Few people knew more about the history of human conflict than Professor Hugh Nibley. But on June 6, 1944, at Utah Beach, he learned more about war than he had gleaned from all the books he'd read combined. General Maxwell Taylor assigned Sergeant Nibley to educate the officers of the 101st Airborne about warfare. But it was the professor himself that received an education while fighting as a member of the most legendary unit of the United States Army.
Most war memoirs come either from the bird's-eye view of the general or from the visceral but limited scope of the common soldier. Because of Nibley's unique situation, this book blends both perspectives. From the narrow view of a sergeant in a foxhole to the broader perspective of an intelligence specialist, his experience offers an intimate, realistic and articulate view of World War II.
I am a Hugh Nibley fan but not a WWII fan. I read this book to understand more about Nibley and was not disappointed in the least. In fact, it has given me some understanding of, and interest in, war and its absurdity, and a greater respect for Hugh Nibley. It is very enlightening regarding the United States' involvement in the North European phase of WWII. Considering the state of our world situation today, this is a great read for every American. Hugh and his son Alex perform a great service with this book. It is well written, easy to read, and very interesting--a hard-to-put-down book.
I have been keenly interested in World War II and a fan of Nibley for years, but I suppose that I am not alone in discovering that Nibley, one of the most brilliant historians to have ever lived, was right smack in the middle of some of the most momentous events in earth’s history. The reason few people outside the Church know anything about this astoundingly informed historical scholar is because he always shunned personal accolades or self promotion, which is precisely why, despite his age, his PhD and his ROTC training, he decided to avoid being made an officer. His marvelous intellect and his position as an intelligence NCO, combined with the experiences as a missionary in Germany after the first world war, provides a totally unique perspective on the allied campaign against the Nazis. He clearly understands the evil of Hitler's regime and the need to confront it, but at the same time makes quite plain the absurdity of war, the failures to learn from history, and the frequent mindlessness of the military. He is never bitter, rather bemused. As always he has a sharp wit and a fair amount of self deprecation that is a pleasure to read. I was so impressed by his obvious bravery and selflessness as his experiences were retold by his son through old letters, diary entries, and recollections of his fellow soldiers, and equally impressed by how Professor Nibley consistently downplays his involvement, without any phony humility. The other thing that makes this such a hard book to put down is the way in which it is compiled and presented on the page. Hugh Nibley's son compiled the book from interviews he did with his father in his last years, as well as letters and diary entries from the war, recollections from soldiers that knew Nibley well, and writings by respected historians and prominent figures from the war (ie, Hitler, Speer, Churchill, Eisenhower, Bradley, Patton, etc). All these different sources are mixed together and arranged chronologically to tell the tale of the war from multiple perspectives. These are presented in different fonts, often placed in separate boxes, so as to distinguish them from one another and also keep the reader's attention. There are also numerous black and white photos throughout, always serving to illustrate the subject being discussed on that page. I am generally not a voracious reader, but I had a hard time putting this book down. With few exceptions, Nibley praises the men he associated with in the Army, from his fellow intelligence officers (also very educated and bright), to the rough and ready airborne troops. Get this book if you would like to read a very engaging account of the Americans' northern European war effort, told from a very unique perspective, by a quite humble, witty, brilliant man. How does a dutiful, principled intellectual without any desire for self aggrandizement react to the worst calamities mankind can invent? That is what you will learn when you read this book.