In this riveting book, Jack Sacco tells the realistic, harrowing, at times horrifying, and ultimately triumphant tale of an American GI in World War II as seen through the eyes of his father, Joe Sacco -- a farm boy from Alabama who was flung into the chaos of Normandy and survived the terrors of the Bulge.
As part of the 92nd Signal Battalion and Patton's famed Third Army, Joe and his buddies found themselves at the forefront of the Allied push through France and Germany. After more than a year of fighting, but still only twenty years old, Joe had become a hardened veteran. Yet nothing could have prepared him and his unit for the horrors behind the walls of Germany's infamous Dachau concentration camp. They were among the first 250 American troops into the camp, and it was there that they finally grasped the significance of the Allied mission. Surrounded by death and destruction, the men not only found the courage and will to fight, but they also discovered the meaning of friendship and came to understand the value and fragility of life.
Written in an unusual style by the son of a G.I., this episodic WWII chronicle covers the career of the author's father, Joe Sacco (no relation to the comics artist), from his induction into the U.S. Army and stateside training during 1943, overseas deployment to Great Britain in early 1944, and his experiences in combat and behind the lines at Normandy through the end of the war. The account of the liberation of Dachau concentration camp, in late April 1945, comprises only one short chapter in the book. Although the narrative is first-person, the author's father is given neither co-authorship, nor "as told to" credit. This peculiar style limits the impact of some of the writing. "They say that war is comprised of one surreal moment after another, millions of them all strung together until nothing is real anymore except for one's own mortality" loses some punch if linked back to "a director, writer, and composer living in Los Angeles," as this debut author is credited. Yet the extensive reconstructed (or invented?) dialogue is largely successful: Sacco's barracks life and period profanity make for one of the more accurate and compelling recreations of the G.I. experience in recent years. The book is particularly good on Sacco's first few days in the service, combat action in a small German city in March 1945, and on the liberation of Dachau, but readers expecting extensive tales of armed conflict will be disappointed. While not a classic among World War II memoirs, nor particularly historically significant, this odd duck quacks convincingly.