|Alex Kershaw is a lay peoples historian. By that I mean even if you've never taken a history class, the book is exciting and stimulating. The first half of the book tell sets the personalities of the soldiers who made up the Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon, 394th Infantry Regiment, 99th Infantry Division. The second half of the book follows the platoon's painful odyssey through the hell of a succession of German POW camps. Survival in this environment of scant food, primitive sanitary conditions, and harsh treatment required as much courage and discipline as combat. Dysentery, frostbite, gangrene, and hepatitis were constant companions, and platoon leader Bouck was near death with hepatitis when finally liberated on April 18 - ironically by the 99th Division.
It wasn't until their story became public that the Platoon received the recognition they were due. In 1980, platoon members were awarded four Distinguished Service Crosses (the Army's second-highest decoration for valor), five Silver Stars, and nine Bronze Stars with Valor Device. The unit also received a Presidential Unit Citation.
Kershaw recounts the story of the I&R Platoon in dramatic fashion. Drawing largely on interviews with surviving members of the platoon, he puts a personal face on the action: whether on the hillside at Lanzerath or mired in the abject misery of the POW hovels. These were young Americans - platoon leader Bouck turned twenty-one during his captivity - green and ill-equipped for their mission. Yet, as Kershaw ably demonstrates, it is a mistake to underestimate American soldiers. Then. Or, now. -- Added by billrye on 02/23/2014