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Our Book of the Week Is...

Normandy 1944: A Young Rifleman's War
by Dick Stodghill

This is the Battle of Normandy, neither glamorized nor sanitized, as seen from ground level during the bloody summer of 1944—the personal experiences of an 18-year-old 4th Infantry Division rifleman who joined his company shortly after D-Day. He quickly came to admire and respect the men of G Company, then was close by as one by one many of them died during the horrific fighting in the fields and streets of a normally beautiful and tranquil land.

Here are the realities of that war: opening the casualty blanket rolls, seeing the dead being buried in mattress covers, the sounds, the smells and the fears of men in infantry combat. A glimpse, too, of the boys who fought the battles of World War II as they grew up or matured during the Great Depression, the rigors of infantry basic training, life in England in the weeks leading up to D-Day.


Superbly written war account.
As I write this review, I am nearly three-quarters through Dick Stodghill’s book, Normandy: A young rifleman’s war. I have only had the book a few days, carrying it back and forth from my job each day. My break time at work provides me the best opportunity for reading. However, I’ve found it nearly impossible to tear myself away from Dick’s book when it’s time to go back to work. I have always loved reading anything to do with history and of course Dick’s book centers around that. I’ve watched countless documentaries concerning WW2, in particular the Normandy invasion: Dick’s book has filled in the many ‘gaps’ left out by those. I’ve come away with a much better understanding of what our troops went through in liberating France. Dick was there and gives a first hand, undiluted, account of what took place: He did not embellish nor detract from those events, simply told it as it was. Dick did not write to impress anyone nor to try and make it appear he or others were not anything other than what they were or what they did. In essence Dick’s book is an honest, sometimes brutal, account of the war and its combatants. I would greatly recommend this book to anyone that wants to learn from someone who’s been there, what it was like: Keeping in mind no one can truly know what it was like and should be very glad and hope they never will know. Dick and others like him who served in WW2 are getting fewer and fewer as age does what the war was unable to do. I am so glad that Dick has written this book so that these memories are not erased, for we the beneficiaries should have something to remind us why war is so terrible, not glorious. Richard Neal Huffman - Author of Dreams In Blue: The Real Police.--Richard, Michigan

Normandy 1944 - A Young Rifleman's War
Dick Stodghill has written a very penetrating book about the days following the June 6, 1944 landing of the allied invasion forces at Normandy on the beaches of France. Dick’s description of war comes from the eyes of a young soldier who saw war from the perspective of men who experienced war from foxholes, artillery craters, and behind or under anything that might provide protection, even if that protection was only temporary. His eyes saw war through the eyes of other soldiers too; eyes that portrayed the misery, horror, sudden death, and the sharp edges of war that permanently wound the soul. He also saw war through the eyes of soldiers whose eyes would never open again. Dick Stodghill experienced and witnessed first-hand the unfolding of war as it seemed to progress in some bizarre organized confusion; that unreal vantage point from which men who do the fighting and dying, and those who somehow miraculously manage to survive and come home, yet never able to forget the images of war that were painted so indelibly upon their memories. Often feeling helpless yet duty bound to follow orders from somewhere above; it is the riflemen, the grunts, the gravel crunchers, the mud dogs, those heroes of battle who must carry on, day by miserable day, to final victory or defeat. This book is a fitting tribute to all the soldiers who brought us victory in one of the world’s greatest conflicts. ‘Normandy 1944 – A Young Rifleman’s War’ is one of those books that should be mandatory reading for military officers attending senior officer schools such as the Army’s Command and General Staff College and War College. The best officers come from those officers who have walked in the boots of their men.--Jim, Coastal Georgia

I have photographs taken in Normandy in 1984 of my young children standing in front of ruins of military vehicles still at the site. As I look into the faces of my children in the photos, I realize they were only a couple of years younger than Dick Stodghill was when he was there to fight a war. I remember looking down at the pristine Normandy beaches and thinking if I had not known what had happened there from history books, and had not seen the memorials or walked through the cemetery, I would still have known something monumental had occurred there. As others have said also, when standing there looking down at the sea, tears come from unknown places in one’s being. As I read Normandy 1944, by Dick Stodghill, I realized the writer’s memory is phenomenal and his skill as a writer outstanding. He remembered the words of comrades as well as the looks on their faces. This book is filled with unusual incidents, incidents that are not in the history books. Dick writes with a matter-of-fact style that influenced this reader to believe he is speaking the absolute truth. Dick speaks of heroes and villains, which include both generals and privates, on both sides of the war. He gives the glory to his comrades who gave their lives and at times saved his. In June 1994, we were again visiting Normandy with friends. The father of one of these friends had also fought there in 1944. We drove through towns with more American flags than I had ever seen in one day. We stayed at a hotel in Calais filled with veterans who had come over on a ferry from the same place in England they had left 50 years before. In 1994, they had come thanks to the London taxicab drivers, who also brought their taxicabs and would take the veterans to the events the next day commemorating D-Day. We spent the evening in the bar listening to stories from these men, men with stories similar to Dick’s. The next morning we got up early and shook their hands as we saw them off to spend a day far different than they had fifty years before. Dick Stodghill was also on those roads in 1994. Perhaps we ate at the same restaurant or stopped at the same commemorative site. We need to listen to all these stories because as Dick says, “An infantryman may survive the battles, but will forever be burdened with the memories.” I am reminded of a Walt Whitman poem written in 1865, where he speaks of those suffering after a battle being the “musing comrade and the remaining armies.” What you will find in this book is summed up in a quote Dick includes from Field-Marshall Lord Wavell to Basil Liddell Hart, “If I had anything like your abilities to study war, I think I would concentrate almost entirely on the ‘actualities’ of war—the effects of tiredness, hunger, fear, lack of sleep, weather….” Dick has done this in a remarkable way with words that will not soon be forgotten. This is one of the best books on World War II I have ever read. It brings history alive most effectively for this and future generations.--Carol, Wisconsin

