Military Review English Edition September-October 2014 - Page 125

BOOK REVIEWS are the deserters, and desertion is an element of all American wars. World War II was no exception, as The Deserters so ably shows. Fifty thousand American soldiers deserted in World War II. As Glass notes, the percentage of the total force is quite small. However, Glass contends, only 10 percent or less of the military actually went into combat. There was no one-year tour, no 50-mission crush. The same men fought again and again; their only hope of relief was the ‘million-dollar wound’ Eventually, some of . those who survived the constant threat of death broke down under the strain. This work is not a historical, sociological, or political exploration of the phenomenon with data sets and heavy discussion of military and governmental policies. Rather, it approaches the broad and previously neglected topic of desertion through examination of the lives, particularly in the war, of three men who at one time or more deserted. Two are Americans and the third is British, and their backgrounds and military experiences differ widely. All served in combat, and all reached their limits. One was a decorated hero. Another deserted several times, returning and leaving three times as the pressures became too intense. One of the three even became active in the resistance during one period of absence from his unit. Glass writes as a journalist rather than as an academic historian. His highly readable work provides much description of the horrors and difficulties of the combat environment, the unfairness of a military system that forced only a small percent to bear the burden of combat while the bulk of the forces remain behind the lines in relative comfort, the hardships of the military prison system, and so on. Although this is not a broad survey, it provides a depth of detail more common to a biography than to a monograph. When appropriate, the author steps back and tosses in context and numbers, but keeps the focus on the three men and their reasons for deserting. Desertion has long been understood as a shameful betrayal of the mission and one’s comrades. Only recently has a more nuanced reading made allowances for the human frailty of the warrior. The Deserters is a sympathetic but realistic exploration of the pressures of warfare and the toll it takes on even the unwounded. Reading it is time well spent. John H. Barnhill, Ph.D., Houston, Texas MILITARY REVIEW  September-October 2014 FIGHTING FOX COMPANY: The Battling Flank of the Band of Brothers Terry Poyser and Bill Brown, Casemate, Havertown, PA, 2013, 344 pages, $32.95 T he book and miniseries Band of Brothers practically made Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, a household term. But while Easy Company fought its way through the Normandy countryside, the dikes of Holland, the forests of Bastogne, and into the heart of Germany during World War II, Fox Company fought equally hard on Easy’s flank. Through careful research and interviews with veterans, Terry Poyser and Bill Brown have created a unit history for Fox Company, with all its training, fighting, and comradeship. While Fighting Fox Company parallels the experience of Band of Brothers, it follows a different narrative. Historian Stephen Ambrose created leaders, heroes, and villains in Band of Brothers, particularly in the officer corps. Fighting Fox Company is mostly the story of the enlisted men, often using entire letters written to loved ones or whole pages of first-person accounts to tell its story. The only officer truly fleshed out is Lt. Andrew Tuck, who commanded a platoon, then the company at the end of the war. Fox Company trained at Toccoa and Fort Benning, Ga., before shipping off to England to prepare for the invasion of Normandy. Parachuting behind Utah Beach on June 6, the men were scattered and fought separate battles until they were able to find their units. Two members of Fox Company helped capture a German battery and Brecourt Manor, and one was the last Americans to leave the battlefield. In the battle for Carantan, which united the Utah and Omaha beachheads, a German armor unit struck Fox Company. The unit bent, but did not break, under the force of German tanks and infantry, and the paratroopers of Fox Company knocked out two German tanks before American armor arrived to turn the tide. The action continued through Holland, the siege of Bastogne, and the drive into Germany. Capt. Dick Winters, who eventually becomes the battalion executive officer, makes a few appearances in the text. When a squad returned from a patrol in 123