Currahee! A Screaming Eagle at Normandy
Contributor: Bryan Hiatt
Review Date: 1 Jun 2005
Band of Brothers fans, repeat after me: there is more to the 101st Airborne than Easy Company, 506th. There were OTHER regiments in the 101st and several Easy companies. See author Mark Bando's excellent history here. While the mini-series brought Hollywood-style history to the mainstream, there were other soldiers who fought through Europe and made equally important contributions. Don Burgett is one of them.
Currahee! A Screaming Eagle at Normandy (1967) is the memoir of an A company man, 1st battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment. And it is a classic. What Burgett delivers is nothing short of astounding, all while stripping his descriptions to the core. Yet as a reader, I'm amazed that the author managed to do so much in 202 pages.
At its core, Currahee! is a stark, grim, and sometimes surprising read. For instance, consider
- witnessing, as Burgett did, a C-47 flying so low on D-Day, that troopers exited the plane and fell to their deaths BEFORE their parachutes had a chance to deploy (87);
- seeing dead troopers with their pants down (lying shoulder to shoulder) each with missing genitals (118-119);
- the author's own desire and effort to scalp a long-haired German soldier after shooting him (134-135);
- watching American shells fall short in support of an attack and kill and wound other paratroopers (122);
- the author hearing of his friends' effort to bag a sniper: one who went into the open with a flak vest and is shot twice (incurring no wounds) while the other acted as spotter and shooter (161-161).
In each of these circumstances, the author doesn't pause much to consider the "whys" behind what he experiences or hears. Rather, he gives readers short explanations, then he's off to the next subject. What Burgett provides fits the nature of events as he experienced them, as a paratrooper, on the move. It should come as no surprise to readers, as Burgett describes passing a crying 4th Division dogface holding a dead buddy shot through the neck, when he says "we couldn't sit around and cry about it [among the dead and wounded were many of the author's friends]. We had Germans to kill" (172-173).
If you want to know more about paratroopers in Normandy, get Currahee! ($7 paperback). It is one of the few books that General Eisenhower endorsed about World War II. He wrote:
"A fascinating tale of personal combat...portrays the courage, endurance, initiatives and fighting qualities of an American soldier on a European battlefield of World War II." (from the back cover)
Readers interested in other books by the author should invest in The Road to Arnhem—A Screaming Eagle in Holland, Seven Roads to Hell—A Screaming Eagle at Bastogne, and Beyond the Rhine—A Screaming Eagle in Germany. Buy them new to make sure the author gets his just due. For others interested in reading more from Don Burgett, check out Mark Bando's Trigger Time web site. In the discussion forum, Burgett posts regularly about his experiences in World War II.
Source: Mark Bando's Trigger Time web site.
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