FROM OUR READERS OF
CHARLIE OF 666

I have just finished your superb book,
Charlie of 666, provided to me as a gift from the daughter-in-law of one of your comrades-in-arms. This is the fifth or sixth of such personal accounts of combat in WWII which I have read recently, and each was written by someone who was not striving to write a best seller but rather a representation of his part in the Great War of the century. Of the group, yours is the most articulate, and I thought your poem on page 129 was especially moving, given the age you were at the time it was penned. And your Epilogue was the "holy grail," since it gave us your perspective of almost 60 years—for the American soldier, for the German soldier, and the civilians caught in the crossfire. Congratulations on a job well done.

— LeRoy Collins, Jr, Rear Admiral,
U.S. Naval Reserve (Ret.),
Tampa Bay, Florida


Charlie of 666 is an instructive, engaging and moving memoir, meticulous in its reconstruction, very clear and present, and the photos are terrific.

— David Rorvik, author
Portland, Oregon


A moving code to the life of an American idealist, a true and honest war memoir, a book of lessons that later generations need to take to heart, a recapture of a mood that would be quite lost but for books like this. Above all, a simple story simply toldquite the best kind of "literature" that there is: the kind that helps people, not least those who wonder if it is ever forgivable to hate (and for good reasons). I was surprised, and very pleased, at the turn the book took at the end. I had paid heed to the earlier references on your predicament as a Jewish American who might one day be captured by those fiends, and what you might do in the situation; but up to the very end I thought I was reading a touching and inspiring "war story," but nothing more. Your story of your conversion to the forgiveness which is so glibly propagated by those who have never had reason to hate or to welcome revenge as at least a form of justice, is very moving, and gave me a lot to think about...I found myself disagreeing with you in your own case, until you stressed that you were cleansing yourself of hate; you passed no judgment on the greater sufferers whose relatives experienced the gas chambers. I thought that was fine, and it is one of the reasons (only one) why I want the people in charge of forming "public" thinking to take up your idea.

—John W. Smurr of Turlock, California, emeritus professor of history, California State University, Stanislaus


It's a wonderful volume, and I think you made a wise decision in suspending Treasure State Review for a while in order to complete this beautifully written and affecting story. I also like very much the idea of "dual authorship" —a clever idea.

—Donald Smith, professor emeritus of journalism, Pennsylvania State University, State College, Pennsylvania.


I'm a slow reader, preferring to embrace each word, contemplate and savor as I move through the pages.
Now I have finished your beautiful memoir and I must say my awe and wonder deepened by the page as I considered the depth of your sharing of this young warrior, this stranger to me, who made it possible for me to enter another part of world history. It's spine-tingling to know how very close you were to that horror of horrors.

— Barbara Bennetts, Seattle, Washington, former member, Montana
State Legislature


I thoroughly enjoyed your book! I especially liked the technique of mixing narrative written after the fact with a history written nearly contemporaneously with the actual events. It creates a special credibility. I also learned some history. Because of my association with paratroopers and tankers, my knowledge of the Battle of the Bulge tended to orient on Bastogne and the armored relief column from the south. I had general awareness of the battles on the north shoulder, but did not, until I read your book, have knowledge of the intensity and significance of the combat there. I'm sure your old comrades were enormously grateful for the time and loving care you put into this effort to record for posterity their place in history.

—J.D. Coleman, Kalispell, Montana, U.S. Army lieutenant colonel
(ret.), author of Wonju, the Gettysburg of the Korean War


Your book is splendid! Thank you for writing it, for taking the years of thoughtful reflection to come to the words and sentences and paragraphs and chapters you brought together to form such a moving work of art.

— Firman H. (Bo) Brown, former chairman and director of theater at the University of Montana and Ohio State University, Columbus


My admiration for your guys in Battery C, and others similarly situated, is unbounded. I am deeply impressed with your transformation of those times
into a minutely realistic yet enthralling historical narrative. The original battery history of 1945 remains its core; indeed, it can be said to engage in a dialogue, at times even a debate, with the testimony given by the same people (including those wonderful Belgians) grown older. The illustrations, rather than the usual mere embellishment where they exist at all, are integral to the argument and the flow. You could have simply said "This is the way it was" and let it go at that, which it seems to me is essentially what Tom Brokaw did. But you did something far better; you confronted the reader with your own later wrestlings of the soul. That is something hard to do honestly. You have done it, without self-justification or lamenting. "This is what I felt then; this is what I feel now." Bravo.

