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From The Bronx to Berchtesgaden: The Combat Memoir of a World War II Hero Paperback – June 6, 2012
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Soskil joined the army after receiving a few deferments for working in wartime factories and being married. He was originally assigned to an ordinance company in 1942, but after basic training the war became more demanding on infantry troops which eventually lead to Soskil joining the 7th Regiment of the 3rd Infantry Division as a rifleman. He landed on the coast of France as a replacement and fought in numerous engagements all the way up until the end of the war, at which time he earned the rank of sergeant, one Bronze Star and two Silver Stars.
Soskil's account is short and focuses almost exclusively on his time in combat, which begins on page 33 and finishes on page 157 (there are several pictures in between, as well). He's in a lot of action and experiences many close calls but manages to leave the war without any physical wounds. He is also upfront about his personal deeds while fighting - describing his own actions in enemy engagements and the actions he performed that resulted in his earning medals for valor. AND this account isn't sweeping, that is, there isn't a lot of "info dumping" or time spent on broader troop movements or decisions made by the higher ups -- this is a combat memoir from a seasoned infantryman through and through.
However, there are some drawbacks to the memoir that are keeping this from a 5-star book. Soskil is up front about his combat deeds but these parts of the book are delivered in a plain/simplistic manner. It's not compelling or riveting, and given without much reflection or introspection. The overall narrative structure is rather messy, as well. Soskil will talk about his unit's trek across Europe (general fighting movements and conditions on and off the front lines) but then he'll speak of specific engagements with no set-up, often confusing the reader. One thing that might be an issue of reading the Kindle version is that it seemed like he was reaching the end of his time in combat (April, 1945) around the 50% mark but he suddenly starts talking about winter fighting and continues from there to the end of the war...again.
And though there's a lot of combat, it is filled with similar experiences that are delivered too frequently with little variance. Some things stand out in this book, but only a few and not at all comparable to other combat accounts that I have read. Books I was reminded of or books you might enjoy OR similar but better books like this one would be: Lucky Infantryman,Etched in Purple: One Soldier's War in Europe and especially A Foot Soldier for Patton: The Story of a "Red Diamond" Infantryman with the US Third Army, which is like a longer, more extensive/fleshed out version of this book. Bilder had many similar experiences and saw a wide range of unique instances like the ones described in this review.
I enjoyed the book, as a whole, certainly realizing that these are the memories of the author. I realize that some instances get changed as time passes, things are forgotten, and things are embellished. It happens to everyone. However, I do research the things that I read, and some of the things I read don't appear to be correctly stated (times, places, occurrences). The biggest issue I have surrounds Berchtesgaden. My grandpa was a member of the 101st airborne. We have home video, pictures, and memorabilia, as well as written historical fact that proves that the certain members of the 101st did, in fact, capture Berchtesgaden. (I'm certainly not suggesting that the author was not there at some other point.). Although I have heard stories from my grandpa about this, I did go back and do some fact checking.
I won't argue this issue further, but even if my grandpa had not been there, my research would still have led me to the conclusion that the author's memory has been altered, at least on this point(and others I mentioned, as well, but this was the fact that really spurred me to research all of the other details). As I said, I am aware that memories are just that, what a person remembers. However, with so many incorrect details, supported by historical record, I just can't give this book 5 stars as it is written. I can only say that it is a good book, if read as a historical novel, and taken with a grain of salt.
It is a quick moving report, much like an overview with personal details; I found it very interesting and educational. Perhaps as a one-off read, it might be considered lacking in detail, yet as another piece of the puzzle, for someone who reads a lot of WWII history, it is quite valuable.