Memorial Day in the U.S. has become so synonymous with fireworks and barbecue that we often forget that the holiday is in fact supposed to be a commemoration of all those brave men and women who’ve given their lives serving in America’s armed forces. We’re all familiar with such excellent accounts as Flags of Our Fathers and Band of Brothers that get their own screen adaptions but here are books featuring on fallen warriors who haven’t gotten as much attention.
Forged in Battle: The Civil War Alliance of Black Soldiers and White Officers by Joseph T. Glatthaar (2000) Having massively underestimated the manpower needs of the Civil War, sixteen months into the fighting the Federal Government began to recruit black soldiers. 180,000 free blacks and former slaves took the chance to prove themselves on the battlefield as part of the United States Colored Troops and 37,000 gave their lives. Award winning historian Glatthaar documents the extraordinary bravery of the troops-and how it was so quickly and shamefully forgotten.
G.I. Nightengales: The Army Nurse Corps in World War II By Barbara Brooks Tomblin (2001) The first full length account of the 60,000 nurses (all volunteers!) who cared for sick and wounded American soldiers from the jungles of the South Pacific to the muddy trenches of Europe. It was often dangerous work and over 200 nurses were killed by accident or enemy action. Others were imprisoned by the Japanese. Tomblin intertwines information from official sources as well as personal interviews to tell a fascinating tale.
I’ll Pass For Your Comrade: Women Soldiers in the Civil War By Anita Silvey (2008) Ever hear of Sarah Emma Edmonds or Mary Galloway?!? No?!? They were two among the hundreds of women who assumed male identities in the Civil War to fight for the Union or Confederate armies alongside the men. Who were these women? Why did they go to war? How did they pull off their subterfuge? Silvey examines diaries, letters, memoirs, regimental records, news clippings and much, much more to shed light on this often overlooked yet fascinating bit of our history.
Code Talker: The First and Only Memoir By One of the Original Navajo Code Talkers of WWII By Chester Nez and Judith Schiess Avila (2012) Chester Nez lied about his age to enlist during WWII where he and 28 other Navajo of Recruit Training Platoon 382 were assigned to Camp Eliot to create a code for secure tactical battlefield communications. The Navajo language having never been written down and being nearly impossible for non-Navajo to learn, it became the one code the Axis could never break.
Forgotten: The Untold Story of D-Day’s Black Heroes, at Home and at War By Linda Hervieux (2015) On June 6th, 1944 the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion landed on the beaches of France. Members of the troop included 17 year old William Dabney and Henry Parham the son of sharecroppers in Virginia. Hervieux brings to life the injustices of Jim Crow America in an extraordinary blend of military and social history.
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