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BEYOND VALOR World War II's Ranger and Airborne Veterans Reveal the Heart of Combat

O'Donnell, Patrick K.

166 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0684873842 / ISBN 13: 9780684873848
Published by Free Press, The, New York, 2001
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Very Good in a Very Good dust jacket. ; 8vo 8" - 9" tall. Bookseller Inventory # 51565

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Bibliographic Details

Title: BEYOND VALOR World War II's Ranger and ...

Publisher: Free Press, The, New York

Publication Date: 2001

Binding: Hardcover

Edition: First Edition; First Printing.

About this title

Synopsis:

Previous books have promised to describe the combat experience of the World War II GI, but there has never been a book like Patrick O'Donnell's "Beyond Valor." Here is the first combat history of the war in Europe in the words of the men themselves, and perhaps the most honest and brutal account of combat possible on the printed page. For more than fifty years the individual stories that make up this narrative -- shockingly frank reflections of sacrifice and courage -- have been bottled up, buried, or circulated privately. Now, nearing the ends of their lives, our WWII soldiers have at last unburdened themselves. "Beyond Valor" recaptures their hidden history. A pioneering oral historian, Patrick O'Donnell used his award-winning website, The Drop Zone, to solicit oral- and "e-histories" from individual soldiers. Gradually, working from within the community, O'Donnell convinced some of the war's most battle-hardened soldiers to tell their stories. The result is WWII seen through the eyes of the men who saw the most intense of its action. O'Donnell focuses on the elite units of the war -- the Rangers, Airborne, and 1st Special Service Force -- troops that spearheaded the most dangerous operations and often made the difference between victory and defeat. From more than 650 interviews O'Donnell has chosen oral- and e-histories that form a seamless story line, a pointillistic history of the war in Europe from the first parachute drops in North Africa through the final battles in Germany and the long trip home. It is the story of the war not discussed in polite company. O'Donnell presents the wreckage of entire battalions nearly annihilated, invisible personal scars, and hauntingrevelations of wartime atrocities. But more important are the men who recount lives risked without hesitation for comrades and cause, and those who did not return: the friends who died in their arms. Their stories remind all of us that victory came only at the highest price. Remembering the infamous cliffs at Pointe-du-Hoc, bloody Omaha Beach, the bitter fighting at the Battle of the Bulge, and Hill 400 in the Hurtgen Forest, the soldiers reveal war as seen, heard, and smelled by the GIs on the front line. Also included is the unique story of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, and the trailblazing African-American "Experimental" Test Platoon that had to fight its own battle behind the lines. "Beyond Valor" captures the truths that exist among soldiers. It is one of the most inspiring accounts of the war ever produced.

Review:

The success of Tom Brokaw's Greatest Generation has sparked a renewed interest in books about World War II and the people who fought in it. Patrick K. O'Donnell maintains, however, that behind those official histories and carefully crafted memoirs lies a "hidden war"--"a bottled up, buried version shielded even from family members because many of the memories are too painful to discuss." In Beyond Valor, O'Donnell brings this hidden war to the surface, allowing men from the elite forces to tell their own stories, thus creating a fascinating combat history of WWII.

O'Donnell introduces readers to some of the greatest of the greatest generation--men such as Robert Kinney of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, wounded by a mortar at Anzio ("it tore my fanny open, took a big chunk of meat out of there--I could afford that"). While in the hospital, wounded members of the regiment were asked by one of their officers to return to the front:

We all went down, about forty of us in casts, bandages, arms in slings and everything. He said, "Your buddies up there are catching hell and we've got to go back if we can. You don't have to, we're not going to order you, but we're looking for volunteers." We said, "Hell, we'll go." We had just the best-spirited bunch of scrappers you ever saw.
There are also stories about compassion in the midst of carnage. Albert Hassenzahl of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment was seriously injured on a drop during the Normandy invasion. While waiting to be rescued, the wind blew his blanket off him. A man on an adjacent stretcher reached over and carefully tucked the blanket in around Hassenzahl. The other man was a German POW. "I didn't say a word to him, but I was able to move my head a little and looked over at him ... neither of us said a word, but mentally I might have said 'thank you' with my eyes and he might have said 'you're welcome' with his."

Though it will certainly appeal to them, O'Donnell insists that Beyond Valor is not aimed at war buffs--it's for the soldiers themselves. "My work has been one of preservation, done in gratitude for a generation that sacrificed so much." By sharing these stories, O'Donnell has helped to preserve and honor their memory. --Sunny Delaney

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