Foot Soldier

Roscoe C. Blunt, Author Da Capo Press $24.95 (294p) ISBN 978-1-885119-72-8
""I am not a backslapping, let's belly up to the bar and relive the war type,"" writes Blunt, who became an award-winning New England crime journalist after earning the Bronze Star and other commendations for his infantry service--and it shows. There are many WWII officers' memoirs, some from infantrymen, crowding the shelves, but this disturbing and immediately gripping book may be unique among them. In September of 1944, Blunt, nearly 30, was sent with the 84th (""Railsplitter"") infantry division down through Scotland, England and France to the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium. While the typical blow-by-blow descriptions of combat and ruminations on the horrors of war are all here, Blunt's unsparing, matter-of-fact recordings of German and U.S. atrocities (including executions of prisoners on both sides) and his equally unsparing reportage of his reactions to it (obsessive plundering of corpses for ""souvenirs,"" torturing enemy prisoners under his guard, a one-man game of soccer with the head of a dead SS officer), all with only selectively engaged self-reflection, make this a truly chilling account. We don't, however, doubt Blunt's credibility or sense of justice for a minute, particularly given his repeated heroism and vivid accounts of the sub-zero cold (and the persistent trench foot that results) and his participation in a concentration camp liberation. The book, written just after the war, ends abruptly with Blunt's tour, and our relief nearly matches his. (Dec.) Forecast: The book testifies to eye-for-an-eye atrocities in war. For some, Blunt's acts of brutality and plunder will seem justified given what he witnesses and endures. For others, it will show U.S. claims of moral superiority during the war have been greatly exaggerated. Blunt is in his mid-80s; don't be surprised if he is sought out by cable talk shows, especially given the attention the book will garner as a Military Book Club main selection.
Reviewed on: 12/04/2000
Release date: 12/01/2000
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!