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Unsung ValorUnsung Valor

A GIís Story of World War II

A. Cleveland Harrison

Narrated by Don Moffit

Approximately 14 hours

Unabridged


Downloadable edition:

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Book published by University Press of Mississippi


When drafted into the army in 1943, A. Cleveland Harrison was a reluctant eighteen-year-old Arkansas student sure that he would not make a good soldier. But inside thirty months he manfully bore arms and more. This book is his memoir about becoming a soldier, a common infantryman among the ranks of those who truly won the war.

After the Allied victory in 1945, books by and about the major statesmen, generals, and heroes of World War II appeared regularly. Yet millions of American soldiers who helped achieve and secure victory slipped silently into civilian life, trying to forget the war and what they had done. Most remain unsung, for virtually none thought of themselves as exceptional. During the war ordinary soldiers had only done what they believed their country expected.

Harrison's firsthand account is the full history of what happened to him in three units from 1943 to 1946, disclosing the sensibilities, the conflicting emotions, and the humor that coalesced within the naive draftee. He details the induction and basic training procedures, his student experiences in Army pre-engineering school, his infantry training and overseas combat, battle wounds and the complete medical pipeline of hospitalization and recovery, the waits in replacement depots, life in the Army of Occupation, and his discharge.

Wrenched from college and denied the Army Specialized Training Program's promise of individual choice in assignment, students were thrust into the infantry. Harrison's memoir describes training in the Ninety-fourth Infantry Division in the U.S., their first combat holding action at Lorient, France, and the division's race to join Patton's Third Army, where Harrison's company was decimated and he was wounded while attacking the Siegfried Line. Reassigned to the U.S. Group Control Council, he had a unique opportunity to observe both the highest echelons in military government and the ordinary soldiers as Allied troops occupied Berlin.

This veteran's memoir reveals all aspects of military life and sings of those valorous but ordinary soldiers who achieved the victory.

A. Cleveland Harrison is an emeritus professor of theatre at Auburn University.

REVIEWS:

“Half a century ago, Harrison, now emeritus professor of theater at Auburn University, experienced just a single day of combat in his two years of military service. Still, he, no less than other more experienced soldiers, was shaped by WW II. A relatively privileged middle-class boy from Little Rock, Ark., Harrison was not an enthusiastic draftee—so he was pleased to be assigned initially to an Army Specialized Training Program, which selected the best and brightest draftees for technical and professional education in civilian colleges. (Relatively little is known about that program, and Harrison's description of his days as a uniformed student at the University of Mississippi make a contribution to the war's social history.) But in 1944, when the program was cut back and men were needed as infantry replacements on the front, Harrison was reassigned to the 94th Infantry Division; shipped to Europe in July, he was badly wounded in his first action. Combining a novelist's sense of people and events with the story of his development into an infantryman—not an eager soldier but a good one—Harrison describes his hospitalization, convalescence in England and subsequent assignment to a branch of the military government of occupied Germany—the kind of assignment ASTP graduates were supposed to receive in the first place. The result is a celebration of every draftee who came when he was called, did his duty where he was assigned and came back to shape America's century, and a reminder that every soldier's experience was, in the end, distinct.”

Publishers Weekly

“Drafted in 1942 and sent to the Army Special Training Program, Harrison received engineering training. When the desperate need for replacements forced the ASTP's termination, he was sent to the Ninety-fourth Infantry Division. With it, he was in the siege of the French port Lorient, and the Battle of the Bulge, in which a land mine seriously wounded him. Assigned to military government after hospitalization, he served in occupation forces in Germany until well after V-E Day. His memoir adds to our knowledge about many aspects of the American war experience—about GI relations with the English, Germans, and French; about the goof-offs and the genuine heroes among the GIs; about the nightmare of military hospitals; and much else—from the perspective of an educated southerner tossed in among nonsoutherners. Besides its sociohistorical value, Harrison's memoir tells a thoroughly engrossing story, relaying an unusual and articulate private's view that makes a fitting companion to such broad overviews as Tom Brokaw's best-seller The Greatest Generation.”

Booklist

“A treasure trove of a soldier's detailed memories of World War II, written by an ex-GI who was there day by day.”

—Robert Kotlowitz, author of Before Their Time

“Cleveland Harrison's Unsung Valor will intrigue anyone interested in how young men once achieved adulthood in war, overcame fear, and dealt with mortality — their own and others'. With a style as clear as spring water, a sense of the dramatic, and a gentle flavor of humor in the midst of both chaos and barracks-room boredom, Harrison brilliantly recalls his youth in the army late in World War II. As a moving recollection, Unsung Valor typifies the experience of so many others in the European theater who faced grim realities with a surprising innocence and a firm integrity.”

—Bertram Wyatt-Brown, University of Florida

“The story of the ordinary soldier is the hardest of all war-stories to tell. Cleveland Harrison has told his with remarkable clarity and detail. His war-story has no great battles in it, nothing you'd get a medal for; but it captures the day-to-day experiences of one draftee's journey through army life: the training, the waiting, and the terrifying confusion of first combat. It's an essential part of the total story, and many old soldiers will find their own selves when young in it.”

—Samuel Hynes, Princeton University

“We all owe A. Cleveland Harrison a profound thank you for writing Unsung Valor: A GI's Story of World War II. It's a searing saga of one man's indomitable spirit, undaunted courage and patriotic humility. One doesn't have to be a World War II scholar to enjoy this marvelous memoir.”

—Douglas Brinkley, Eisenhower Center of American Studies Distinguished Professor of History, University of New Orleans




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University Press Audiobooks