On Time, on Target: The World War II Memoir OS a Field Artillery Paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne

John McKenzie, Author
John McKenzie, Author Presidio Press $27.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-89141-714-9
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
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McKenzie belonged to the less than 20% of the 82nd Airborne that survived a bewildering variety of missions physically unscathed. From spring 1943 until discharge in January 1946, McKenzie was for the most part an artillery observer for the 456th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion, serving in major battles in Normandy; in Holland (Operation Market Garden of A Bridge Too Far fame); in Belgium to hold ""the Bulge""; in Germany at the Siegfried Line and later in occupied Berlin. These pages show him to have been a capable, sensitive, observant 20-year-old, one who went on after the war to become a chemical engineer and businessman (since his retirement, he has published Uncertain Glory, a study of Robert E. Lee). McKenzie's comments about the battles in which he participated are instructive about daily life in his unit, as are his characterizations of adversaries and Allies. There are numerous pointed and memorable anecdotes, such as the ""[o]ne little game the Russians liked to play"" when encountering American soldiers, which was to ""draw their pistols like gunfighters. Our problem was that we could not tell whether it was a bluff or a real threat since we could not understand what they were saying. Rather than wait to see... we simply shot them."" For McKenzie, who suffered psychological traumas--survivor guilt, depression, repression of memories--writing this account constituted a therapeutic endeavor, one that survivors and fans of the genre alike will appreciate for its candor and heart. (July)
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