William Frodsham was one of the many thousands of young American citizens to enlist for military duty after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Unlike the vast majority of those men and women, William, years after the conflict, gathered his notes and his memories to write a detailed account of those years. Author Steven Burgauer has shaped these writings into a very readable historical novel, structured in diary form.
The opening pitches us straight into the intense fighting which followed the D-Day landings. We learn straightaway that William is a courageous soldier and an excellent leader of his platoon, despite the impossible situation in which they find themselves. From here we are taken back in time to the beginning of the war and his immediate decision to fight for the country he clearly loves. The first part of the book focuses on ‘duty and drill’, which aptly describes the many months that William spends in the U.S. in basic and then officer training.
Now a 2nd lieutenant, he is posted to Cornwall, England, to train and lead a platoon in preparation for the invasion of France. Throughout William keeps up a commentary of the various duties assigned to him and of the difficulties he faced. Although there are times when you feWel like you are reading a list of events, names and places, there is always historical interest as well as numerous personal anecdotes that give a clear picture of life in the U.S. Army.
From the prologue, we know that William had decided not to write about his feelings, and doubtless the horrors he saw and participated in were forever with him and just too much to express with words. Although this is quite understandable, the consequence is that you never seem to get to know him as a man – you gain an understanding of his character and his qualities, but the reader is rarely allowed more than a few glimpses inside, limiting the depth of engagement with the book. That said, the combat scenes and the brutal deprivation of his time as a prisoner of war are well written, making some of the horrors of war all too real. Indeed, the awfulness of his final combat duties when freed and then seconded by the Russians is chilling.