- Bill Brown and Terry Poyser
- ARRSE Rating
- 4.5 Mushroom Heads
The book began as separate pieces of research by the two authors into two members of "Fox" who were KIA; one from 1979 into a family friend of Browns and the other from Poysers hometown in 2000, when he contacted Brown for any information. What followed were flights all around the United States, interviews with surviving members of "Fox" as well as family of those killed the gathering of after-action reports, personal memoirs and over a thousand letters home and over five hundred photographs of the company between 1942 and 1946. All this comes together in a very informative and enjoyable book of 280 pages, not including introductions, bibliography and index.
Like the Band of Brother book/series, it all starts at Camp Tacoa, Georgia and basic training with the rigours they went through and it introduces some of the personalities of "Fox" such as "Gus" Patruno, "Bud" Edwards, Vince Occhipinti, Marion Grodowski, Bill True and Tom Alley amongst others. The well known path of parachute school, further training in the US as well as the trip to the UK and training there prior to D-Day and the chaotic night time jump into Normandy follows.
The Normandy campaign, is covered well using extracts of interviews of the men to give a good idea of what they thought, what they felt and what they did, or didn't, do during the initial battles and their introduction to war, all told with fairly typical soldiers humour and candour. Normandy is followed by returning to England before the jump into Holland at Eindhoven as well as the fighting at Bastogne and Haguenau before moving onto Berchtesgaden at the end of the war prior to demob and returning home, again all modestly told with candour by the men.
There is both humour and sadness in this book as one would expect of a fighting unit during this period of world history; there is a good description of the men's period of leave after training was completed and some of their escapades, as well as the penalty one man from the company suffered for being late back (drummed out of the Airborne). This is covered in some detail in one mans letter home to his parents and all of the men felt it was excessively harsh (the most chickenshit thing to do to someone....Even our company officers were disgusted.) of the CO, Col. Sink, but all agree it had the desired effect and nobody was ever late back from leave again. The time in England building up to D-Day is covered well and some of the antics got up to by the men during this time wouldn't be out of place in any modern army and made me smile and occasionally chuckle.
There are lots of black and white photographs of the Company, both in camp during and after training and on operations, particularly of the D-Day flight and jump, some of which are of men killed in action which are quite poignant. There are also several contemporary sketch maps detailing various actions taken from one the Company Officers diary as well as diagrams of parachute drops and positions the company found itself in such places as Holland and Bastogne. The full list of company Officers, NCO's and men who fought in the "Fox" Company is at the back of the book and has annotations indicating those who did not return home.
Where I feel this book differs to the Ambrose "Band of Brothers" book is that the men of "Fox" aren't written about in an awestruck way that I feel Ambrose did about "Easy". When I read that book I felt that he idolised them and put them on some kind of pedestal; this book is more of an objective telling of their story without any kind of burgeoning "bro-mance" by the authors and this is why I preferred it. Despite the actions of "Fox" Company more or less mirroring those of the more famous "Easy" Company, I found the book an interesting one and an easy read. There is enough detail to interest someone with knowledge of this period of history, but more importantly, not too much that it becomes tedious and a chore to plough through.
I would recommend this book without hesitation.
4.5 Mr Mushroom heads.