Three of the Last WWII Screaming Eagles by author LTC Jos Groen MSc

Lieutenant Colonel Jos Groen’s Three of the Last WWII Screaming Eagles is a genuine gift to the airborne community. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that less than 500,000 American veterans of the Second World War are still alive, and they are dying at a rate of almost 350 per day[1]. 16 Million Americans served in World War Two; thus over 95% of them are already lost to us. Airborne soldiers made up a small fraction of these millions and the time left to capture their stories first hand is almost gone. Groen’s book ensures that the memories of three paratrooper veterans will live on after them.

Groen conducted extensive interviews with three former troopers who served in the 101st Airborne Division, Jim “Pee Wee” Martin, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment; Dick Klein, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment and Dan McBride, 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment. Each man tells his story in his own words, covering their childhood years, their reaction to the start of the war, jump school and stateside training experiences, preparation for war in England, and combat experiences during D-Day, Operation Market Garden and the Battle of the Bulge. The men also discuss their post-war experiences and their observations on the subjects such as fear in combat, veterans’ reunions, and whether they have personal regrets.

Groen does an excellent job of giving each interviewee their own particular voice and, despite the commonalities of being combat infantrymen who fought in the same campaigns, each man’s distinctive memories give the reader unique perspectives on how each man dealt with his own experiences. They give the reader an honest account of the combat they faced, with no hyperbole and a great deal of humility. The text is full of surprises, such as Dan McBride’s brush with General Eisenhower when the later visited the 101st on the evening of 5 June 1944, just prior to their “rendezvous with destiny”. This event was made famous in a photo of Eisenhower speaking with First Lieutenant Wallace Strobel, Easy Company, 502nd PIR.

The book itself is wonderfully organized. While the extensive interviews are the centerpiece, Groen provides several appendices that provide readers with additional information and perspective, a small selection of relevant maps, and excellent sections of black and white photographs pertaining to the subjects of the book. Footnotes that enhance the text are found directly on the relevant pages rather than grouped as endnotes, and short bibliography directs readers where to look for more on the 101st Airborne Division in World War Two.

Reading Three of the Last WWII Screaming Eagles reminds me of spending time with my great uncles who fought in World War Two. Any reader who values the wisdom of that generation will find great value in Groen’s work. In fact, this book is not only a gift to the airborne community. It is a gift to readers in general.

Book review by Ben Powers


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