Beyond Valor

  • by Patrick K. O'Donnell
  • Narrated by Scott Brick
  • 13 hrs and 50 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Previous books have promised to describe the combat experience of the World War II GI, but there has never been a book like Patrick O'Donnell's Beyond Valor. Here is the first combat history of the war in Europe in the words of the men themselves, and perhaps the most honest and brutal account of combat possible. For more than 50 years the individual stories that make up this narrative - shockingly frank reflections of sacrifice and courage - have been bottled up, buried, or circulated privately. Now, nearing the ends of their lives, our WW II soldiers have at last unburdened themselves.
Beyond Valor recaptures their hidden history. A pioneering oral historian, Patrick O'Donnell used his award-winning website, The Drop Zone, to solicit oral- and "e-histories" from individual soldiers. Gradually, working from within the community, O'Donnell convinced some of the war's most battle-hardened soldiers to tell their stories. The result is WW II seen through the eyes of the men who saw the most intense of its action. O'Donnell focuses on the elite units of the war - the Rangers, Airborne, and 1st Special Service Force - troops that spearheaded the most dangerous operations and often made the difference between victory and defeat.
From more than 650 interviews O'Donnell has chosen oral- and e-histories that form a seamless story line, a pointillistic history of the war in Europe from the first parachute drops in North Africa through the final battles in Germany and the long trip home. It is the story of the war not discussed in polite company. O'Donnell presents the wreckage of entire battalions nearly annihilated, invisible personal scars, and hauntingrevelations of wartime atrocities. But more important are the men who recount lives risked without hesitation for comrades and cause, and those who did not return: the friends who died in their arms. Their stories remind all of us that victory came only at the highest price.
Remembering the infamous cliffs at Pointe-du-Hoc, bloody Omaha Beach, the bitter fighting at the Battle of the Bulge, and Hill 400 in the Hurtgen Forest, the soldiers reveal war as seen, heard, and smelled by the GIs on the front line. Also included is the unique story of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, and the trailblazing African-American "Experimental" Test Platoon that had to fight its own battle behind the lines.

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What the Critics Say

"The pioneering oral historian Patrick K. O'Donnell has done a wonderful job of making the experiences of America's elite troops come alive again in Beyond Valor. These riveting oral and e-mail accounts by glidermen and rangers and paratroopers are reminiscent of such books by Stephen E. Ambrose as D-Day and Citizen Soldiers. (Douglas Brinkley director of the Eisenhower Center and Professor of History at the University of New Orleans)
"[A] fresh, personal, and revealing look into the past." (Library Journal)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Can't get enough.

I can't get enough of the stories of these brave men. It amazes me to think of what they did for America, Europe and the free world. As usual another good narration by Scott Brick. I enjoyed this book almost as much as Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose. If you enjoy stories of unbelievable courage and sacrifice you will like Beyond Valor.
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- jrrich

The Closet Accounts are the Soldiers...

...but as described by one of the Soldiers, (paraphrase) "I can't describe it for you, I can't describe the carnage, the death, the fear, the horror. One can only be there... it can't be described"

This book is everything that so many other books claim to be (i.e., the closest boots on the ground telling). I think this book is right there with Band of Brothers; although Beyond Valor focuses on the Soldiers' experiences and therefore lacks the overall scope of the European Theater of War. The author does attempt to put the oral histories in chronological order. But, this shouldn't be the basis of one's understanding of WWII, rather it should be supplemental to understand the true cost of battle and the aftermath from the survivors' perspectives.

Scott Brick is a fine narrator and I take nothing away from him, but I would've have preferred this audio book be narrated by multiple readers to be more associative with the many different oral histories presented. The narrator attempts to distinguish the voice of the author from that of the Soldiers, but after about two, all the Soldiers' voices merge to one. I had no problem listening to this book at 3x speed.

Seriously this book will now be required reading for my Soldiers. Anyone who claims to love the military and military members, must read this and hear from those Soldiers rather than just the historians discussing the strategic and tactical operations, the Soldiers are the ones who lived it.

Airborne!
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- Jonathan Love

Book Details

  • Release Date: 12-07-2011
  • Publisher: Audible Studios