- FROM OUR READERS
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 yearsfor 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
an instructive, engaging and moving memoir, meticulous in its
reconstruction, very clear and present, and the photos are terrific.
David Rorvik, author
- 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.
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
Smith, professor emeritus of journalism, Pennsylvania State University,
State College, Pennsylvania.
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
- 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.
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
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
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
for the 2002
DISTINGUISHED BOOK AWARD
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
For almost half a century, I frequently thoughtbut almost
never spokeof 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 certificateNathaniel.
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 darkestbeliefs.
Finally, in an attempt to heal the deepest scar of my 108 days
of combatmy implacable and repressed hatred of the Germans
of Hitler's timeI 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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