Thursday, August 8, 2013

Citizen Grouch recommends some summer history reading

I'm in Big Bear Lake, California this week with the Missus and Young Daughter seeing the sights and doing some hiking but in between all of that I've had the chance to read two books that I recommend:

"Hell or Richmond" by Ralph Peters is the fictional account of the first eastern civil war campaign of U.S. Grant against the Confederate army of Robert E. Lee.  The story is told more through the secondary generals and their subordinates than through the two titans of the war. The author also follows the officers and soldiers of a Pennsylvania German-American regiment through the various battles to give the reader an up close and personal view of the campaign.  As in any military service it is full of hurry up and wait, poor food, confusion, incomprehensible orders and decisions.  As a direct descendant of a similar German-American infantry regiment (the 74th Pa. Volunteer Infantry - my great uncle - who survived Chancellorsville only to be taken prisoner at Gettysburg) I found the story to be compelling and personal.   I have never been shot at in anger so I cannot say what I would do in the circumstances described in this novel (Older Son, however has been.  See his story here  : ) but the description of the horrors of the battles ring true to me.  What would compel a soldier to fight a second time after surviving the first battle is hard to imagine.  Highly recommended for civil war enthusiasts and those who want history to be living for them.  I give it ****

"We Band of Angles"  is the true story of a group of female Army and Navy nurses and several civilian nurses who were in the Philippines at the start of World War Two and participated in the battle of Bataan and Corrigidor.  A few were evacuated to Australia but most remained to be captured by the Japanese and held in prison camps with thousands of others both military and civilian.  While in captivity they continued to serve as nurses while slowly starving to death. Their stories of their time in captivity as well as what came after their rescue by the U.S. Army is something that all of us should be familiar with.  The sacrifice of the women in service for others during combat and in the prison is a story that has mostly been forgotten over the years.  The treatment of some of those who stayed in the military after the war is a disgrace although one of the nurses rose to the rank of Colonel and was the most decorated U.S. female service member in history.  The stories of the women after the war who thought that nothing bad could ever happen to them again..but did... was sad to read.  So much sacrifice only to suffer loss of loved ones, divorce, loneliness.   Some of the women, as was the case for the men in similar circumstances in the war, were permanently effected by poor physical and mental health.

A very important story to read and to remember as this group of women by now is most likely gone.  Highly recommended and the highest CG rating of *****

1 comment:

  1. I checked "We Band of Angels" out of the library yesterday and look forward to reading it!