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book review of "The Road to War: Duty & Drill, Courage & Capture"

Discussion in 'Biographies and Everything Else' started by steven.burgauer, Nov 4, 2016.

  1. steven.burgauer

    steven.burgauer Member

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    [SIZE=medium]Five-plus unequivocal stars to The Road to War. [/SIZE][SIZE=medium]It’s an extraordinary read that everyone should enjoy.[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=11pt]— October 20, 2016, Publishers Daily Reviews[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=11pt]======================================================[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=11pt]It’s a little after 8 a.m., June 13, 1944, and Lt. William C. Frodsham, Jr. is in the fight of his life.[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=11pt]Seven days earlier, he and his platoon had waded ashore on Dog Green Beach along with thousands of other determined G.I.s. during the famous D-Day invasion. [/SIZE][SIZE=medium]Then, they had slogged 12 miles into the Normandy countryside under withering enemy fire.[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=11pt]Now, Frodsham and his men are pinned down and outnumbered among the hedgerows, waging a brave and bloody battle against equally determined German forces.[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=11pt]It’s an action-packed start to this excellent first-person narrative about one man’s harrowing — and sometimes humorous — experiences in World War II. [/SIZE]
    [SIZE=11pt]Well-told in an almost cinematic style, this tale draws the reader immediately back to that unforgettable time when America — and its young men and women — were thrown into a global conflict whose outcome was perilously uncertain.[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=11pt]In large part, however, the book, which is largely based on Frodsham’s personal diary, is full of anecdotes and fascinating stories that will surely appeal to anyone who has spent time in the military. [/SIZE][SIZE=medium]Indeed, much of it rivals Neil Simon’s [/SIZE][SIZE=medium]Biloxi Blues[/SIZE][SIZE=medium] in its ability to enthrall the reader.[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=11pt]Flash back to December 7, 1941. [/SIZE][SIZE=medium]Frodsham has kissed his girl goodbye, along with his family, and shipped off to Fort Dix, NJ — the first of several Army posts where he is taught to be a soldier.[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=11pt]What follows is a highly entertaining account of what it was like to be in the U.S. Army back in the early days of the war. [/SIZE][SIZE=medium]Frodsham excels in every posting, and is soon on his way to OCS — Officer Candidate School.[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=11pt]But his journey is not without its share of off-base adventures — like the 24-hour AWOL Christmas trip to a friend’s home, and the brief but victorious alley confrontation in which he and a ranking middleweight sergeant dispatch four paratroopers intent on getting them kicked out of OCS.[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=11pt]Time passes and Frodsham seeks — and wins — the hand of his beloved Connie, and they are married in a full-blown regimental ceremony on May 22, 1943 at Fort Leonard Wood in rural Missouri.[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=11pt]Their precious time together is brief, however, as he ships out to England in October aboard the newly refitted SS Mauritania[/SIZE][SIZE=medium]. [/SIZE] [SIZE=medium]The five-day voyage is uneventful — except for two exciting days wallowing through 50-foot ocean swells — and he lands at Liverpool along with thousands of his shipmates.[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=11pt]Endless days of drills and preparation for the Normandy invasion are interspersed with fascinating stories of Frodsham’s fraternization with the Brits — and inspiring insights into how this remarkable island nation not only survived the Blitzkriegs, but found humor and hard-won conviviality in its neighborhood pubs each night.[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=11pt]Then, D-day arrives, and it finds Frodsham floating with his men just off the Normandy coast. [/SIZE][SIZE=medium]It’s a hellish scene that confronts them as they wade ashore. [/SIZE] [SIZE=medium]Body parts litter the beach, but Frodsham and his platoon forge ahead, intent on their mission to make it to the village of Isigny and hold it until relieved.[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=11pt]In trying to get there, however, murderous crossfire by German machine guns costs the soldiers dearly in terms of dead and injured. [/SIZE][SIZE=medium]By the time they finally cross one field bordered by six-foot hedgerows, Frodsham wonders to himself:[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=11pt]“If the enemy (is) going to surrender France only one hundred feet at a time, this (is) going to make for a very long war.”[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=11pt]Finally, they come upon a German force larger than their own, and, after a furious firefight, Frodsham orders his men to lay down their arms. [/SIZE][SIZE=medium]They become prisoners of war, and the remaining pages detail the hardships, pain, and debilitating slow starvation inflicted upon the troops.[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=11pt]Still, Frodsham and his fellow detainees find opportunity for gaiety even in a Gulag. [/SIZE][SIZE=medium]A theatre group sprouts up, and even a camp newspaper, [/SIZE][SIZE=medium]The Oflag 64 Item. [/SIZE][SIZE=medium]Still[/SIZE][SIZE=medium], [/SIZE][SIZE=medium]starvation is a constant companion. [/SIZE] [SIZE=medium]Frodsham, like most of his fellow POWs, loses more than 60 pounds while in captivity.[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=11pt]I won’t reveal the book’s surprising and satisfying ending. [/SIZE][SIZE=medium]Suffice to say, celebration of the War’s final actions is sweet for Frodsham — who at many times during a forced wintertime march from Poland by his captors, fleeing the advance of Russian liberators, lay huddled against cattle for simple warmth during the long, frozen nights.[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=11pt]This memoir is a saga of celebration and hardship, heroism and tragedy, set against the sweeping backdrop of the twentieth century’s most important worldwide conflict.[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=11pt]Yet it carries with it a tone and craftsmanship at once imminently readable and startlingly personal. [/SIZE][SIZE=medium]The author has written a masterpiece of first-person narrative gleaned purely from Frodsham’s meticulous diary and equally exhaustive research that often puts the reader squarely in the middle of war-torn France and into the very hearts and souls of the valiant men and women who secured the peace we now enjoy.[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=11pt]Five-plus unequivocal stars to The Road to War. [/SIZE][SIZE=medium]It’s an extraordinary read that everyone should enjoy.[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=11pt]— October 20, 2016, Publishers Daily Reviews[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=11pt]http://publishersdailyreviews.com/road-war-steven-burgauer/[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=11pt]http://sites.google.com/site/stevenburgauer/the-road-to-war/reviews[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=11pt]http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/384410.Steven_Burgauer[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=11pt]https://www.undergroundbookreviews.org/author-spotlight-steven-burgauer/[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=11pt] View attachment 25115 [/SIZE]
     

