In December of 2015, my husband I visited the National WWII Museum in New Orleans where they had a special exhibit honoring the contributions of African-Americans to the war. This really piqued my interest, because even though I like learning about WWII, I hadn’t ever heard of African-American troops. So I was excited to have won this book through a Goodreads giveaway and learn more for myself.
The story follows the beginning of the war and German aggression in Europe. The perspective changes often, and this is how we learn the backgrounds and motivations of most characters. We learn a bit about specific soldiers and their lives leading up to being drafted. Then the readers follow along as they struggle through basic training and learning to handle a new weapon, the 155 Howitzer. Then it hops between the major stands of the war and how the African-American soldiers are participating.
Sadly, the book focuses a bit too much on people other than the 11 soldiers who bravely gave their lives. I already know much about the timeline of the war, and would have liked to have known more about the lives of the soldiers and their families and upbringings. This hindered my ability to feel for them as individuals, but merely for the sake of their humanity and lost dreams.
I was reading 2 other books while working on this book, but I got through this much faster than I expected. I started out making sure I read 30 pages a day (meaning I’d finish it in about 10 days), but after I finished Big Little Lies, I was fully immersed in this book so I finished it as well. I think the many perspectives made it go fast.
I thoroughly appreciated the attention to detail that the authors put into this. It was neat to notice when a specific phrase had a footnote, and then to see it was verbatim in some archive. For me, that added life to the story because it wasn’t fiction, it was their lives. I wish the book would have allowed me to know them on a more personal level, but by the time I finished I realized this was likely due to the fact that the way in which they gave their lives was a secret even to their families for years. Overall, I feel like the authors did their best to honor these men many years later. I am glad to have read this and learned more about the sacrifices of our armed forces, and specifically those of colored armed service members.
I will be keeping this book, I think it’s a good story to revisit and one that should never be forgotten. In fact, I would encourage you all to educate yourselves as well.
I would recommend this for anyone who likes history or specifically World War II. The authors don’t skimp on details about the mechanics or brutal injuries, but the fast pace of the book kept it moving along so you weren’t dwelling on minutia or gore. It’s definitely a story worth learning about, and I applaud the authors for the research they put into this and I think the novel gave the 333rd Field Artillery Battalion an excellent memorial to live on.