ONE HELL OF A WAR; ONE HELL OF AN INTERVIEW.
Or something like that…
Those of you who read our review of One Hell Of a War will know Dean Dominique (now retired from the US Army) is a veteran of several combat tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan as well as being involved in Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm. A graduate of The Rangers Military Academy and an armoured vehicle commander this man is to be treated with respect and caution.
One wrong question could end Anglo-American relations as we know it. We needed to be diplomatic, cautious and above all professional. Unfortunately we only had Phil Hodges available. His condition is said to stable and he’ll be on solids by Christmas.
I read your book and credit where it’sdue, it is a damned fine read. I thoroughly enjoyed it but I’m afraid it’s back to business at War History Online HQ here in the UK. Without so much as stopping for a cup of Rosie Lee or a cheese and cress sandwich I’m going to move on.
You were a Major in the US Arm with several tours and conflicts under your belt aswell as a graduate of the US Army Ranger school. The Rangers are an iconic and elite group itself so what made you decide to write a book about the 317th Infantry Regiment?
DD: Short answer, my Grandfather. He served in WWII and died before I was born because of a drunk driver. It wasn’t until my aunt found a Bronze Star Certificate that we realized he was an infantryman assigned to the 317th(his discharge papers leads one to believe he was a truck driver). When I started researching the 317th, I found that not a lot was written about the unit, even though, to paraphrase Colonel Hayes, the 317th accomplished a great deal under General Patton’s command in WWII, including being one of the first regiments to arrive at the Battle of the Bulge after the German attack. I felt it was a story that needed to be told, not only for the men who served, but also for the friends and family members so we would get to read the stories and know what WWII was like for the men who fought it.
PH: Here in the UK the film ‘FURY’ is on general release and its had mixed reviews. What are your views on Hollywood’s take of WW2 in general?
DD: During my lieutenant years in the U.S Infantry, I was a Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle platoon leader and my platoon was actually assigned to an Abrams tank company, so I have a good feel of what tank warfare is like, which is why I’m looking forward to seeing the tank battles of WWII on the big screen. I’m holding out judgment on “Fury” until I see it myself. I understand that Hollywood does have to take some creative liberties in order to make WWII movies interesting for a wide audience. I feel that if Hollywood would keep that style of action film, they would attract a larger audience. There are plenty of folks like myself who would prefer to see another “Saving Private Ryan” or “Band of Brothers” type of story rather than a movie that takes a significant event in WWII and softens it with love stories (not naming names) for the sake of drawing a wider audience.
PH: I wish you’d named names but moving on,you have served in both Iraq and Afghanistan; so do you feel Hollywood gets it right with today’s conflicts?
DD.I have notwatched any of the movies about Desert Storm, Iraq or Afghanistan. I have read a few of the books though.
PH: We’ve probably reviewed them!Here’s a question close to my heart. In order of greatest first; your top three war books. Factual or Fictional. Youcan’t include your own though. Haha.
DD.The Longest Day.Band of Brothers. (although I will say this is one where the silver screen version is actually better than the book) and War As I Knew It.
PH: Great choices, Dean. Certainly the Longest Day would bein my top three as well.BoB goes without saying.
You co-wrote One Hell of a War with the late Colonel James Hayes; a veteran of the 317th.I’m guessing you touched base with several other veterans of the European campaign along the way. What was it like working with all these guys?
DD: It was amazing. What I love most about military history arethe stories and that’s what you get when you listen toveterans. I tried to fit as many of the vignettes as Icould in the book because, for me anyways, it’s allabout the stories of the men who fought. I also realize thatprobably the best parts of the books are the quotes aboutwhat combat was like for men like Colonel Hayes. Iused to communicate with Colonel Hayes and ask him questionsabout how and why things were done in WWII. I wouldlet him know how we were doing it and he would provide hisinsight. One of my favorite stories, which is in thebook, was when he planned a mission to get a prisoner inorder to win a case of whiskey for his men.Unfortunately, a lot of the folks that I corresponded with have passed away, to include Colonel Hayes. It was indeed the Greatest Generation and it was an honor to help tell their stories.
I’m MORE than envious. It must have been such a great experience.It’s worthwhile me mentioning here that you donate the proceeds from your books to charity. Can you tell me more about that?