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  2. MichaelBully

    MichaelBully Active Member

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    Adding my review from 'Amazon' . I gave it four stars out of five.

    " Essentially an outline is provided by the World War 2 recollections of Ltn William .C. Frodsham Junior written in 1994 : Frodsham recounts joining the US army shortly after Pearl Harbour, was stationed in Britain at the end of 1943, took part in the D Day landing and was captured, becoming a German prisoner of war for the last ten months of the war.

    The author himself is candid enough to state that the book is written as a *novel”..not ‘“generally fiction” ...but
    “It is somewhat fictionalized and somewhat improvised”.

    “William reveals very little about himself ...I have tried to ferret out his feelings the best I could.”

    Overall it reads well and have to count the whole project as a success. The author is not afraid to question Frodsham’s recollections. The book starts with Frodsham’s ‘baptism of fire’ in Normandy 13th June 1944, experiencing his first week of combat in Normandy.

    The narrative returns to the impact of Pearl Harbour leading to Frodsham’s initial enlistment, a substantial section of the book is focused on his training in the US army. Then his experience as an American soldier in Cornwall, with some excursions to the other English counties. He recounts barroom brawls, cycling in the countryside, tea dances besides his account of military life.

    There are a few pages about the Exercise Tiger debacle, a secret D Day preparation exercise that cost over 630 US servicemen their lives in Lyme Bay at the end of April 1944. The account of landing at Green Dog beach on 7th June 1944, the pressures of leading other men into battle, encountering the brutality of war , are all depicted well. The account of being a Prisoner of War is especially moving. A great deal of work seems to have gone into trying to get all the technical details reading.

    The only question I have is what are we as readers invited to gain by reading this? Is the author maintaining that William Frodsham , certainly a courageous soldier, with many endearing qualities , is typical of his generation? Is his combat experience somehow unusual? Or as the preface suggests “A classic American story”...which possibly underrates the book: I'd would say as a British chap with no knowledge of the USA, that the combat and the PoW sections are the most powerful, whilst the account of training in the US of far less interest. In fact the depiction of the PoW camps, how to create order from such deprivation, and uncertainty, the fear of being bombed, with prisoners being moved on a regular basis, were perhaps the book’s strongest part.
    Overall I can recommend this."
     
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  3. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    I have some concerns about the format of the book. Is it history, or is it fiction? Not sure I would be comfortable with a book that is part one and the other.
     
