The Boys’ Crusade is the great historian Paul Fussell’s unflinching and unforgettable account of the American infantryman’s experiences in Europe during World War II. Based in part on the author’s own experiences, it provides a stirring narrative of what the war was actually like, from the point of view of the children—for children they were—who fought it. While dealing definitively with issues of strategy, leadership, context, and tactics, Fussell has an additional purpose: to tear away the veil of feel-good mythology that so often obscures and sanitizes war’s brutal essence.
“A chronicle should deal with nothing but the truth,” Fussell writes in his Preface. Accord-ingly, he eschews every kind of sentimentalism, focusing instead on the raw action and human emotion triggered by the intimacy, horror, and intense sorrows of war, and honestly addressing the errors, waste, fear, misery, and resentments that plagued both sides. In the vast literature on World War II, The Boys’ Crusade stands wholly apart. Fussell’s profoundly honest portrayal of these boy soldiers underscores their bravery even as it deepens our awareness of their experiences. This book is both a tribute to their noble service and a valuable lesson for future generations.
This short study of the U. S. Army's most burdened branch in the final campaign against Germany does not represent its National Book Award winning author at his highest level. It focuses on the 17-, 18-, and 19-year-olds who were the backbone of the infantry. They were also frequently thrust into combat after no more than four months' training, led by officers as green as themselves; Fussell himself was one of them. If wounded, they were returned to some other unit through the infamous Replacement Depot system, and altogether not treated much better than the trench fodder of WWI. Thorough research has not prevented some questionable pieces of historiography, such as leaving out the resistance the American army eventually generated in the Battle of the Bulge. Fussell also tends toward space-consuming jabs at rival schools of interpretations and even journalists as distinguished as Ernie Pyle. The focus bounces around, with mini-essays covering such non-infantry affairs as the Allied deception operation for D-Day, at the expense of material on the infantry as other than victim. For a minihistory or minibiography of the same subject, readers should stick with Stephen Ambrose's Citizen Soldiers. (On sale Sept. 9)
I studied military history at West Point(58-62) and was not aware of so many things written in this book. It was an eye opener for me and will be for any one else interested in the real WWII.