Cornfield Soldiers - Utah Beach to the Elbe River
Cornfield Soldiers: Utah Beach to the Elbe River - The Story of the 238th Engineer Combat Battalion During World War II
Author: Paul Michael Frazee
Publisher: Graphic Publishers (2007)
Binding: Paperback, 347 pages
Cornfield Soldiers tells the story of how 500 American fighting men fought their way from Utah Beach to the Elbe River during the Normandy Campaign of WWII. These engineers would build hundreds of bridges under fire, lay thousands of mines, help liberated Aachen, fight at the Bridge of Remagen, discover the Nazi baby factories in the Harz Mountains, survive the onslaught in the Ardennes and liberate the Dora-Mittlebau concentration camp shortly before the final destruction of the Third Reich.
Continuing the story from "Summer Storm - Prelude to Pearl Harbor," (Frazee's second novel), Cornfield Soldiers is an in-depth examination of the training received by the men who answered FDR's call to arms on 8 December 1941 and the battles they fought in North Africa and Normandy. It details both their combat and their engineering accomplishments - which eventually lead to them being one of the most-highly decorated combat engineer units in the European campaign.
Cornfield Soldiers tells the story of the US Army's 238th Combat Engineer Battalion. Based on historical events, the author turned his conversations with WWII veteran Ernie James into a novel. It's Ernie's story, and the story of his unit, as they marched across Europe building hundred of bridges from D-Day until the end of the war in Europe.
The 238th, a highly decorated unit, landed on Utah Beach on the morning of June 6, 1944. Frazee's book offers us a fictionalized account of these young soldiers who fought their way from the beach across France and Belgium to the Elbe River in Germany. Along the way, they built 66 bridges.
It's Thanksgiving Day, 1991. Sean Kennedy has invited his old Army buddies for dinner. There the stories of the war flow as the men relive old memories. We follow the 238th from D-Day through the remaining days of the war in Europe.
Although the men reference the early WWII days, Korea and Vietnam, the story focuses on the days leading up to D-Day and beyond. We see the war through the eyes of the young men of the 238th; Charlie Wilkes, Dexter Dannenberg, Ian Henry, Michael O'Hara and Sean Kennedy interwoven with Ernie James' story.
Charlie joined the Army in 1942. His best friend, Randy Roberts, was on the USS Arizona on December 7, 1941, leaving a pregnant wife, Sharon. Charlie had been best man at his wedding. Charlie is chomping at the bit in California when Sharon visits him. After the baby's birth, Charlie marries her.
Author Frazee's dialogue attests to his knowledge of the historical details. His characters come to life as we watch them grow up, develop relationships and face war. We share their experiences building bridges, their encounters with the Resistance and the traitors within the organization, the French and Belgium citizens, and their battles with the Nazis.
Cornfield Soldiers is author Paul Frazee's third novel. Paul utilizes his years of interviews to tell his story. His previous military fiction titles are Waiting for a Rainbow - Coming of Age in Vietnam, and Summer Storm - Prelude to Pearl Harbor.
Frazee served in the Army and California Army National Guard. He spent nearly a year with the 8th Infantry Division ad Bad Kreuznach, Germany followed by a tour in Vietnam. He currently teaches social sciences in Sacramento, California.
Reviewed by: Pat McGrath Avery (2010)