Thursday, January 6, 2011

Tonight We Die As Men, review

This past September Osprey Publishing released the paperback version of Tonight We Die As Men: The Untold Story of Third Battalion 506 Parachute Infantry Regiment from Toccoa to D-Day. Of course, it was another battalion from this same regiment that was made immensely famous in Stephen Ambrose's Band of Brothers.

History benefits from the publication of Tonight We Die As Men not simply because of the new attention paid to the equally deserving Third Battalion, but because the scholarship was approached with such care. Local historian Roger Day lives a few miles outside the English village of Ramsbury, which is where Third Battalion was stationed in the build up to the Normandy invasion. Coauthor Ian Gardner is a retired British paratrooper. Their personal connections granted a passion and an interest that might be lacking in other authors. In addition to their textual research Gardner and Day interviewed multiple Third Battalion airborne veterans as well as English and French civilians who encountered them during the war. These individual perspectives are what really make the book.

The airborne veterans recount stories of training in the States and life in England, including charming anecdotes of their pre-invasion antics. In Normandy the mission of the battalion was to secure a pair of bridges. The battle narrative reminds readers that confusion and frustration can be a part of the reality of combat. Several of the veterans had been captured by the Germans. Some escaped, while others spent the duration of the war as prisoners.

Tonight We Die As Men is a valuable addition to the greater WWII airborne saga and a darn good read.

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