31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on June 15, 2003
Being a big fan of the movie The Dirty Dozen, and a WWII buff to boot, I could not wait to read this book. It took me just three days to finish it because once you begin, you cannot put it down.
Jake McNiece, the leading member of the Filthy 13, tells the tale in a folksy, homespun way, but does not pull any punches about his antics, behavior, or just what a bad dude he was in his early 20s. This guy drank, stole, assulted, and offended his way through early life. He was just plain mean--with a kind streak that shows up from time to time. And hilarious. His sense of humor will have your belly-laughing out loud.
The early chapters about training, etc. are great because you meet all the other characters in the book--and there are lots of them to meet. The end notes are great because they expound further on the men and their fate. The book really picks up when the guys cut their hair, paint their faces, and load up for the trip to Normandy. Prepare to not eat for hours at a stretch because you can't put the damn book down.
The details of war are horrific, and McNiece pulls no punches. He talks about men jumping from plains and being sucked into propellers, guys getting their heads blown off, and just what it was like to kill the enemy up close and personal. I hope the statute of limitations for murder has passed, because he tells in gruesome detail how he and another guy killed wounded Germans. Sure it was war, and of course they did it to us, but all the same, it is disturbing.
Jake's handling of his relationship with the men is wonderfully told. He saved many lives and lost lots of friends. What I especially enjoyed was that the other author who helped McNiece pen the book interviewed lots of 101st Airborne guys, and they confirmed and expounded on Jake's stories. The gallow's humor that runs throughout will make you cringe, like digging through the dead's boots for coffee, standing up corpses in doorways, etc.
After Normandy, he jumped into Holland in Market Garden, then Bastogne in the Battle of the Bulge, and then along the Rhine. The Holland chapter was exceptionally amazing. They were in combat for almost 80 days, and many of the men you have come to meet in the book are killed there.
Ultimately, this book made me shed a tear. The final reunion scene 50 years later is heartbreaking when you think of the young strapping guys who saved the world against Nazism as old men on canes barely able to walk.
This is a must read, and I think will be one of those classics that will stand the test of time.
29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on January 29, 2005
is one of the genuine crazies in the 101st Airborne's family tree. I met him at the Toccoa, GA, reunion of the 506th PIR after I came back from Iraq and he was happy to sign my copy. Yes, the writing is crude, yes, Jake loves to tell a good story, but if you want a dry day by day account of the 506th's doings, sit down with Rendezvous with Destiny instead. One, Bob Sink wasn't quite as stuck-up as Dale Dye played him, and second, why do you think Jake never got promoted and spent half his time at Toccoa in the stockade? There's a reason the pic of the old stockade there at the camp is captioned "Jake McNiece's command post" in the county historical society literature, his antics have been a running joke in Division circles since 1943.
I think it was the pics of the Mohawked, face-painted guys with the Thompsons when I was a real little kid that got me started on all this in the first place. Now I know the story behind it all, and I'm glad I met a genuine hero of an earlier time.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on June 22, 2009
Jake McNiece was the most cantankerous, insubordinate, incorrigible problem child in the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR); perhaps the entire 101st Airborne Division. He refused to comply with any form of military protocol or discipline. He spent more time in the stockade then running up the legendary Currahee. He would rather punch an officer in the mouth than salute him. But as the subtitle to his oral history memoir suggests, he led the "most legendary squad of combat paratroopers" during the Second World War.
Historian Richard Killblane recognized McNiece's penchant for fantastic storytelling. He conducted hundreds of hours of interviews with McNiece, and other key paratroopers that compiled the infamous "Filthy Thirteen," a squad of outcasts from the demolition saboteur platoon of Regimental Headquarters, 506th PIR. Killblane handles all the obstacles encountered by an oral historian admirably: corroborating the veteran's testimonies with official reports, arbitrating conflicting stories, and taking into account the pit falls of memory. Copious notes attest to Killblane's efforts, but off-setting a good portion of them in the text would have eliminated the need for the reader to constantly have to refer to endnotes at the back of the book. Some of the notes are obviously misplaced, making no sense at all, and for this organizational blunder gets a four-star rating.
About a third of the way through the book, I had had enough of McNiece's shenanigans. McNiece ran amuck, and did as he pleased regardless of consequences. Barracks brawls ran into drunken fights with Military Police (MPs). Stolen jeeps overlapped with a stolen train. Constant scrounging and stealing of food evolved into wanton killing of game on a sprawling English manor; the gutted bloody carcasses strewn carelessly about everywhere. McNiece lied through his teeth to officers and his First Sergeant, alike. I wanted Jake McNiece thrown into the stockade for the duration. Better yet, hope that he be transferred to the Service of Supply to collect garbage in Louisiana.
