One of the most amazing stories of World War II is also likely to be among the last.
As the twentieth century closed, the veterans of its defining war passed away at a rate of a thousand per day. Fortunately, D Day paratrooper Joseph Beyrle met author Thomas H. Taylor in time to record The Simple Sounds of Freedom, the true story of the first American paratrooper to land in Normandy and the only soldier to fight for both the United States and the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany.
It is a story of battle, followed by a succession of captures, escapes, recaptures, and re-escapes, then battle once more, in the final months of fighting on the Eastern Front. For these unique experiences, both President Bill Clinton and President Boris Yeltsin honored Joe Beyrle on the fiftieth anniversary of V-E Day.
Beyrle did not strive to be a part of history, but history kept visiting him. Twice before the invasion he parachuted into Normandy, bearing gold for the French resistance. D Day resulted in his capture, and he was mistaken for a German line-crosser—a soldier who had, in fact, died in the attempt. Eventually Joe was held under guard at the American embassy in Moscow, suspected of being a Nazi assassin.
Fingerprints saved him, confirming that he’d been wounded five times, and that he bore a safe-conduct pass written by Marshal Zhukov after the Wehrmacht wrested Joe, at gunpoint, from execution by the Gestapo. In the ruins of Warsaw his life was saved again, this time by Polish nuns. Some of Joe’s story is in his own words—a voice that will be among the last and best we hear firsthand from World War II.
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Advance praise for The Simple Sounds of Freedom
”War, combat, warrior. All connected, all self-explanatory—except why? The official ‘why’ or cause of war is not the concern of the one who does the fighting; the warrior has his own reasons for doing battle, his own priorities. Joe Beyrle, raised in western Michigan during the Great Depression of the thirties by not-so-well-to-do but devout Christian parents, had his own reasons for answering his country’s call to arms.
“Joe Beyrle’s decision to volunteer for the newly formed paratroopers was the first episode in one of the most bizarre stories of World War II. Parachuting alone behind enemy lines weeks before D Day made Joe the first American soldier to land in Normandy in World War II. Returning to Allied lines, he again parachuted into Normandy on D Day, June 6, 1944, with the American 101st Airborne Division, the Screaming Eagles. The trail he followed and his experiences of capture, torture, and eventual combat with a Russian armored battalion on the Eastern Front are incredible.
“Through his words the reader will learn why Americans like Joe Beyrle can and do endure unspeakable torture and are willing to continue the most grueling battles, to the point of sacrificing their own lives.”
—Donald R. Burgett, 101st Airborne Division, author of Currahee!, The Road to Arnhem, Seven Roads to Hell, and Beyond the Rhine
“Every once in a while, a true story comes along that reads like fiction. The Simple Sounds of Freedom is a remarkable, true story about a remarkable American soldier. It grabs you on page one and never lets go. That Joe Beyrle survived the horror of the German Stalags and the Gestapo to escape and continue fighting against Hitler with the Russian Army is a testament to the training and professionalism of the Screaming Eagles of the 101st Airborne Division — and to the courage and fierce determination of the kind of men who served in that storied unit.
The Simple Sounds of Freedom is one of the most gripping tales o war you will ever read, and it will be read for generations to come as a tribute to the inextinguishable love of country and love of freedom of one resilient American, Joe Beyrle."
- Senator Carl Levin, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee
Thomas H. Taylor, a veteran of the 101st Airborne Division, was awarded the Silver Star, two Bronze Stars for valor, the Purple Heart, and five other decorations for his service in Vietnam. A graduate of St. Albans School and West Point, he left the army in 1968 to take a master’s degree in sociology and a Juris Doctor from the University of California, where he won the Carothers Prize for literary composition; in the same year, he was designated a Bread Loaf Fellow at Middlebury College, Vermont. He lives in Washington, D.C.
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Book Description Random House, 2002. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0375507868
Book Description Random House, 2002. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110375507868
Book Description Random House, 2002. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Brand New!. Bookseller Inventory # VIB0375507868
Book Description Random House, 2002. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0375507868