by Chris Edmonds and Douglas Century
Reviewed by Kirkus Review on October 8, 2019
After discovering that his late father was a war hero, a son takes a deep dive into World War II and the terrors of the Nazi regime.
Along with Century (co-author: Hunting El Chapo, 2018, etc.), Tennessee-based pastor and first-time author Edmonds relates a fascinating war story. When the author’s daughter announced that she wanted to write a school paper on her paternal grandfather, Roddie, it startled him into realizing how little he actually knew about him. He knew from reading his father’s journals that the Nazis had captured him during battle and forced him to spend several months in brutal POW camps. Other than that, Edmonds knew very little. “His descriptions were terse,” writes the author. “Bare facts. Sometimes just fragmented sentences. Mental notes. Personal shorthand. Words clearly scribbled in haste.” Roddie had never spoken of his experiences, and Edmonds had never asked. Now, though, startled by his daughter’s plan, finding out all he could about his father became an obsession. He tracked down everyone he could find whose names were in the journals, and what they told him startled him even more: On more than one occasion, his father had saved the lives of hundreds of fellow POWs by refusing to follow Nazi officers’ orders, despite their threats to kill him if he did not. Ostensibly, the narrative—essentially a love letter from a son to his late father that is occasionally cloying—is about those two episodes, although Edmonds only devotes roughly 10 pages to them. In the bulk of the book, the author describes in chilling, horrifying detail how Nazi soldiers overran an American front line, captured thousands of GIs, forced them to march on frozen and frostbitten feet for days without food or water, and then tortured and starved them in POW camps, often leading to death.
A you-are-there portrait of the horrors of war and the incredible effect one selfless person can have on hundreds.