The Road To War: Duty & Drill, Courage & Capture by Steven Burgauer
|The Road To War: Duty & Drill, Courage & Capture by Steven Burgauer|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: An American life including an affecting eye witness account of the preparation and execution of D Day as well as the aftermath. A fitting tribute and fascinating read as we head towards November 11th – Armistice and Poppy Day. Steven Burgauer popped into Bookbag Towers to chat to us.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 348||Date: April 2010|
After World War II Bill Frodsham led an everyday life, raising a family in an ordinary US suburb. He, his wife and children became friends with the Burgauer family, little Steven Burgauer knowing him as Mr F. Time rolls on and little Steven grows up, and then eventually retires from the American financial sector to write science fiction and lecture from time to time. He's therefore surprised when, out of the blue, Mr F's daughter tracks him down and presents him with a pile of handwritten notes asking Steven to make them into a book. These are Mr F's self-authored memoirs, stretching from his youth onwards and showing that this seemingly good, kind but unremarkable man was anything but unremarkable. During the war Mr F trained for the impossible and then lived it as he led men across Omaha Beach on D Day. He was then captured and spent the rest of the war as a POW in inhumane conditions. Steven accepted the request and The Road to War is the result: the life and war of Captain William C Frodsham Jr.
Indeed this is a departure from the usual science fiction we enjoy from Steven, but it's easy to see why he accepted the challenge. Although Steven has had to add the emotion and feeling to the piece that Bill had left out of his memoirs, Bill is definitely there in his words.
Bill seems very much a no nonsense guy, raised with straightforward salt of the Earth morals by parents whose hearts must have torn with sorrow as well as pride when their lad signed up for the infantry after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. For we readers this is where it gets really interesting as Bill's eye for detail takes us through his training in a way that other writers may skip over.
Places, procedures and the daily patterns of events right down to the types of armoury are all laid before us in a way that will sate those of us who have a deep affection for militaria without alienating those of us with a passing interest. However, for me, the most affective and affecting passages arrive with the immediate preparation for and encounter with battle.
Bill spent his final weeks pre-embarkation in the south of England training with those in his charge. What I hadn't realised (actually there is much in these pages I hadn't realised!) was that the fatalities didn't start on that fateful stretch of French coast. Eye witness Bill retells the tragic story of Exercise Tiger when in 1942 a training exercise on Slapton Sands, Devon, went terribly wrong causing thousands of deaths. I'll leave the details with him, but it's understandable why the authorities hushed it up till recently.
As we know from history, the real horror hits the allied forces when they land in Dunkirk and again Bill fills in the bits that the history texts skip over. As he describes the confusion on the beach and how human instinct took over from finely drilled training in a way that could only come of first hand experience, it's as if he's providing a commentary for those first 15 minutes of Saving Private Ryan. He lists the names of the men who died around him without drama – Bill doesn't do drama – yet with a palpable sadness of one looking back and allowing the thoughts that he couldn't indulge at the time.
Bill's stoicism continues into the German prison stalags. He writes of the conditions and treatment there in an almost throwaway style, peppered with black humour and tales of morale boosting anti-Nazi one-upmanship. We extrapolate his words into what he must have experienced: the pain and suffering that accompanies poor conditions, packed cattle trucks and forced marches when half-starved and, in many cases, half-alive.
Bill has a simple narrative style that makes it feel even more authentic than these words had been dressed by a literary mind. It's a slow burner of a tale until Bill signs up but that's not important. Steven affords us access to a personal account of preparation for and commission of war that can't be equalled by those who haven't lived it.
Indeed, writings justly informing us of the bravery shown during World War II by others are everywhere. However, the writings of the brave themselves, almost unwittingly revealing their courage are more precious. This book is precious.
(Our special thanks go to the author for providing us with a copy for review.)
Further Reading: If this appeals and you'd like to read further biographies shedding light on life with the enemy in World War II, we also heartily recommend The Last Escaper by Peter Tunstall.
You can read more about Steven Burgauer here
Steven Burgauer was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Road To War: Duty & Drill, Courage & Capture by Steven Burgauer at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Road To War: Duty & Drill, Courage & Capture by Steven Burgauer at Amazon.com.
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