A quiet Friday evening after a forgettable week at work is a good time to be able to sit down and leave it all behind with a good read. The postman couldn’t have timed it better by delivering this book and I am grateful that he did.
At just sixty-six pages, including the notes, this wonderful little book punches way above its weight with the breezy personal recollections of Vincent J Riccio who served first as a mechanic and then as a flight engineer with the USAAF during World War II. The book is put together by his daughter Candace, based on a video tape he had made recounting his experiences during the war.
Well written and utterly compelling, I couldn’t put it down. From first to last the book whirls you along from Vincent’s induction and initial training through a flurry of adventures in the United States before he is shipped over to England to take part in the 8th Air Force’s bombing campaign against the Nazis. He was based at Horham and I take some comfort from the memory that my longstanding colleagues at War History Online and I have walked through buildings and pathways he will have known when we visited the base a few years ago.
Vincent’s escapades as an airman and as a prisoner of war are revealed with a great sense of humanity and warmth that seems to radiate from veterans who have enjoyed long and fruitful lives after their ordeals. The barrack life stuff is often very funny, while Vincent’s frequent confrontations with army bullshit are a familiar tale of bashing your head on an immovable object. The combat elements are brief, but well observed.
It is after Vincent bales out of his B-17 over Germany in November, 1944, that the story really comes into it’s own with descriptions of life in a prison camp. His account of the infamous forced march of POWs is in tune with the others I have read, while the moment of his liberation by troops from a British tank regiment is priceless.
Books like this make you wish every veteran had written one. We used to dream my late father-in-law would do one, but he declined. My own father’s experiences are just a few snatched recollections for me and he is long gone, too. There seems to be a trend, of sorts, in the United States for producing books like this one. Long may it continue and hopefully the idea will spread further. They offer a tangible link with a disappearing generation to whom we owe so much.
Vincent was a bit of lad and he gives it to us straight. But aside from all that he did his duty and served his country well. You cannot help but like him. He passed away in 2004 and although he obviously lives on in the hearts of the people within his own bit of the world, this book gives the reader something of him they can keep for themselves. I can’t fault it.
You will find the book on Amazon and other usual places and I strongly recommend you look for it.
Review by Mark Barnes for War History Online
EVER THE PATRIOT
Recollections of Vincent J Riccio, World War II Veteran and POW
Edited by Candace Riccio Salem
ISBN: 978 1494874360