ONCE UPON A TIME IN WAR. The 99th Division in World War II

What really impressed me is the honesty. There is no sugar coating or trying to portray the GI as movie heroes 

Lots of books are written about US Airborne troops but this time we have a book about the US 99th Division’s frontline soldiers. I bought it because I know one of the veterans interviewed in it via email.
Instead of a factual book with just the history of the division using archives this one is a bit special. The main source of information comes from the actual soldiers who were interviewed. So we see the history from the average soldier’s perspective. It looks at the Ardennes in late November 1944, the Battle of the Bulge, crossing the Remagen Bridge, the Ruhr pocket and southern Germany.

The writer tells the history by including lots of soldier’s quotes from joining the army to their return home. By using different veterans to describe events like the Battle of the Bulge it gives a good view of the events and thoughts of the soldiers involved.
It describes fear, hate, misery, homesickness, hope and despair. The writer manages to tell the soldiers’ story while still outlining the broad picture. It must have been very hard to choose the quotes to describe events with so much information available. Maps make it easy to get a view of the situation.

What really impressed me is the honesty. There is no sugar coating or trying to portray the GI as movie heroes. It not only mentions the shooting of prisoners, soldiers breaking under pressure and looting but also compassion. Apart from the experiences on the frontline it also looks at the soldier’s life. Another chapter talks about the soldiers in German captivity, the filth, despair and hunger.

If you like to read a GI Division’s history in the soldier’s perspective then I can recommend this book.

Published by the University of Oklahoma Press ISBN 978-0-8061-3946-3

Prices and cover designs vary.

Mark Barnes

Mark Barnes is a longstanding friend of WHO, providing features, photography and reviews. He has contributed to The Times of London and other publications. He is the author of The Liberation of Europe (pub 2016) and If War Should Come due later in 2020.