  4. steven.burgauer

    steven.burgauer Member

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    Thank you, Michael for your excellent and spot-on review.

    Dear Belasar -- this book is a memoir and is not fiction. What is fiction is that certain side characters are amalgams, not actual people but composites in order not to introduce hundreds of extraneous names. The places are real. The events are real. The main character is quite real. From my introduction ---

    [SIZE=16pt]AUTHOR’S INTRODUCTION[/SIZE]​



    [SIZE=medium] When I was a boy, I lived across the lane from this man. He was different from my father. This man had a gun. He had been in the war. My father had not.[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium] My parents were very close to this man and to his wife. The wife was at my family’s house nearly every day, visiting with my mother. Her name was Dottie. His name was Bill. I called them Mr. and Mrs. Frodsham, occasionally Mr. and Mrs. F.[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium] Bill and Dottie had two kids, both much younger than me. I was maybe fourteen at the time. When I was a bit older, I met their oldest son. His name was Dennis but he went by Buz. Dennis was married, going to college at the time, perhaps graduate school. He and his wife lived with Mr. and Mrs. Frodsham for a while. The house seemed crowded.[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium] Sometimes, when Mr. and Mrs. F went out, I would baby-sit for the two younger kids, a boy, Christopher, and a girl, Victoria. The kids were fun, and I liked them. Apparently, my parents did too, as they soon became godparents to these kids from across the street. I wasn’t sure what being a godparent meant, but it sounded important.[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium] Fast forward now, half a decade. I’m done with college, getting married. The families are still close. Vicki is a flower girl in our wedding. At rehearsal dinner, Christopher, now twelve, is sipping on a beer, slowly getting drunk. My father is playing the piano, something he loved to do. Everyone is smiling.[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium] Now married, I moved away from home. In time, Bill and Dottie leave the area as well, move east, relocate in the Carolinas[/SIZE]. I lived my life, lost track of theirs.
    [SIZE=medium] Flash forward now, three decades. I have had a career in investment brokering, retired, now teaching economics part time, writing science fiction most of the time.[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium] Suddenly comes a question. That little girl Vicki, now a full-grown woman with children of her own, contacts me. It is the sixty-fifth anniversary of D-Day, both her parents are dead, and she has in her hand her father’s memoirs recounting his experiences in World War II. She knows that I am a writer. She would like to see her father’s memoirs published. Could I give her any advice how to make that dream a reality?[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium] Next thing I know, I’m deeply involved in the project. Rather than just a dry recitation of facts and events, I have written it as a “novel.” I put the word in quotation marks because novels are generally fiction. This is not. This is real.[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium] But in some sense it is[/SIZE] fiction. To avoid making this account read like a Russian novel, filled with countless unpronounceable names and enough characters to fill a small telephone book, I have simplified matters a great deal, changing names to protect identities, eliminating characters that add little to the story, constructing others as composites of several people spliced together as one. Historical characters, such as General Eisenhower remain intact, blisters and all.
    [SIZE=medium] So as to not make this account an unreadable textbook, I have limited the use of maps and the like. But, inevitably, a reader may want to summon a Google map of southern England or the Normandy coast to help follow along. There are countless online sources of maps. I only mention Google, as I referred to it often.[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium] Writing this book entailed much research. I don’t know from guns or grenades. Wikipedia was an incredible aid to me in this regard.[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium] William had a remarkable memory. Written so many years after the fact, I would say William possessed a stunning clarity in his recollection of events. I, myself, at a much younger age cannot lay claim to remembering so many details from my twenties. Even so, William had at least some of his “facts” wrong.[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium] For instance, he reports in his text that he returned to the United States after the war onboard the U.S.S. Lafayette[/SIZE]. He specifically mentions that the [SIZE=medium]Lafayette[/SIZE] was formerly an Italian luxury liner by the name of the [SIZE=medium]Conte Grande[/SIZE] before the [SIZE=medium]United States[/SIZE] military commandeered it to carry troops. — Not possible.
    [SIZE=medium] The Lafayette[/SIZE] began life as a French-built luxury liner called the [SIZE=medium]Normandie[/SIZE]. The [SIZE=medium]Normandie[/SIZE] was seized in New York by the United States after the fall of France. It was to be converted into a high-speed troopship but caught fire and sank. It was later raised again at great expense and floated to the Brooklyn Naval Shipyard for repair but never returned to service and was later sold for scrap.
    [SIZE=medium] The Conte Grande[/SIZE], on the other hand, was indeed captured from the Italians. It did indeed become a troopship. But it was renamed the U.S.S. [SIZE=medium]Monticello[/SIZE], not the [SIZE=medium]Lafayette[/SIZE].
    [SIZE=medium] So which story is correct? I suspect William came home on the Monticello[/SIZE], as the [SIZE=medium]Lafayette[/SIZE] was still in a Brooklyn shipyard at the time of his return.
    [SIZE=medium] I found several such “problems” in Mr. Frodsham’s account. In each case, I had to go with my best guess as to the actual facts. Any mistakes in this regard are entirely mine.[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium] Thus, I call this work a “novel.” It is somewhat fictionalized and somewhat improvised. William reveals very little about himself in his account. He doesn’t reveal whether or not he misses home, whether he is lonely, whether he is scared. So I have tried to ferret out his feelings the best I could. Again, any mistakes in this regard are entirely mine.[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium] But even with these admitted shortcomings, what remains is still an amazing story of youthful valor. A young man — patriotic, athletic, daring, willing to take risks — enlists in the Army to defend the country he loves so dearly. His leadership skills and acumen with guns and field artillery is quickly recognized by his superiors, and he is encouraged to become an officer.[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium] William trains hard, leads his men into battle, makes snap decisions, is wounded, captured by the enemy, slapped into solitary confinement, sent to a prisoner-of-war camp on the Eastern Front, starved to within a few inches of his life.[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium] Yet, he returns home after the war a hero and what does he do? — promptly enlists in the Army Reserve.[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium] A classic American story. I think you will like it.[/SIZE]



