Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Review Date: 6 Apr 2018
Full Title: Forgotten: The Untold Story of D-Day's Black Heroes, at Home and at War
When we think of the 1944 Allied invasion of Normandy, we would not necessarily think of the small number of African-American troops that the US Army had employed, but they were there. Racial prejudice brushed the accomplishments of these black troops aside, and Linda Hervieux made her attempt to correct this wrong with her book Forgotten. When the author was able to stay on topic, she described the experiences of these men in vivid detail. Her telling of white officers passing blame of their own leadership failures to their black subordinates made me frown, and her stories of black soldiers being beaten by their white countrymen for dating French women made me aghast, and some white soldier's behavior toward dark-skinned British Commonwealth troops made me ashamed of this ugly period of my country's past. The author's in-depth research, a great deal of which were from primary sources, made parts this book an absolute treasure on the topic of racial matters in the US military.
For all of Hervieux's successes with this book, I felt she also suffered a failure as far as the scope of the book was concerned. As I had previously alluded to, while the book was about the experiences of the African-American men of the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion, the topics of discussion went so far and wide that there were actually times that I had forgotten about the main point was the book was about. A brief history of the Tuskegee airmen perhaps could be justified as a comparison of those pilots' experience with the barrage balloon men, but why dedicate a whole chapter to the history of ballooning? Did the history of Atlantic City really needed to take up as much room as it did? Were the Slapton Sands incident and Erwin Rommel's defense strategy really relevant in a book about social injustice?
I had reviewed this title in its audio book format. Ron Butler did a great job with his performance, but the book major weakness that I had noted earlier made this book difficult to follow in audio form, for that the story was disconnected and difficult to follow.
Forgotten took on an important topic in American history, and Hervieux succeeded in making sure stories of these black fighting men would be passed on to the next generations. In my opinion, the author's inability to stay focused took a great deal away from this book, however.
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James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, 23 Feb 1945