Being there . . . in ’44 and ’45 when America’s combat heroes began to turn The Tide

. . . continued from yesterday’s ARGunners’ edition

Reviewed and highly recommended by Don DeNevi

                                                                                             Part Two

“The Education of Corporal John Musgrove – – Vietnam and Its Aftermath” by John Musgrave. Alfred A. Knopf; 270pp, $27

The recipient of two Purple Hearts and two Vietnamese Crosses of Gallantry, John served in Vietnam for eleven months and seventeen days in both the First and Third Marine Divisions before being permanently disabled by his wound. This “education” of the young corporal is a scorching memoir, unlike the illimitable number before his, pensively focuses upon his personal conduct, reflections, indictments during combat. Enlisting in the Marine Corps at the age of 17 with great enthusiasm to serve his country, John, while on jungle patrols, electrifies readers with his intimate feelings, especially the guilt associated with survival and his growing belief that he and his buddy veterans were being betrayed by their government. The final six chapters, “Marching Against the War”, detail leaving the Corps, finding peace. Among fellow critical, protesting veterans, and the aftermath that followed. Most who served in the juggles and mountains of “Nam” will appreciate John’s honesty and candidness, even if controversial. An absolute must read for all military men.

“When France Fell – – The Vichy Crisis and the Fate of the Angelo-American Alliance” by Michael S. Neiberg. Harvard University Press; hc 312 pp, $29.95.

This scholarly text is an extraordinary, much welcomed, collective memory of World War II America’s failure to assist France during the successful Nazi invasion of 1940. According to US Secretary of War Henry Stimson, “The most shocking single event of World War II was not the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor, but rather the fall of France in the Spring of 1940.” Now, thanks to celebrated author and Professor of History and Chair of War Studies at the US Army War College, Michael S> Neiberg, we at last have a very readable dramatic. History of what happened in Washington, DC, in the early months of that year to offer such a weak, nebulous response. Embarrassingly, our government presented France a policy marked by panic and moral ineptitude which placed the United States in league with fascism and nearly ruined our alliance with Britain. Of course, Neiberg, one of the truly great war veterans of our time, is well known. And war buffs are pleased he has tackled such a hitherto neglected topic. His “The Outbreak of World War I” was named one of the five best books about the First World War by the Wall Street Journal. Thanks to Michael, we now have a minor masterpiece of literature providing serious readers with a more nuanced and understanding of World War II in Europe.

“The Nazis of Coley Square – -The Forgotten Story of the Christian Front”, by Charles R. Gallagher. Harvard University Press; hc 313 pp, $29.95.

The best summary for Charles Gallagher’s courageous leap into the murky pond of the Nazis of Copley Square that no other author seriously dreamed of dirtying himself with is submitted by Rick Perlstein, author of Reaganland, “Writing about American Nazi sympathizers who rooted their rage in mainstream Catholic theology poses. A remarkable challenge pluralist society already has a hard enough time confronting violent hatred under written by sincere religious faiths historians about such subjects face the second challenge of achieving empathy with their subjects without sacrificing moral opprobrium. Charles R. Gallagher meets both challenges with aplomb and throws in some thrilling World War II spy stories to boot.”

A truly tough book to put down once started because it chronicles the evolution of the Christian front, the transatlantic cloak and dagger intelligence operations that subverted it, and the mainstream political and religious leaders who shielded the front’s activities from scrutiny. Nazis of Copley Square is a true grim page-turner, and now, thanks to author Gallagher, a Professor of History at Boston College, the full story is finally told.

“Lightning Down – A World War II Story of Survival” by Tom Clavin, N.Y. Times Bestselling Author. St. Martin’s Press; hc 310 pp, $29.99.

This amazing true story is about the heroism of an American pilot in a P-38 Lightning shot down from an aerial battlefield over France in August, 1944. A 22-year-old farm boy from Washington state, Lieutenant Joe Moser of the Army Air Core survived capture but was sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany. His harrowing story to hell begins with bailing out of his burning fighter on a hot morning, being captured immediately, and dispatched almost immediately to the death camp. Along the way, experiencing twists and turns, he and fellow Allied officers from New Zealand, Canada, England begin planning their escapes – that is, until word arrives Der Fuhrer personally ordered and signed the execution papers of all Allied flyers at Buchenwald. “Lightning Down” is indeed a thriller, recounting the stories of imprisoned and brutalized airmen. Upon being persuaded by his most trusted air generals, Hitler rescinded the death sentences.

In short, the writing is great, easy to read and digest with full emotions. Joe lived until he was 94, ending a near perfect suspense story.