    [SIZE=medium]Respectfully,[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]Steven Burgauer[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]June 6, 2010[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]D-Day plus 66 years[/SIZE]
     
  5. MichaelBully

    MichaelBully Active Member

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    Steven, with regard to William Frodsham ? Do you think that his war experiences were unusual or usual ? For someone like myself with poor knowledge of US service in Europe during World War 2, what are you most highlighting to us on a historical level ? Felt that gained a lot from reading the book as there was so much I hadn't considered concerning how a young US officer might have viewed the War.
     
  6. steven.burgauer

    steven.burgauer Member

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    Michael, from talking to dozens of GIs when I wrote that book, as well as extensive reading, the experience of American enlistees after Pearl harbor was much the same. These men were not soldiers. They never intended to be soldiers. Many could not shoot a gun, few had ever had a new pair of shoes, barely half of them were literate in any meaningful sense. The army was unprepared to train so many men at one time and when they did move to southern England for more intensive training, they were not entirely welcomed by the British. American troops occupied British soil and although the British people were happy to have us join the war, the American presence on private lands made for an uneasy situation. Such tensions were well displayed in early episodes of "Foyle's War," including the Spalton Sands debacle. I had called Frodsham's story "classic" because it seemed so typical of many recruits. Thank you for asking. I hope you have a chance to read "Nazi Saboteurs" Did I send you that or did I forget? Sincerely Steve
     
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  7. MichaelBully

    MichaelBully Active Member

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    Thanks for the clarification Steven. Yes unfortunately evidence suggests that anti-American sentiments appeared in Britain during World War 2, and I've noted that they still re-appear from time to time.

    One of the great things about the 'Web is that we can have discussions on an international level share information about those who fought such as William Frodsham.


    Yes you sent me 'Nazi Saboteurs on the Bayou' , thanks.

    I have read a little about the Slapton Sands/ Exercise Tiger debacle and hope to visit the memorial to the US servicemen that are remembered there.
     
  8. steven.burgauer

    steven.burgauer Member

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    I would be fascinated to hear from you after your visit to Slapton Sands with any new tidbits of information. I spent a lot of time at places like the Imperial War Museum to gain certain insights. Be well, my new friend.
     
  9. MichaelBully

    MichaelBully Active Member

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    Thanks Steven, I will probably leave a trip there to the Spring now !
    It's encouraging to see there are now some quite detailed websites about 'Exercise Tiger'/Slapton Sands, to give two examples below.

    Regards

    http://www.exercisetigerslapton.org/

    http://www.exercisetigermemorial.co.uk/
     
  10. steven.burgauer

    steven.burgauer Member

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    Thank you Michael. I appreciate those links and the first chance I get I will read and study them.
     

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