But the Army knew better. When McNiece jumped into Normandy in the early hours of June 6, the disregard for garrison life disappeared, and a tough, tobacco chewing, no-nonsense sergeant who cared deeply for his men emerged. The now familiar exploits of the 101st Airborne in Normandy and Holland are retold from the perspective of the Mohawk and war painted demolition saboteur platoon. As Jake professes, war is a nasty business and the survival instincts acquired range from the humorous to the squeamish. McNiece pulls no punches and doesn't sugarcoat the more gruesome aspects of combat.
After Holland, the "Filthy Thirteen" were disbanded. Jake believed he was being singled out as a trouble-maker and was reassigned to the pathfinders. Jake reasoned that the war would soon be over, and another jump would be unlikely. As a result, most of his comrades went to the pathfinders with him, a testament to the loyalty and admiration McNiece had earned from his men.
This leads to the most historically significant part of the book. Histories abound about the 101st Airborne's defense of beleaguered Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge. After a week of bad weather, the skies cleared and vital supplies of food and ammunition were dropped to the surrounded battle-weary paratroopers. What is not widely known, however, is the stick of pathfinders who parachuted outside Bastogne and laid beacons for the cargo planes to find their drop points. The official U.S. Army History devotes one sentence to this vital mission. McNiece led those pathfinders. A similar pathfinder jump at Prum, Germany in February 1945 made four combat jumps for McNiece, when a paratrooper was lucky to survive one.
In a closing chapter, Killblane eloquently sums up Jake McNiece, the most cantankerous, insubordinate, incorrigible problem child who was a proven combat leader. An anomaly to the silent greatest generation who never talked about the war, Jake loves to tell a story, and the Bastogne pathfinder jump surely needed to be told. This reviewer went from wanting to throw the book away, to developing a deep admiration and respect for Jake McNiece. This book is surely a different take on the standard paratrooper's histories of World War II, but one that cannot be ignored.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on January 31, 2006
First my excuses for my poor english. I'm Dutch.
This book is somewhat diffent from other memoires. But the great power of this book is the individual story.
I guess that for people who do not know european culture, geopraphy and history this will be a strange book. But I can follow the whereabouts off these men every step he writes them out. To (older)people in Holland these men were angels from the sky and after that heroes and normal men.
Best Parts in the book.
-Jump in Normandy. The psychological lonelyness that he discribes, the chaotic anarchy, determination, succes of failure, brillant. (unbelievable, never read it so honest, disobbeying orders and so forth)
-Holland, operation market garden Disaster. (also read the road to berlin, by Megallis)
-Best part, the enormous after-war vacüum.
-In general the human discription of man needs in the 'wild'. Shelter, good food, a drink and.....
Three drawbacks, the lightness which is used to talk about heavy dramatic scenes is 'strange'(but still natural)
Futher a lot of detail is skipped. Last thing is that you never get feeling that death is all around, sometimes it feels like a walk over.
But the graves are still here.
OVERALL INIQUE DOCUMENT,
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 2006
I just finshed reading the Filthy Thirteen by Richard Killblane and
found it very interesting. I actually went to church with Jake McNiece when I lived in Ponca City, Oklahoma. He was a very interesting individual. I have the highest regard for his efforts during WWII. The writing of this book isn't the best and it was difficult to follow at times since it jumped from first person to third person. Over looking the writing style I couldn't help but be impressed and appreciative of what the men in battle had to endure.
I would recommend this book if for nothing else than to get an upclose view of war.
I also read some previous reviews stating they doubted the validity of Jakes escapades. As I stated before I personally know Jake and his escapades mentioned in this book although seem over the top are quite true.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on July 20, 2003
One of the most famous photos of WWII is that of 101st paratroopers with Mohawk haircuts and war paint preparing to board C47 aircraft for D-Day. This book is the story of those men, before and after D-Day. The squad was part of the 506th of the 101st Abn Div and this book is co-authored by a member of the squad. The book also includes interviews with others who were part of the squad or their officers and is well researched from numerous articles on the squad that appeared in the Stars and Stripes and other magazines that made the squad, for awhile, as famous as Carlson's Raider's or the Black Sheep. These were tough men from America's depression dust bowl and did not take well to Army displine. They formed the 506th demo squad and were encourged to be independent for the behind the lines work that paratroopers operate in. Before D-Day the squad built a reputation for not saluting officers or taking showers, their filth was their badge of membership of the squad. The men returned from D-Day and found that they were famous from the "Mohawk" photo and stories of the "Filthy 13" were picked up by US papers. Some of the squad were interviewed for other stories but were off for Holland before they could read the results. When the squad fought at the Bulge they had been trained as pathfinders and this book tells of the little known work that pathfinders did to bring supply drops into Bastone.
