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Reviewed by Carine Engelbrecht for Readers' Favorite
In Alfred: The Quiet History of a World War II Infantryman, Louise Endres Moore chronicles the wartime experiences of her father, Alfred N. Endres. After completing basic training, he is shipped out to Europe when he joins the campaign in Normandy soon after D-day. As a gunner with the 35th Infantry Division, he takes part in the liberation of Saint-Lô, the game-changing Battle of Mortain, and the Battle of the Bulge. His position in the front line exposes him to almost continuous combat and hardship. Following his discharge, Alfred returns to civilian life. For decades, he remains silent about his wartime service until family members begin to engage him about his experiences. Corroborative narratives from the memories of other veterans, whose experiences followed parallel paths, fill in the pauses in her father’s memories. Numerous photographs, letters, cards, maps, and other documents have been included. An appendix towards the end of the biography gives a chronology of Alfred’s tour of duty.
One of the first things that strike you about this book is the realization that history resides not only in memorials and museums but also in the hearts and minds of our elders. It challenges some of the popular myths of wartime glory, replacing them with the less comfortable realities of surviving in the trenches - cold, wet, dirty, and trying not to get killed. What makes this story particularly compelling is the way it delves into the individual histories of soldiers. What makes it authentic is the absolute priority that is given throughout to the first-person narratives of experiencers. Piecing everything together was no small task. I was left with a very strong impression that the true heroism came after the war, in pushing back the hellish memories to return to ordinary life. Alfred: The Quiet History of a World War II Infantryman by Louise Endres Moore is a must for amateur historians with a particular interest in World War Two, but it probably needs a trigger warning, as some details may upset sensitive readers.