Once Upon a Time in War presents a stirring view of combat from the perspective of the common soldier. Author Robert E. Humphrey personally retraced the path of the 99th through Belgium and Germany and conducted extensive interviews with more than three hundred surviving veterans.
When Humphrey discovered that many 99ers had gone to their graves without telling their stories, he set about to honor their service and coax recollections from survivors. The memories recounted here, many of them painful and long repressed, are remarkable for their clarity. These narratives, seamlessly woven to create a collective biography, offer a gritty reenactment of World War II from the enlisted man’s point of view.
Although focused on a single division, Once Upon a Time in War captures the experiences of all American GIs who fought in Europe. For readers captivated by Band of Brothers, this book offers an often tragic, sometimes heartwarming, but always compelling read.
While the fu-go offensive proved to be a complete tactical failure, six Americans lost their lives when a discovered balloon exploded. Ross Coen provides a fascinating look into the obscure history of the fu-go campaign, from the Japanese schoolgirls who manufactured the balloons by hand to the generals in the U.S. War Department who developed defense procedures. The book delves into panic, propaganda, and media censorship in wartime. Fu-go is a compelling story of a little-known episode in our national history that unfolded virtually unseen.
Yamamoto was a cigar-smoking, poker-playing, English-speaking, Harvard-educated expert on America, and that intimate knowledge served him well as architect of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. For the next sixteen months, this military genius, beloved by the Japanese people, lived up to his prediction that he would run wild in the Pacific Ocean. He was unable, however, to deal the fatal blow needed to knock America out of the war, and the shaken United States began its march to victory on the bloody island of Guadalcanal.
Donald A. Davis meticulously tracks Yamamoto's eventual rendezvous with death. After American code-breakers learned that the admiral would be vulnerable for a few hours, a desperate attempt was launched to bring him down. What was essentially a suicide mission fell to a handful of colorful and expendable U.S. Army pilots from Guadalcanal's battered "Cactus Air Force":
- Mississippian John Mitchell, after flunking the West Point entrance exam, entered the army as a buck private. Though not a "natural" as an aviator, he eventually became the highest-scoring army ace on Guadalcanal and the leader of the Yamamoto attack.
- Rex Barber grew up in the Oregon countryside and was the oldest surviving son in a tightly knit churchgoing family. A few weeks shy of his college graduation in 1940, the quiet Barber enlisted in the U.S. Army.
- "I'm going to be President of the United States," Tom Lanphier once told a friend. Lanphier was the son of a legendary fighter squadron commander and a dazzling storyteller. He viewed his chance at hero status as the start of a promising political career.
- December 7, 1941, found Besby Holmes on a Pearl Harbor airstrip, firing his .45 handgun at Japanese fighters. He couldn't get airborne in time to make a serious difference, but his chance would come.
- Tall and darkly handsome, Ray Hine used the call sign "Heathcliffe" because he resembled the brooding hero of Wuthering Heights. He was transferred to Guadalcanal just in time to participate in the Yamamoto mission---a mission from which he would never return.
Davis paints unforgettable personal portraits of men in combat and unravels a military mystery that has been covered up at the highest levels of government since the end of the war.