Gavin at War

Being there . . . . when youngest daughter Chloe Gavin Beatty, rummaging through her father’s
effects after his death in 1990, discovered a hitherto unknown diary he maintained on a daily
basis between 1943 to 1945 while he was in Europe. Her dad, James Maurice Gavin, 1907-1990,
a US Army officer who was nicknamed “Jumping Jim” by his paratroopers, was as admired and
respected for his honor, bravery, and creative strategic thinking as his contemporary, General
Mark Wayne Clark, 1896-1984, “the American Eagle”, as Churchill referred to him. Both were
good friends since few combinations in the American officer corps matched their enormous
abilities. Among their commands, General Gavin had the edge over Clark on “schemes of
maneuver”, i.e., resolute determination, integrity, and heroic courage during combat leadership
(two DSCs, two SS, one PH, four Combat Jump Stars). By 1942, barely 36, Gavin was in
command of the 505 th Parachute Regiment in General Matthew Bunker Ridgway’s 82 nd Airborne
Division heading for Sicily. Hence, you begin to realize the importance of Chloe unearthing such
a treasured addition for the military literature of World War II. Today, her father’s edited daily
account of the final two years of the war, from Fort Bragg, NC, April 8, 1943; to Oujda, French
Morocco, and North Africa; then Trapani, Sicily, to Naples, London, and paratrooping at
Normandy; then, without blinking, onto demolished Berlin, takes on a whole new appreciative
meaning, not only for the serious research scholar and historian, but also for you, if in search of
a special, exciting Christmas gift for your WWII enthusiast.
Because of its unpremeditated, unprecedented, unparalleled entries providing intrinsically
fresh meanings and insights of fellow military personalities, unreported incidents, historic
events, often accompanied with his own raw, unmasked emotions about his equals and
superiors. Few such honest books have managed to survive the scrutiny
Reviewed and Highly Recommended by Don DeNevi
“GAVIN AT WAR – The World War II Diary of Lieutenant General James M. Gavin”, edited and
annotated by Lewis Sorley aided with additional annotations by Keith Nightingale. Casemate,
An AUSA BOOK, Association of the US Army: 2022, 208 pages, hc; $34.95. Visit,
So, so many laurels, accolades, honors, and tributes have been piling up for this authentic
war hero that historians and scholars tend to forget virtually none were offered during the
decade after World War II. Today, the more important ones are arriving with the book’s recent
publication, all written as honest emotional endorsements, aided by recorded history. The
contributors, retired military leaders and authors understand Gavin, the self-realizing strategic,
genius, as who he really was better than those who supposedly “knew” him then, other than
General Mark Clark later that century. Of all the current endorsements, the one that this
reviewer appreciates the most is from Walter Woods, aide to General Gavin. In a letter he
wrote to Chloe in 2000 before the letters were born in book form: “Your father was a very
brave man who had great faith in his men. The battle or the weather never stopped him from
going to check his troops. He would go in the rain or snow. If the battle was severe, he would

crawl from foxhole to foxhole to talk to his men to let them know he was with them. Words
cannot explain the love and pride I had, and will carry to my grave, for your dad . . .” (Read, “A
Gavin Remembrance”, by Walter Woods, pp. ix-xii of the book. At his conclusion, note the
photo of the two of them, side by side, the gentle, kind warmth in their expressions, their
obvious loyalty to each other, standing heavily armed next to a stone house in Italy or France.
Can there be a better word than “endearment” for the general, or the smile of the general
for all that’s good in life, his family, and for Americans and America, our people, our country?
In both American and British military circles, General Gavin was known as an officer who led
by example. Always, on combat jumps, especially the most dangerous ones, Sicily, Salerno,
Normandy, and the Netherlands (Market Garden), in particular, he was the first one out the
door. Fascinating is how his diary not only discusses the preparation for these operations and
the combat that followed but includes his observations on fellow military and political leaders,
on his own and fellow units, and army operations in general. In short, writes Lewis “Bob”
Sorley, who edited then annotated the letters with the assistance of additional annotations by
Keith Nightingale, the general’s writings have now been published because Chloe
“sparkplugged” the project. She supplied the typescript text of her father’s journal, provided
insights into their family relationships, and contributed their valuable photographs. As the
author Lewis Sorley concludes in his Editor’s Prologue, “The letters, like their author, are made
of good soldierly stuff”.

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