In John Nevola’s “The Final Flag,” a chance meeting in the hospital room of a mysterious World War Two veteran results in a continent-spanning hunt by four active-duty military sleuths who try to track down the fate of a group of elite paratroopers.
Swapping back and forth between past and present, Nevola transports the reader back in time to follow these warriors’ fighting through northern Africa, Italy, France, and finally in Belgium for Hitler’s last-gasp offensive--the Battle of the Bulge. A remarkable level of detail and Nevola’s easy writing style puts you in the thick of battle with this group of elite, but overlooked military heroes.
Part of the so-called “Greatest Generation,” this group of veterans is made up almost exclusively of Italian Americans. However, at this time in history, they didn’t consider themselves as part of a great generation. In fact, they had to struggle against suspicion and bigotry, as many of their fellow Americans questioned their loyalty--and in many cases, didn’t even consider them “fully American.”
In many ways, “The Final Flag” is a genre-buster. Although billed as a work of historical fiction, the book’s almost 500 pages are also crammed with a wealth of incredibly detailed historical facts. For this reason, the book often has the feel of a history treatise, rather than a work of fiction.
This book will definitely appeal to those wanting to learn more about many of the early US military airborne units during the Second World War and the battles they fought. However, MWSA reviewers also felt that the book would benefit from another editing run to address some noticeable technical issues.
Review by John Cathcart (September 2018)
An old soldier’s last request spirals into a worldwide search to recover the remains of seven missing GIs from World War II. A four-person team of both military and civilian volunteers conduct the investigation. All they have to work with is a list of names. Their only motivation is to honor the fallen and give closure to their families. Or is there some other unknown purpose at play? What seems like an impossible task becomes fraught with bombshell surprises. The Department of Defense refuses to cooperate. The investigators also unexpectedly uncover likely evidence of a conspiracy and cover-up at the highest echelons of the Army. The taint of ethnic discrimination becomes more evident as they delve into the investigation. Most of the names on the list were of Italian-American descent at a time when non-citizen Italian-American immigrants were considered enemy aliens. While some were arrested or detained in internment camps, others were forcibly displaced, had private property seized and suffered the degradation and humiliation of being targeted by the American government. All this while their sons served and died overseas. However, it turns out some of these seven men survived the War. It was a place to start. The four eventually narrow the search to two bastard independent parachute infantry battalions with troubled reputations. As they unravel the mystery, they also uncover scandalous indications of the contemptible mis-treatment of these two battalions at the hands of higher commands. Both units were annihilated at the Battle of the Bulge, ignominiously disbanded and their records burned. What was the Army hiding? The searchers stubbornly persist against all obstacles to uncover the fate of the missing men. To their amazement, what they discovered was spectacularly astonishing and would change lives forever. Proceeds from The Final Flag are donated to assist families of the fallen.
ISBN/ASIN: Hardcover: 978-1478728825, Paperback: 978-1432773488, Kindle: B07DMZ2VKD
Book Format(s): Hard cover, Soft cover, Kindle
Genre(s): Historical Fiction
Review Genre: Fiction—Historical Fiction
Number of Pages: 493