DD:Yeahsure. I donate allof the proceeds from the book to charities that support wounded warriors. I feel like it’s my way ofgiving back to those who served and sacrificed so much thanI. I participated in an open house for a local charitythat is building a retreat to get wounded warriors and theirfamilies away from the hospital for a chance to rest andrelax. It was an amazing experienceto be able to notonly help out, but meet all the people who came out tosupport it. I met a pilot who flew the P51 Mustang inWWII and also flew combat missions in Korea and Vietnam.There were veterans from every conflict the US hasparticipated in. My daughter was with me and I thinkthat it made her appreciate the sacrifice and service of ourveterans even more than she already does as a former Armybrat. In the end, the book sales helped raise somemoney to help their mission of helping wounded warriors.That’s the best part about writing this book is knowing that it’s doing some good.
PH: That’s very Humbling, mate, and I take my hat off to you. Truly amazing. OK, apart from WW2 what other period of History do you enjoy and why?
DD: I enjoy reading some of the first-hand accounts from Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s amazing that westill have so many tales of heroism, and there a lot morethat need to be documented, especially after eleven years offighting. Everyone loves a good war story.
PH: True indeed. The wholeinterest in the ‘War Is Hell’ theme is probably morenatural to us as human beings than NOT fighting. Rightly orwrongly it’s been there for thousands of years andit’ll remain for thousands more.
As an American and former soldier yourself how do you see your country’s role in future conflicts around The World?
DD: To quote General Macarthur, “Old soldiers never die they just fade away.” That’s my way of saying that I’ll leave it up to the professionals.
PH: Diplomatic in your answer Dean. It’s theway forward. I’m always the same…..Ahem!OK. Now for the fun stuff.
DD: Just to be clear, it’s just football, not American football.Everything else is soccer. Football is my favouritesport. New Orleans Saints (professional) and Louisiana State University Fighting Tigers (college).
PH: Ok I’ve never heard of the last team and I’m sorry, but in my eyes, a football should only be picked up by a goalkeeper. Anyway we (TheEnglish) invented it. Next up. Ice Hockey.
DD.I’m from Louisiana, which is on the south coast and is sub-tropical. No ice sports for me.
PH: Fair enough. I don’t understand it anyway. Rounders… sorry I mean baseball.
DD: Do you really call it rounders? There were no professional baseball teams where I grew up so I really didn’t get in to it as a kid, but now that I’m living near DC, I’ve adopted the Washington Nationals.
PH:It’sbig kids, rounders.A child’s game almost. Right. Basketball?
DD: New Orleans Fighting Pelicans. Ok, they are not technically the “fighting” pelicans, but it does sound better doesn’t it? What is more fearsome, a pelican, or a fighting pelican?
PH:Erm..A pelican with a machine-gun?I’m tryingto swing it back towards a militarytheme [and failing miserably – Reviews Ed].What about other sports?
DD: I enjoy playing Ultimate Frisbee. It combines aspects of football and soccer (notice I didn’t say American football and football) with a Frisbee.
PH: Riiiiiiight,OK.We have football fans (notice I didn’t say soccer) who play avariation of Ultimate Frisbee only they use plastic chairs from the stadium.My next question isthis. When are you going to start playing cricket or rugby and do you understand the rules?
DD: If I had to pick one, it’d be rugby because it looks like old school sandlot football (no helmets).
No idea about the rules though. Cricket is asport? I’ll have to Google it.
PH: Wise guy author, huh?Moving along.There’s 6 hours difference, The Atlantic Ocean and goodness knows what elsebetween us. What’sa typical morning in the Dominique household consist of? Mine was a pot of tea, two slices of toast (done on bothsides of course) and a hard boiled egg with a kipper forbreakfast before leaving for work in London (after my wifehas kissed me on both cheeks and handed me my umbrella)whilst wearing a pinstriped suit a bowler hat and a copy ofThe Times under my arm [Have you had your medicine today, Phil? – Reviews Ed].Yourself?
DD.Wake up at4:30, cup of coffee (I’d do tea if it had morecaffeine), walk the dog, go to the gym and off to work nearDC. A typical breakfast during the week is oatmeal,fruit and a granola bar. I had to Google kippers.No small, oily whole herring, that has been split inbutterfly fashion from tail to head along the dorsal ridge,gutted, salted or pickled, and cold smoked over shouldering> woodchips (typically oak) for me, thanks.
You Google a lot right, Dean?Anyway. The WORLD was built upon a kippered breakfast so I can’t believe
you’ve never heard of them. Anyway. We’re WAY off topic so I’ll thinkwe’ll leave it there, mate.Next time I want to discuss your country’s weak choices of beer and lack of architectural history. Takecare for now my friend.Hello?He’s hung up!
With thanks Major Dean Dominique US Army(Ret’d) for his immense patience. Phil Hodges is still available for the Pantomime season. All enquiries to War History Online.
PLEASE CHECK OUT www.woundedwarriorproject.org/