Flat-Bottom Odyssey: From North Africa to D-Day

ISBN: 978-0-692-00895-9
Review Date:

In Jun 1942, recent college graduate Gene Jaeger joined the US Navy and became a junior officer serving aboard ships known as "Landing Ship, Tank", also known in the shortened form LST. His experiences aboard LST-400 formed the core of his war time memoir Flat-Bottom Odyssey, covering events as he saw them from the deck of his ship. In easy-to-read prose that leaned toward casual narration, he told the service history of LST-400, which sailed from Virginia, United States to the Mediterranean Sea in time to support the campaign in Italy. LST-400 then moved on to support the Normandy, France invasion, where Jaeger encountered both wounded Allied troops and prisoners of war. Anti-climatically, the final months of his service resembled more so a drifter than a servicemen, floating from base to base as he tried to hitch rides on ships to take him to his next assignment, but I particularly enjoyed his description of Shanghai, China and the desolation that remained after years of Japanese occupation. I appreciated Jaeger's up-front disclaimer that he could only relay what he saw with his eyes, thus this memoir could not be used to supplement works of history. Even more so, I appreciated his note at the end of the book which stated:

I am surprised to see how easily I could move from the gut-wrenching experience of killing our airborne soldiers at Sicily to a frivolous caper with wine bottles in Oran.... Only a very young man can do that.

Above all, I appreciated his willingness to tell of his story, even if his story was but a single thread in the giant weave of world history.

Flat-Bottom Odyssey, with very plain language and small in size, was a very quick read; I imagine some of WW2DB's visitors could finish it in just a few sittings. If you are a reader of memoirs, this title may be of your interest. If not, perhaps the small size will entice you since it will not take too much time away from other books on your reading list.

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