After the war the squad went their own ways and over the years stories were published in magazines like "True Magazine" and in the early sixties Hollywood became interested in their story. The surviving squad members where not interested and would not allow their name "Filthy 13" be used. In 1967 the hit movie "The Dirty Dozen" came out.
The novel, "The Dirty Dozen" was published in 1965 by E.M. Nathanson. Nathanson's story was inspired by WWII OSS officer Aaron Bank. In 1944 Major Bank was given the job of selecting anti Nazi German POW's and then lead them on a mission to whipe out Hitler's high command. The mission was scrubbed but Nathanson used the idea for a novel, only he changed the prisoners from German POWs to GI convicts. The title of his novel seems to have been borrowed from the "Filthy 13". Like the 13 the "Dozen" refuse to shower and are a bane to the 101st Abn brass, also in the book/movie the dozen take out a 101st HQ and have a party prior to D-Day.
Regardless of the "Dirty Dozen" connections this is a good book about the conduct of WWII style airborne warfare.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
I read "The Filthy Thirteen - From the Dustbowl to Hitler's Eagle's Nest: The 101st Airborne's Most Legendary Squad of Combat Paratroopers" by Richard Killblane and Jake McNiece as research for a project I'm working on, and am glad I did, because I really enjoyed the story. And a story it is, the story of Jake McNeice and his adventures during WWII as he and his fellow paratroopers earned the name "The Filthy Thirteen." On the cover of the book, it also states, "The True Story of 'The Dirty Dozen'" and if you get the two disk special edition DVD of the famous movie starring Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson, and others, you can see a special featurette on McNiece and the Filthy Thirteen that includes interviews with McNiece and Killblane as well as others. However, the movie and the exploits in this book have nothing similar except both involve WWII and brave men defeating the enemy in the fight against the Germans.
"The Filthy Thirteen" is a researched book, and it contains many notes and a long bibliography, which includes many interviews of me who were actually there. However, the main source was Jake McNiece himself, and that is why he is also considered an author of the book, and the story is actually told in his voice, making the story his. And it is told in story fashion, as if you were sitting with McNiece, having a drink, and listening to old war stories. This makes it a very interesting and enjoyable read, especially for anyone interested in military history. Surviving veterans from the second world war are dwindling each and every year, so it is good that as many of their stories are told as can be while they are still here to tell their tales. I'm glad that Killblane got McNiece's story, and that of the men who served with him, recorded.
It's a simple tale about a man who liked to fight. McNiece joined the military to fight, and he wasn't keen on taking orders, polishing boots, and keeping up appearances. Because of this attitude, and a fondness for drink and trouble, he spent a lot of time being disciplined, but when it really counted, he proved his mettle by doing what he did best, fighting the war. He had four combat jumps during WWII, which not that many paratroopers can claim. He surrounded himself with men that also excelled at fighting, and they happened to earn the name Filthy Thirteen, which referred to the demolition section of the Regimental Headquarters Company of the 506th Parachute Infantry. Nearly thirty men passed through the ranks of this outfit, so there were actually more than thirteen "Filthy 13."
If you want to read an interesting and entertaining account of this group of men and the important battles they were part of, read this book. Like any story telling around a few drinks, the stories are brash, embellished a bit, and not perfect in telling, but enjoyable. McNiece was lucky at times, and he probably knows it. And there were many men who did what he did, but didn't have a memorable name attached to them. So when reading his story, remember all those who served.
Reviewed by Alain Burrese, J.D., author of Hard-Won Wisdom From the School of Hard Knocks.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on February 13, 2007
I met the author at a paratrooper reunion,(the 26th infantry pathfinder platoon in 2006) and was amazed of how great a storyteller he was, he was a great featured speaker. But the fact that Jake is a natural storyteller shouldn't fool you, jake's adventures were quite real and even in the 1980's , my pathfinder unit was able to get away with some pretty wild antics as long as we did our mission well. This book is well worth buying or reading because it has the laid back style of jake himself. Men like jake helped us win that war and men like him are still around fighting and having adventures in todays airborne units as well. They make no apologies for killing anyone who is trying to kill their buddies regardless what anyone else thinks about it. The book is a unapologetic look at a wild trooper and his war and on that ground alone I would say buy it!
12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on June 8, 2004
I read most of this book but I was most interested in the pictures. I was told of this book buy my step mother. She told me that her farther's picture was in this book. She was right he was standing next to Jake McNiece. Man I have to say my grandfarther and his friends were filthy guys and have the number 13 put upon them was realy on lucky. My grandfarther never made it to Hitler's eagle's nest he was taken pisoner buy the german army some time later, after geting lost. 13 mabe unlocky but this guys are the toughest I have ever seen. altough my grandfarther has died now. I just wanted to let him know Thank You, and God Bless You,...
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 27, 2013
What every paratrooper strives to be like. An amazing man and well written book. Rest In Peace Jake McNiece. Airborne!!