The way it was
This is not a Hollywood version of a WWII story, or a glorified historical version of events. It is the way it really happened. This is a down to earth in the trenches account of what it was like for an infantryman in the thick of battle in Normandy in 1944. Although our troops were there to fight for our country, their main goal was to stay alive during a horrendous time. The author is an experienced writer. He puts you in the middle of the action. I felt like I was right there. You can feel the fear; hear the exploding shells and gunfire and, see the death and destruction all around. It makes you wonder about the insanity of war. It also makes you realize that although the enemy must be destroyed they were men with families and dreams too. Many young people today do not realize the sacrifices of their forefathers. When they complain that they can’t find a parking place close to the door of Wal-Mart and have to walk the extra distance they should read how far the troops had to walk. When they complain that the fast food restaurant forgot to put tomatoes on their burger, they should realize what those fighting men had to eat day after day. If a person today complains they are tired and have to work overtime, they should learn how the men in the thick of battle received no sleep or break even when beyond exhaustion. I totally enjoyed this reading experience and recommend the book to all.--Barb, Florida

Normandy 1944: A Young Rifleman's War
Dick Stodghill has made one thing clear in his book and that is war meant comrades in arms. That is what motivated him and the men that fought around him to continue on when things might have at times seemed otherwise senseless to them. I read this book and was enamered with Dick Stodghill's quality storytelling while at the same time telling us in graphic detail what actually happened during those trying summer months in 1944. Please put this book on your must read list. Historian or not, WWII buff or not, you will not be disappointed. I guarantee it.--Charlie, SE Idaho, US

Normandy 1944, A Young Rifleman's War
NORMANDY 1944, A Young Rifleman’s War By Dick Stodghill Review by Ron Kruger, newspaper columnist for 30 years and author of “A Higher Good.” Did you every wonder what it’s like to actually be in combat? I’m not talking about some movie or some glorified account, or even how history records it, but a candid and painfully sincere account by someone with more practical experience at war than any man should have to endure. Dick Stodghill’s account of “A Young Rifleman’s War” is the finest account of front-line combat I’ve ever read, and to do it justice with a few short paragraphs is impossible. Though he talks often of heroism, you are left with the impression that the reasons he made it through such a harrowing and lengthy ordeal was simply luck and his ability to duck. I’ve known a few men over the years who have been in heavy and extended combat. None of them, even when pressed, would talk about it much, except to each other. “You had to be there to understand,” is what I heard most often. Dick Stodghill answered all those questions for me with candid and clear prose that put me not only in the thick of battle but inside the mind of a humble infantry man. To recall and recount the many battles must have required almost as much courage as to be there.--Ron, Kentucky

Normandy 1944
The most honest story of WWII that I have ever read. It does not dwell on heroics but tells a story as it really happened. The author is brilliant in the way he describes the realities of war and of the fighting man. The drudgery and treachery of war comes alive in the telling. The shortcomings of leadership and downright incompetence of some are not spared from the pen. Respect and even compassion at times for the enemy is unusual in a story of this nature. Dick Stodghill has made a lasting impression on me. He is what a real soldier is made of. He loathed what he had to do, but did his duty for his country.--Abe March, Germany

Excellent account of Infantry in WWII
Dick Stodghill's "Normandy 1944" is spellbinding, I couldn't put it down. I've read military books all my life, am the historian of the National 4th Infantry Division Association (and know a lot about the battles Dick fought in). I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to see what a rifleman in the hedgerows of France went through in June, July, and August 1944. Dick has preserved a valuable piece of history from the European theater of WWII.--Bob, Georgia, USA

Edward Wolfe
My father is Edward Wolfe and I read your original manuscript. Thank you so much for telling your story, his story, and so many other brave men's stories!--Carin Wolfe-Solis, Georgia, USA

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