Mar 1, 2010

Book Review: All American All the Way - A Combat History of the 82nd Airborne Division in World War II

Nordyke, Phil
2 volumes - Zenith Press, 2005

Among the most storied of all American fighting forces are the members of the 82nd Airborne Division, an airborne infantry unit of the United States Army. Nordyke's All American All the Way - The Combat History of the 82nd Airborne Division in World War II provides a highly detailed narrative of the unit's participation in numerous campaigns in the European theater during the Second World War.

Nordyke followed a chronological approach to the history in All American All the Way, and the author relied on the thousands of interviews he has conducted with World War II veterans to tell the story of the 82nd Airborne. Consequently, the straightforward narrative is highly engrossing and as useful for general readers as academics. Consider the visceral imagery in the following quote from Private First Class John Siam discussing the death of a fellow parachutist near the Belgian village of Trois Ponts:
"I looked to my left and saw Gilbert on his hands and knees with blood pouring out of his mouth. He was shot through the nose, and the bullet took his teeth out and came out his ear."
Each volume contains relevant sections of wartime photography related to the 82nd Airborne, and Nordyke included dozens of maps to assist readers who are unfamiliar with European geography. Also of value are the extensive endnotes, the three-page bibliography, and the cross-referenced index.

I recommend this two-volume set to readers who enjoy World War II military history as well to scholars interested in the history of the 82nd Airborne. There are untold hundreds of previously unpublished quotes from retired members of the 82nd Airborne that make Nordyke's work valuable on the basis of its source value alone. The fact that Nordyke is a strong writer makes All American All the Way an important addition to any collection of literature on the Second World War.

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