One month after coming of age in 1943, Donald R. Burgett was called up for the draft. He was excited to enlist and fight for his country in WWII and chose to sign up for the paratroopers. The training program was rigorous and extremely dangerous with many men never even making it into combat. Donald did, and he was determined to survive the war as well. In Currahee! he takes the reader through the whole process from boot camp, to waiting patiently in England to be called up for combat, and on to his first mission which ironically was one of the most intense and pivotal battles of the war, the Battle of Normandy. Donald miraculously survived those days and lived to tell his amazing tale in Currahee!.
Not being a huge fan of wartime and military history, I don't know if I would have picked up a book like Currahee! independently, but with this abridged version being found in the Reader's Digest Condensed Books - Vol. III, 1967 anthology, I couldn't resist reading it for the sake of completing the book. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by how engaging it was. Donald R. Burgett definitely seems to have a talent for story-telling, as many times, I felt like I was right there with him in the heat of battle. Although the wartime events certainly weren't easy to read about, they were still very interesting, and I feel like I learned some things not only about WWII paratroopers, but also about the Battle of Normandy.
It seems that paratrooper training was pretty brutal and the job itself was incredibly dangerous, so much so that that one of the author's training officers told all the recruits that they probably wouldn't live through the war. As it turns out several never even made it into combat, but were killed during training. The war itself was a horrific thing, and even though the narrative doesn't go into great detail, there were times that my stomach was churning at the mere thought of human beings inflicting that sort of violence and pain on one another. It almost seems that the author and his comrades had to virtually dehumanize the enemy in order to fight them, and cut off their emotions in order to leave their fallen brothers behind. I can't imagine having to do that, so I greatly respect the men and women who have fought for our freedom down through the ages. When Civil War General William T. Sherman said, "War is hell." he certainly had the right of it.
After reading this account, I have to say that Mr. Burgett was certainly an incredibly lucky man. So many times he was nearly killed, not the least of which was when a grenade exploded right next to him, yet somehow he managed to live to tell his amazing tales. I found it extremely ironic that he and all the men from his small barracks room #13 in England actually survived Normandy. Currahee! is a story that I would definitely recommend to anyone who is interested in military history, particularly involving WWII and paratroopers. I generally enjoyed it in spite of this not being a favorite topic. This abridged version appears to be a little less than half the length of the original book, but it was edited fairly well, as there were only a few times that I felt like the narrative jumped forward a bit too quickly.
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