[BOOK REVIEW]Few insights in war emerge from saga

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[BOOK REVIEW]Few insights in war emerge from saga

I haven't seen the television treatment of Stephen E. Ambrose's 1992 book about a paratroop company of the U.S. 101st Airborne Division in the World War II European theater. I wonder if it's better than the book, which is best describing the sometimes casual brutality and bloodlust of men in combat. It is useful to be reminded that warfare is still ultimately a place where men live, fight and die on the edge between civilization and savagery. If that element found its way into the miniseries, it was surely a sobering reminder of the consequences of rattling sabers.

But most of the narrative has already been done better in fiction and in nonfiction. James Jones's "From Here to Eternity," about the prewar U.S. Army, and "The Thin Red Line," about combat in the Pacific, are fictional but true to life. Ernie Pyle's chronicles of hometown soldiers at war are fascinating reading. The best of the breed has to be Bill Mauldin's "Up Front," which brings the monotony and hardships of combat GIs alive. Both Pyle's books and "Up Front," were written during the war, so they downplay the worst horror in deference to home-front sensibilities.

Books about World War II will never stop coming, just as Civil War books will probably never cease to be issued, and every new generation probably tends to start reading about the conflict with the newest releases. While this book is interesting, it adds little to the store of insights about the war. It is a good starting point, though, for readers looking for an introduction to the human consequences of the 20th century's most terrible conflict. I suppose what keeps me from dismissing the book as a "been there, read that" narrative is the realization that we cannot afford to forget what combat entails for men who are sent into it.

by John Hoog

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