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The Deserters: A Hidden History of World War II Hardcover – June 13, 2013
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The Boston Globe:
“Powerful and often startling…The Deserters offers a provokingly fresh angle on this most studied of conflicts… This is a stripped down, unromanticized, intimate history of battle in all of its confusion, chaos, terror, and moral ambiguity. Intricately structured — the author deftly juggles three narrative strands — and beautifully paced to build suspense, this tightly focused account, which draws on memoirs, archives, police files, psychiatric records, is neither reverent nor disapproving.”
The Wall Street Journal:
“By focusing on the stories of three deserters—two Americans, one Briton—Mr. Glass argues persuasively that deserters weren't the cowards of popular assumption but rational men making a natural choice to stay alive… Mr. Glass has conscientiously trawled through court-martial records and U.S. and British files, and he has spent many hours tape-recording interviews with deserters, but he has also been lucky enough to be allowed access to the unpublished memoirs of one deserter, Steve Weiss, as well as the correspondence of several others. Such material gives the author an intimate view into the mind of the wartime deserter.”
The Washington Post:
“[The Deserters] does provide an intimate look at the whys and wherefores of three men who opted out of the front lines. At a time when the ravages of war in Iraq and Afghanistan have made the general public more aware than ever of the price too many soldiers pay for their service, that helps.”
Dwight Garner, The New York Times:
“The Deserters: A Hidden History of World War II, by the historian and former ABC News foreign correspondent Charles Glass, thus performs a service. It’s the first book to examine at length the sensitive topic of desertions during this war, and the facts it presents are frequently revealing and heartbreaking… The Deserters has much to say about soldiers' hearts. It underscores the truth of the following observation, made by a World War II infantry captain named Charles B. MacDonald: 'It is always an enriching experience to write about the American soldier in adversity no less than in glittering triumph.'"
San Francisco Chronicle:
“A veteran correspondent in war zones, Glass is richly credentialed to write The Deserters: A Hidden History of World War II. He is qualified by talent, by the good fortune of finding surviving veterans, and by exploring their lives with diligence and, most crucially, a deep compassion… Glass tells the soldiers' stories with novelistic vividness and a good historian's grasp of research detail."
The New Republic:
"Glass brings something new to the table by going deep with desertion, an overlooked aspect of the wartime experience. The result is an impressive achievement: a boot-level take on the conflict that is fresh without being cynically revisionist... [Glass] pulled off something special here: showing respect to what the deserters endured while acknowledging that the war—gruesome and unfair and nonsensical though it was—had to be won, and that this happened because enough men somehow found the will to keep going."
Publishers Weekly (starred):
"Glass is to be commended for his take on WWII through the eyes of those who ran away from it... Glass's history might be one of the best ways of relaying the experience of war: through the eyes of the young men who charged into the line of fire, gave up the ghost, and whose only reward was living to tell the tale."
"[Q]uite provocative... A well-written, fast-moving treatment of an issue still relevant today."
Sunday Telegraph (UK):
"Sensitive and thought-provoking … As this compelling and well-researched book shows, the battlefield was not a place for heroes, but a place where young men were dehumanised and killed … Given such conditions who among us would not also have considered walking away?"
The Guardian (UK):
"[These] stories of individual human beings who eventually cracked under the strain of hardly imaginable fear and misery – are wonderful, unforgettable acts of witness, something salvaged from a time already sinking into the black mud of the past."
"Gripping … painstaking … sympathetic … Glass reveals just how inglorious war really is."
Sunday Times (UK):
Daily Telegraph (UK):"With his own skill and sensitivity, Glass recreates the inhuman scenes that pummel the other soldiers he examines… refreshing and stimulating—history told from the loser’s perspective."
About the Author
CHARLES GLASS was the chief Middle East correspondent for ABC News from 1983 to 1993 and has covered wars in the Middle East, Africa, and the Balkans. He is the author of Americans in Paris, Tribes with Flags, The Tribes Triumphant, Money for Old Rope, and The Northern Front. His writing has appeared in Harper’s Magazine, The New York Review of Books, The London Review of Books, The Independent, and The Spectator. Born in Los Angeles, Glass divides his time among Paris, Tuscany, and London.
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The main premise of the book (desertion) is really set in the background because it becomes evident, from the statistics, that many, if not most, of the grunts who really saw action on numerous occasions, "deserted". They wouldn't have been human if they hadn't, and I know from frank conversations with real veterans that after seeing a lot of front-line action, normal men become sick and tired and are driven insane by the "action".
This is one of those books that you can read fast but which you nurse because it is fascinating.
This book personalizes the suffering of the average GI and creates an interest that is compelling. Unspeakable for years, wasted lives as a result of poor leadership and troop management . We were barely able to continue to victory as a result.
Reading this story doesn't create sympathy for those who left their posts ------------------ it causes you to ponder the fate and suffering of those who didn't.