The Deserters by Charles Glass
A Hidden History of World War II

82%

6 Critic Reviews

Glass's history might be one of the best ways of relaying the experience of war: through the eyes of the young men who charged into the line of fire, gave up the ghost, and whose only reward was living to tell the tale.
-Publishers Weekly

Synopsis

“Powerful and often startling…The Deserters offers a provokingly fresh angle on this most studied of conflicts.” --The Boston Globe

A groundbreaking history of ordinary soldiers struggling on the front lines, The Deserters offers a completely new perspective on the Second World War. Charles Glass—renowned journalist and author of the critically acclaimed Americans in Paris: Life and Death Under Nazi Occupation—delves deep into army archives, personal diaries, court-martial records, and self-published memoirs to produce this dramatic and heartbreaking portrait of men overlooked by their commanders and ignored by history.

Surveying the 150,000 American and British soldiers known to have deserted in the European Theater, The Deserters: A Hidden History of World War II tells the life stories of three soldiers who abandoned their posts in France, Italy, and Africa. Their deeds form the backbone of Glass’s arresting portrait of soldiers pushed to the breaking point, a sweeping reexamination of the conditions for ordinary soldiers.

With the grace and pace of a novel, The Deserters moves beyond the false extremes of courage and cowardice to reveal the true experience of the frontline soldier. Glass shares the story of men like Private Alfred Whitehead, a Tennessee farm boy who earned Silver and Bronze Stars for bravery in Normandy—yet became a gangster in liberated Paris, robbing Allied supply depots along with ordinary citizens. Here also is the story of British men like Private John Bain, who deserted three times but never fled from combat—and who endured battles in North Africa and northern France before German machine guns cut his legs from under him. The heart of The Deserters resides with men like Private Steve Weiss, an idealistic teenage volunteer from Brooklyn who forced his father—a disillusioned First World War veteran—to sign his enlistment papers because he was not yet eighteen. On the Anzio beachhead and in the Ardennes forest, as an infantryman with the 36th Division and as an accidental partisan in the French Resistance, Weiss lost his illusions about the nobility of conflict and the infallibility of American commanders.

Far from the bright picture found in propaganda and nostalgia, the Second World War was a grim and brutal affair, a long and lonely effort that has never been fully reported—to the detriment of those who served and the danger of those nurtured on false tales today. Revealing the true costs of conflict on those forced to fight, The Deserters is an elegant and unforgettable story of ordinary men desperately struggling in extraordinary times.
 

About Charles Glass

See more books from this Author
CHARLES GLASS was the chief Middle East correspondent for ABC News from 1983 to 1993 and has covered wars in the Middle East, Africa, and the Balkans. His writings appear in Harper’s Magazine, The New York Review of Books, The London Review of Books, The Independent, and The Spectator. He is the author most recently of Americans in Paris: Life and Death Under Nazi Occupation.www.charlesglass.net
 
Published June 13, 2013 by Penguin Books. 417 pages
Genres: History, War, Biographies & Memoirs, Travel. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for The Deserters
All: 6 | Positive: 5 | Negative: 1

NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Dwight Garner on Jun 09 2013

These men’s stories are not uninteresting, but Mr. Glass tells them at numbing length in bare, reportorial prose that rarely picks up much resonance...We lose sight of this book’s larger topic for many pages at a time.

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Guardian

Excellent
Reviewed by Neal Ascherson on Mar 28 2013

...because they are the stories of individual human beings who eventually cracked under the strain of hardly imaginable fear and misery – they are wonderful, unforgettable acts of witness

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Publishers Weekly

Excellent
on Jul 01 2013

Glass's history might be one of the best ways of relaying the experience of war: through the eyes of the young men who charged into the line of fire, gave up the ghost, and whose only reward was living to tell the tale.

Read Full Review of The Deserters: A Hidden Histo... | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

WSJ online

Above average
Reviewed by Andrew Roberts on Jul 21 2013

By focusing on the stories of three deserters—two Americans, one Briton—Mr. Glass argues persuasively that deserters weren't the cowards of popular assumption but rational men making a natural choice to stay alive. He clearly believes that the punishments against such men were harsh...

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Kirkus

Good
on Jun 08 2013

A well-written, fast-moving treatment of an issue still relevant today.

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Toronto Star

Good
Reviewed by Georgie Binks on Aug 23 2013

The Deserters is an important book. It not only tells a story that has gone under-reported, but Glass has paid a wonderful tribute to these soldiers. They are as much a part of the story as the soldiers who stayed in battle.

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77%

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