Rural Virginia toward the end of the Great Depression did not have a lot to offer young men in the way of employment, so many of them joined the National Guard as a way to procure a little extra cash. By 1941, it had nearly become a social gathering for all of the boys of that generation, and only after Pearl Harbor did they realize the full extent of what they had signed up for.
Once war was declared, just over two dozen men (ages 18 to 28) who had grown up together in Bedford, Virginia, stayed together as Company A, part of the 29th Division of the United States Army. They trained as a group, traveled to England as a group, and, because of their fierce loyalty to one another, were selected to be the first wave of infantry to land on Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944. This would become a defining moment for each individual and nearly every member of the group’s community back home.
Even though the general outcome of this story is pretty apparent, the insight into each man’s personality, as well as his circle of friends and his relatives, makes this a pretty compelling read. The last few chapters detailing the response of the town of Bedford are extremely interesting and, in my case, make me want to visit and feel of their community.
As we Americans watch this generation gradually pass away, it is perfectly obvious that stories such as this are going to become less and less common in the publishing world. Unfortunately, veterans of more recent conflicts have yet to tell their tales of camaraderie, challenge and sacrifice. It almost feels as if the values of the World War II generation have not only been forgotten, but actually discarded as dross. I, for one, certainly hope that is not the case.
Rated: Moderate. A single f-bomb and a handful of mild terms are the only coarse language in this work. Descriptions of battle injuries are detailed, and although not nauseating, they are complete enough to be moderately upsetting.