Omaha Beach and Beyond
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Review Date: 16 Apr 2010
Full Title: Omaha Beach and Beyond: The Long March of Sergeant Bob Slaughter
Bob Slaughter was a rather typical teenager from rural America in the 1930s and the early 1940s, working physically demanding jobs for some extra money for the family and sometimes for the luxury of catching a Saturday morning matinee at the movie theater in town. Though it was not the sole determinant, the steady pay of the National Guard was among the main reasons why he entered military service. As the United States entered the war, he quickly found himself being transferred to Britain and being prepared for the Normandy invasion, and Omaha Beach and Beyond was his memoir of war time experiences.
As the title suggested, the Normandy landing was the main attraction of the book, and Slaughter told his stories with vivid detail.
Being only one person on a chaotic beach, he could only see so much, and he seemed to have recognized that limitation. To make up for this shortfall, a sizeable collection Normandy landing experiences of other US 29th Division soldiers was attached to the book as an appendix, which was certainly a nice addition to Slaughter's story.
There certainly were contemporary warriors who were also great writers; the names Manchester and Sledge came to mind immediately as my favorites among warrior-scholars. Slaughter, unfortunately, was not one of them. I found his narratives plain and undecorated at times, my eyes moving forward solely to learn more about his experiences without a distinct sense of enjoyment on the art of writing. There was something to be said about the straightforwardness of his narration, however, as it provided me a genuine insight to his to-the-point personality that seemed to have shaped his decision making process as a soldier fighting in Europe. A positive side effect the concise language was that it made the book an easy read.
The portion of the book that I enjoyed the most was his close encounters with German soldiers, experiences that led him to see them not just as faceless enemy soldiers. His encounter at a field hospital with Fritz Reinhardt, a German medic shot by an Allied soldier in the stomach while wearing large red crosses on both sides of his torso, gave him the feeling that "under different circumstances we might have been friends."
Like many other memoirs of veterans from this time period, Slaughter some of the lighter side of things, such as his story of sneaking into town during training and getting caught by an officer. Stories such as these certified to the readers that, despite Slaughter was being trained as a killer, he was still a man like the rest of us before all else.
Throughout Omaha Beach and Beyond, Slaughter modestly presented himself as someone who was just doing his job, while proclaiming those around him as the true heroes. Whether he could claim a little more credit than he did would be a questions perhaps best answered by each of the readers of Slaughter's memoir.
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Lt. Gen. Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller, at Guadalcanal