- Hardcover: 384 pages
- Publisher: Free Press; First Edition edition (February 15, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0684873842
- ISBN-13: 978-0684873848
- Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 0.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #801,289 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Beyond Valor: World War II's Ranger and Airborne Veterans Reveal the Heart of Combat Hardcover – February 15, 2001
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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
From Publishers Weekly
Over a hundred individual veterans' vignettes are drawn from oral histories and electronically transmitted memoirs ("e-histories") in this assemblage of firsthand accounts of the WWII American Airborne, Ranger and other special units. Instrumental to the collection of these stories was O'Donnell's special-interest Web site, The Drop Zone (www.thedropzone.org), which functions as a "virtual museum" of vet experience. The book itself, after a brief introduction sketching the origins of the special units, is comprised of chapters devoted to a dozen operations in the European theater, from initial forays at Dieppe and North Africa, through Italy and Normandy, to final months in Holland and Germany. One chapter covers the home front experiences of African-American troops in the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion. O'Donnell furnishes a cogent introductory overview of each operation, after which a number of veterans describe their memories of the action. Most of these remembrances are work-a-day, telegraphic run-downs of key situations beach landings and marches to lines, a night in the cargo hold of a destroyer, a diversionary attack on a fortified town that leave a lot of emotional baggage under the surface, in favor of often mortal logistics (some of which involves atrocities on both sides). Most fail to make their situations vivid or compelling to the uninitiated. (Mar. 12) Forecast: While this title is a Main Selection of the Military History Book Club, it assumes a fair amount of interest in and familiarity with its subjects, and won't get much beyond the buff market. Nevertheless, scholars will find it a font of well-documented primary source material and developers might comb it for film or TV-worthy vignettes. Meanwhile, the Drop Zone, which has gotten press mentions in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and other papers, may generate further sales.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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Top customer reviews
He hits all of the major campaigns, North Africa, D-Day, Italy, Battle of the Bulge, Market Garden and the famous Hill 400. While writing this, he does not interject his own assumptions and theories of what happened, instead he guides the reader as if he is performing a lecture to a classroom. This is where the author's strength arises. He does not keep on talking. He simply cuts off and let's the veterans tell their story, and what a story it is!
The veterans tell about the power of friendships, the fear of 88 mm shells coming at your foxhole, the horrors of watching a friend die, what it feels like to be wounded, and they even discuss how hard it is to get over the war.
By the time the book is over the reader will have a sense of how horrible war is and how much it should be avoided. This is simply one of the best first person World War II books on the market today. Patrick O'donnell should be proud of what he has created.
Pro: 1) The author allows the veterans to tell their tales 2) Great Readability 3) Great Maps help guide even the novice of World War II students
To record this history before these American heroes pass on is an extremely important undertaking and it honors the tradition of all who have served our country. It especially pays tribute and evokes the memories of the fallen.
The author could have done a better job in providing context for the various chapters with regard to background, history, strategy and tactics. And more maps would have been helpful. But this does not diminish the value of the personal histories conveyed in this book and the contribution to posterity.
Well sourced and fully indexed, this 366-page book is essential reading for anyone wanting to learn more about the personal experiences of our best trained warriors in World War II. It was essential research for my own historical novel
John E. Nevola
Author of The Last Jump - A Novel of World War II
Also, found the audio cassette very good.