what felt like being in a terrible car crash each day? I interviewed many men who served with and under Sparks and because they opened up to me I was struck over and over by how great their suffering had been. None came home unbroken. They all paid a huge price if they were in combat.

- What would you be doing if you weren't a writer?

I'd be a retired banker, sipping cocktails in St. Lucia, lazily scanning the Wall Street Journal to see how my investments, taxed at almost nothing, are doing. Sadly, l decided to try to do something a little more interesting....

- What else are you reading right now?

I am utterly absorbed in the Civil War and Revolutionary War America - my son is studying these periods at middle school. It's hugely colorful history. Even as an expat "limey" who has lived here for twenty years I'm astonished by how radical the idea was that all men should be equal before the law, not subjects of a king. As concerns the Civil War, Michael Shara's The Killer Angels is amazing. The Civil War has not ended of course - just look at the red and blue states.

Customer Reviews

The book was beautifully written as well as profoundly researched.
Alan J. Atlas
This book is the story of those men and the town they lived in and how they grew up in the Depression and went to war and how the war affected that town.
Tim Brophy
Reading this book on the bus going to work I found I had to stop myself from bursting onto tears several times.
RichieM

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Robert Busko VINE VOICE on May 15, 2003
Format: Hardcover
June 6, 1944 has been written about extensively by American authors almost from the moment it happened. The invasion to free western Europe has filled perhaps more pages than any other event in history. Beyond books, D-Day has been the subject of more movies than one can count. Among the most famous films about D-Day was The Longest Day and a generation later Saving Private Ryan. What else can be said about the invasion of Europe?
Somehow, the story of the young men from Beford, Virginia has been overlooked. When you read the book you'll ask the same question I did....Why didn't Stephen Spielberg make his movie about WWII using this story instead of the fictional story of Private Ryan. When you read the Bedford Boys by Alex Kershaw you'll ask the same question.
Bedford, Virginia is a small blue ridge mountain town of 3000. Before WWII jobs were scarce. Most of the men of the town joined the national guard unit to augment their meager incomes. Most earned a dollar a day for the days they trained. When the war started their unit became part of the 116th Infantry, one of the most battered units in Europe. On D-Day twenty-one of Bedford's sons would die on the beaches of Normandy. No other town of any size would suffer such a devastating loss. Twenty-one sons, brothers, fathers, boyfriends all lost; lost as completely as anyone can be lost....erased with the sweep of an hour hand. It boggles the mind even today nearly 60 years later.
Alex Kershaw does a wonderful job of bringing these young men to life. These young soldiers aren't just characters on the stage of history. As you learn about them, wome in more detail than the others, they become real people. The book follows them from prewar Bedford, through training, and on the a blood stained beach in France.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 6, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Alex Kershaw's "The Bedford Boys" is about people. It is a history of what war does to individuals and those left behind. We are told that 5,000 Americans died on June 6, 1944, D-Day, but that is a statistic. This narrative is about folks who died trying to cross the beach code named Omaha � Bloody Omaha. It is the names that make this volume uniquely harrowing, singularly distressing, exceptionally depressing. It is similar to the effect Maya Lin's Vietnam War Memorial in Washington has on people, 58,000 names memorialized in polished stone. Touch a name; contact a soul.
Bedford, Va, lost a higher percentage of its sons on D-Day than any community in America and that is the main reason the National D-Day Memorial was dedicated in the tiny village of Bedford in June, 2001. But 56-years of time and the presence of the president of the United States were not enough to salve the losses on Omaha Beach. Mothers and fathers were emotionally wounded by their losses, siblings permanently disheartened, widows and fiancees everlastingly scarred. Mr. Kershaw's book relentlessly reminds us that war is about humans.
The Bedford boys were shaped by the Depression, and the young men of Company A of the first Battalion of the 116th Regiment of the 29th Division had joined the National Guard in the 1930s for social purposes and also for the essential dollar-a-day they were paid when they were in training once each month and for two weeks in the summer. Many other Bedford inhabitants � more than 1500 � served in the armed services during World War II, but Company A was special. These men had grown up, gone to school, played baseball, and worked together, dated each other's sisters, trained and deployed as a group, and were in the first wave to assault Omaha Beach at H Hour on June 6.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on June 23, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The town of Bedford says it is "the best little town in America," but there are surely other little towns that have the same boast. It is in southwestern Virginia near the Blue Ridge Mountains, and has one anomalous aspect that makes it different from all those other best towns. It is the site of the National D-Day Memorial. The memorial does not sit on the Mall in Washington, nor on the shores of Normandy. It is in this little town because, although thousands of soldiers perished in the D-Day assault, no other town gave as many of her sons. On 6 June 1944, nineteen Bedford boys died, and three more died in the days of follow-up fighting afterwards. There have been sufficient histories of D-Day already, but _The Bedford Boys: One American Town's Ultimate D-Day Sacrifice_ (Da Capo) by Alex Kershaw focuses the global events onto the personal level. Not only does it describe the horrendous slaughter on the Normandy beaches, but it also tells the effects of the losses on the families within Bedford. It is a sad tale, of course, but full of heroism on both sides of the Atlantic.
None of the boys would have said they had particularly volunteered for anything heroic. They were sons of the Depression, and many of them enlisted in the National Guard simply because of the money. They got a dollar for the one training day each month, and for each of the fourteen days in the summer. It was the luck of the draw that the Bedford boys were assigned to a company that had to experience the wickedest fighting of the most difficult assault of the day, on Omaha Beach. Before that, they crossed the Atlantic on the troop-converted _Queen Mary_, and the months before D-Day they spent in grueling training within England, the longest training of any American infantrymen in the war.
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