Soldiers of Freedom ISBN: 9781943593279 Mount Sopris Publishing copyright and written by Samuel Marquis.
This is Volume five of the WW II series and a novel subtitled “Patton’s Panthers and the Edelweiss Pirates” and is dedicated to “The officers and enlisted men of the 761st Tank Battalion who triumphed on WW II battlefields, and to the German youth of the Edelweiss Pirates who fought against Nazi tyranny.” However, it is more than a story of these two entities in that it reaches beyond and within them. The 761st, also referred to as The, or Patton’s, Black Panthers and was the first Negro battalion, and specifically selected by Patton, for duty with his 3rd Army as they slugged their way across Europe to be the first unit to cross into Germany concluding that country’s final struggles. Their story is provided through the eyes of William McBurney, one of the first enlistees who, along with the others, distinguished themselves individually as well as that of a proud and closely knit unit who actually were compelled to fight on two fronts. They not only fought some remnants of Hitler’s finest units in the desperate Battle of the Bulge and beyond to the very end, but coincidentally were required to battle against their own white soldiers and their constant denigrating words and actions. The tale of the Edelweiss Pirates is based upon two members of the subversive group, Gertrude Koch and Jean Jülich, who were heavily and actively involved against the sadistic remnants of the Gestapo in the final days of the city of Cologne. A third feature of the book is the fictional but heavily researched discussions and planning sessions among Eisenhower, Bradley, Patton, Montgomery and the others that could have accompanied the concluding period on the War in Europe. Interesting reference even is made to episodes going back to the dessert fighting against Rommel and even bits from Eisenhower’s and Patton’s relationship going back to WW I.
Discussion: This is a most unusual book in numerous ways. Most prominently perhaps in its presentation in accurate detail the abominable treatment not only of black citizens, but even worse of those who had volunteered to risk their lives in fighting for a country who refused even to recognize these soldiers as human beings. It also presents in graphic detail the utterly inhuman activity presented by the gestapo, their members and underlings. But even worse, the thoughtlessness and/or disregard of the German people who allowed such depraved activity to begin, say nothing of allowing it to escalate to the despicable level finally reached. An action that should deeply be considered today by sections of the population of this country who are approaching an entrée level; e.g. refusal to believe the existence of the Holocaust? Racism? The Author then provides another fascinating thrust for the reader – the verbal intercourse and characterizations of the prominent WW II Generals presented in a manner quite succinctly explained in the final pages of his book. “Like Michael Shaara, (author of The Killer Angels Battle of Gettysburg) “”I have “not changed any fact” nor have I “knowingly violated any action.” Most scenes in the book are based on known events with specific historical figures present, but a minority are based on incidents that are generally accepted to have taken place but have unfortunately not been documented by history, or I believe happened under similar circumstances to those described in the book but for which there is no historical record. In these cases, the interpretations of character and motivation are mine alone. Thus, the book’s characters are ultimately a part of my overall imaginative landscape and are, therefore, the fictitious creations of the author, reflecting my personal research interests and biases.”
Summary: A tremendously well researched book with, from this reader’s perspective, totally credible author interpretations where required. There is a certain amount of redundancy, but acceptable and generally speaking, this is a tale most appreciated by history and war devotees, but an overall presentation that would provide a large amount of thought producing elements from which all readers could benefit, especially when considering the unconstitutional and unlawful attitudes and actions so abundantly extant today.
5* Thought-jolting historical tale highly recommended for ALL today’s readers.