Monday, August 3, 2015

Book Review: Messengers of the Lost Battalion by Gregory Orfalea


     After reading Go Set a Watchman, this book was quite the wonder! I set out to read this work of non-fiction in order to better know what my father experienced in the war (World War II). I came away from this book with so much more. It is well researched and written in detail from first hand accounts given to Mr. Orfalea by the veterans who survived and from the author's travels to the battle sights. Mr. Orfalea's father served in this battalion. He was tragically killed later in life, compelling his son to search for the truth about his father's service in the 551st in a similar way that I have been searching for mine. In particular, this book documents the movements of the 551st Paratrooper Infantry Battalion (PIB) known as the GOYAS from their time at Camp Mackall, NC. to Panama, Africa, Italy, France, Belgium, and finally to Germany in 1945. Their story is riveting and I found myself forgetting that this wasn't a novel at all, but the true story of my father. I honestly could not put the book down. Imagine my surprise while reading one afternoon and coming to the following passage:

"Dysentery swept through the unit, probably from bad water. At one point 75 percent of the men suffered from it. In the evenings, a huge radio in the care of a Scottish unit nearby drowned their moans with news of the bogged-down invasion force at Normandy and the attempted breakout at the Falaise pocket. To distract themselves, Bill Hatcher, Joe Edgerly, Gene Cherry, Ted Bass, and a few others decided to put on a floor show to entertain their Scottish counterparts. Hatcher played clarinet, and Charlie Giacomo played guitar. A lieutenant did a striptease of his combat arms, fatigues, parachute boots, even his underdrawers. The Scots brayed loudly."

     Charlie Giacomo played guitar! That's my dad!! They misspelled his last name, but someone remembered him to the author. Seeing his name on the printed page cemented him into the remainder of the book as I read on. Mr. Charette, with whom I'm corresponding, is also named in the book. I can't wait to write him and ask if he's read it.
     I have so many mixed emotions about this book and given my personal interest, it's hard to give an unbiased opinion. It's a great book with or without my dad, of course. Perhaps these accounts of war should be required reading at the upper high school level. I'm sure it would cause society in general to treat our veterans with much greater respect. I also think the general population who are kept safe in our homes by our valiant military would do well to know more than what the nightly news reports to us. Mr. Orfalea tells this story in detail, with truth and tenderness. I have learned so much.

1 comment:

  1. That's wonderful that your dad appears in the book! Yes - my dad shared a few WWII experiences with me after his stroke (seemed to open up some memories) - we definitely owe them.