— Paul Carter, Tucson, Arizona, professor emeritus of history,
University of Arizona


Nominated for the 2002
DISTINGUISHED BOOK AWARD

of the
SOCIETY OF MILITARY HISTORY



A few days before V-E Day 1945 in Oerlinghausen, Germany, the war in Europe over except for mop-up operations, I pulled coded notes and hand-written pages from my duffel bag and began the final draft of the history of Battery C of the 666th Field Artillery Battalion. The men and officers of Charlie Battery were on occupation duty and the guns of our 155mm howitzer battery, brought all the way from Texas, were covered and stored. At long last relieved of my duties as a member of the Battery's forward observation team, I was able to finish, finance and publish a 32-page history with the help of German printers who spoke no English. The cover of the little book embraced the scarlet and yellow colors of the artillery.

I believe it was the first unit history published after the war in Europe.

For almost half a century, I frequently thought—but almost never spoke—of our days in the frozen and corpse-laden fields of Belgium and the mud and ruins of Germany on our way to the unconditional surrender of Hitler's Wehrmacht. I did not want to think about it, I did not enjoy talking about it and I certainly had no desire to write about it. Many of my friends and thousands of students in my classes over forty-one years had no idea that I had served in World War II. I cannot recall a single occasion in which I talked of my experiences in combat, even during the tempestuous days of my vigorous opposition to the war in Vietnam. The story of Charlie of 666 was one I wanted to forget.

That was changed by a formal Charlie Battery reunion 47 years after the war ended. It drew nineteen old soldiers to Columbus, Ohio, April 24-26, 1992. One after another of my comrades in arms told me that the brief history I had written in 1945 contained only the broad outline of what we had experienced. They urged me to "tell the real story of Charlie Battery." They wanted me to try to capture the mood and madness of our fifteen months together, day and night, from the creeks of Pecan Bayou in the ravines of Camp Bowie, Texas, to the banks of the Roer, the Rhine and finally the Danube on the German-Austrian border. I agreed reluctantly, sensitive to the advice of A.J.P. Taylor, my beloved mentor at Oxford University, who had warned against "histories by old men drooling over their youth."

Three times in the 90s I returned to Belgium and into Germany as far as the church tower of Kirchberg overlooking the Roer River. I retraced the chilling route Charlie Battery had taken during the horrendous "Battle of the Bulge" in the Ardennes that dark December of 1944 and bloody January of 1945. I wanted to recapture as best I could my experiences as a young man from Denver who was thrust into battle against Hitler's elite SS troops in a churning cauldron of war. I also wanted to document and pay long overdue tribute to the courageous members of the heroic Belgian wartime resistance movement.

In my memoir are the chapters of the 1945 Charlie Battery history I wrote and published in Germany, where I had served as Corporal Nate Blumberg, followed by chapters composed in recent years after I had taken the full first name on my birth certificate—Nathaniel. The new chapters look back on the war years from the vantage point of an old soldier who finally was convinced by his surviving buddies that he should write it down before we
all faded away.

In the writing, memories long suppressed were revived. They led me down paths I had not expected and into cul-de-sacs where I was forced to confront my deepest —and darkest—beliefs. Finally, in an attempt to heal the deepest scar of my 108 days of combat—my implacable and repressed hatred of the Germans of Hitler's time—I reluctantly returned for a "reunion" in Germany with 34 Wehrmacht veterans of the Ardennes battle. Those four days, and a secret I had carried for more than half a century, are the source of a liberating struggle described in the epilogue.

Tom Brokaw, in his book, The Greatest Generation, pays tribute to the men and women of the World War II years and calls us not only America's greatest generation but "the greatest generation any society has produced." That's a subjective and perhaps simplistic judgment that can be disputed. At minimum, however, we were part of a generation subjected to one of the harshest tests in the history of our nation, and we delivered. "On the Western front," Historian Charles McDonald wrote, "the Battle of the Ardennes has been the most decisive of the whole Second World War. It was the most important feat of arms in the history of the United States."

























This is a Special Edition of 500 copies, a collector's item. The book is beautifully hardbound in scarlet and gold, horizontally 10 x 8 inches, 145 pages, extensively illustrated, and designed with end papers.

One reader reported: "CHARLIE OF 666 is the perfect Coffee Table Book, in the best sense. People pick it up, start leafing through it and then can't put it down. It's fascinating, no matter on which page you open it."


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