The Greatest War: Americans in Combat 1941-1945
By Gerald Astor
Publisher: Presidio Press 1990 1055 Pages
PDF 5 MB
After years of lying in wait, the WWII story sprang back into action last year, with movies like Saving Private Ryan and books like Tom Brokaw's The Greatest Generation. But as many stories as have been told so far, there are an almost infinite number more to tell, which Astor's book seeks to do. Astor, author of The Right to Fight and numerous other works of military and social history, has patched together countless firsthand accounts of many of the battles in which Americans fought during WWII. Thus, one is introduced to Pearl Harbor through the account of one soldier whose first thought was that the Japanese planes were actually American and that the pilots were going to get into a lot of trouble for bombing a hangar; another account quite convincingly conveys another man's experience surviving the downing of his plane and interrogation in a German prison camp. But at a broader level, the book suffers from a fundamental lack of focus. On battles that remain less in the public eye, Astor's results are fascinating--his account of the attack on Salerno, in particular--but the reports are too brief to do anything but tantalize. And as interesting as the first-person accounts are, their broad outlines are likely to be familiar to WWII buffs. Astor's deep knowledge and the amazing experiences of his subjects come through clearly, however, as he drives home that this was a time when particularly remarkable people had particularly remarkable experiences.