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The Boys' Crusade: The American Infantry in Northwestern Europe, 1944-45
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The Boys' Crusade: The American Infantry in Northwestern Europe, 1944-45 (Modern Library Chronicles #14)

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  293 ratings  ·  41 reviews
The Boys’ Crusade is the great historian Paul Fussell’s unflinching and unforgettable account of the American infantryman’s experiences in Europe during World War II. Based in part on the author’s own experiences, it provides a stirring narrative of what the war was actually like, from the point of view of the children—for children they were—who fought it. While dealing de ...more
Paperback, 184 pages
Published September 13th 2005 by Modern Library (first published 2003)
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Eric
Feb 23, 2012 Eric rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: war
Richard Yates was one of the terrified teenage draftees in what Fussell (after Vonnegut) calls “the boys’ crusade”—the high school class of 1944 starting the fall in the shitty mud and bloody snow of Northern Europe, the hastily trained replacements of the summer’s losses. Biographer Blake Bailey records that Yates emerged from the months of German shelling and gunfights in quaint villages with what would be a lifelong motto for endurance of adversity: keep a tight asshole. When things are rough ...more
Jonfaith
This was a present for my father which I subsequently took out in the backyard on a subsequent visit to read while avoiding him. This is a sad and ongoing condition.

The book is also disturbing, a sage counterpoint to the warmongering shit of Stephen Ambrose. Fussell's work puts myths to rest and reminds us of the horrific.
Gary Foss
Paul Fussell might be my new history hero. I mean that literally, and in the most positive possible sense, but Professor Fussell might not approve of that appellation. His work is itself a warning against the idolatry of war and, as a byproduct, the mythologizing of soldiers (whom Fussell insists--rightly--on calling "boys" throughout his history) into something other than desperate children trapped in desperate situations. Heroes might very well come from battle, but it is a world of villainy t ...more
Brendan
In his opening pages, Fussell recalls the famed Children's Crusade of the early 13th century, when 50,000 young people may or may not have marched into the Holy Land in an attempt to free it of Islam. It was an adventure that strikes modern sensibilities as nothing if not appalling.

He then points to Eisenhower's unironic invocation of the term "crusade" 700 years later, on the eve of D-day. It was an invasion that would cost 135,000 American boys their lives -- boys, Fussell points out, who were
...more
Ryan
While WWII is sometimes called the Good War, this book explains how it wasn't the Perfect War and that there really isn't a Good War, no matter how right we think we are. I get that in war, decisions are made that are part of the whole 'winning the war' thing but so often the lives destroyed are overlooked. The focus is the last 9 months or so of the war in northern Europe when more and more infantry were being thrown at the battle - most of them barely trained. One comment was that it took 6 we ...more
Tom Schulte
This was a quick and easy read about WWII in the ETO with focus on young infantry recruits. What made it special was occasional examples of eloquence.

Two quotes I particularly like:

[Hitler] radioed Kluge: "I command the attack be prosecuted daringly and recklessly to the sea — regardless of risk... Greatest daring, determination, imagination must give wings to all echelons of command. Each and every man must believe in victory." (Phrases like "1 command," "give wings to," and "must believe" are
...more
Al
If you’re a dedicated reader of WWII history, a short book like Paul Fussell’s “The Boys’ Crusade” will come as a welcome relief to encyclopedic histories. The late historian’s personal take on the war in which he was a soldier is long on candor and short on military romanticism. The title hints at one of Fussell’s themes: “the European ground war in the west was largely fought by American boys seventeen, eighteen, and nineteen years old," soldiers woefully unprepared for the carnage they would ...more
Phyllis
Feb 15, 2011 Phyllis marked it as to-read
A Non-review by J. Stefan-Cole

"The actual fact is that not one man in twenty in the government…realizes what a grisly, tough dirty business we are in." That could be a field commander or nervous GI in downtown Baghdad, but it was General Dwight Eisenhower in 1942 sending "official" Washington a wake up call as to just what sort of hell the war in Europe really was. His words are mild compared to the horror brought out in Paul Fussell's tight, on the ground account of what it was like for an army
...more
Ilya
In 1944, at age 20, Fussell fought in France as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. 60 years later he wrote this collection of 18 vignettes about the experience of American soldiers on that front of that war - from their stay in England to their liberation of the concentration camps, including the D-Day landings, the Battle of the Falaise pocket, the Battle of the Bulge, and the Battle of Hürtgen Forest. Fussell dislikes the romanticization of the war; he dismisses the Steven Spielberg's film ...more
Nicole
I started out reading this book for class. I have always been interesting in World War II literature, but this one really got to me. As the synopsis describes, this book doesn't hold a veil over the horrors and atrocities that occurred during WWII and in my opinion, I'm very grateful for it. Movies based on battles during WWII usually take the action-y, explosion-y route because it brings in an audience. People want to see other people being blown up or shot. It's just a movie, right? Well, in a ...more
Christie
Although a very quick read and very easy to follow the author's narrative, this is not one of the World War II memoirs that I was particularly drawn into the lives of the soldiers. The style of writing is very straight forward with no attempt to glamorize battle but to share many different stories through a series of vignettes of the American infantry in Northwestern Europe during 1944-1945. While this style of writing allows the reader to hear specific examples of how tough it was for so many o ...more
Matthew
This book was an eye-opener. The Second World War is often viewed as a war in which armies of heroes did battle with evil enemies and prevailed due to efficiency, prowess, and virtue. This book reveals that the army of heroes that returned from the war was in fact what was left of an army of scared boys. Subject to the incompetence of a military machine that routinely strafed and shelled its own troops, the vindictiveness of unfit men pushed into command, a culture that promoted drunkenness and ...more
Andrew
A refreshing break from Stephen Ambrose-style, Greatest Generation hagiographies that litter the bookshelves these days. Too bad Fussell doesn't have Ambrose's storytelling ability. Too bad too that this book is so cursory, illuminating so many dark places, just to briefly skim over them. In the end I felt as though I was reading the Coles' Notes for a much more interesting book.

Regardless, a fascinating and sobering look at some very ugly aspects of WWII, written by a man who was there.
...more
James Payne
One of my favorite writers. Fussell is consistently wry, erudite, and able to maintain a strong social conscience while dodging the didactic. I loved the material on the U.S. Army's internal racism abroad, the differing sexual appetites of women in various host countries, and the effects of the Allies' late uncovering of the Nazi's forced labor and concentration camps. Primed me for Fussell's other book on WW11. Bummed this dude is dead.
Tim
Fussell's little book, The Boys' Crusade, follows the American infantry soldier from convoy, England and D-Day to the discovery of Dachau. It is not an all-inclusive history, but a series of short episodes and stories that elevate the infantrymen, while diluting all notions of "The Good War" with probing criticism of the Allied command. Having read Fussell's Wartime and Doing Battle, I knew what I was getting into here - his anger at having been in the infantry himself is evident, but not overwh ...more
Chuck
A short, quick, easy, and worthwhile read about some of the more unpleasant topics about Americans in combat in Europe during World War 2.

These topics that are often glossed over in standard histories and write-ups of the war. The title refers to the extreme youth of the American combat soldiers in what was called the "Great Crusade" by the Generals.

For example, one chapter discusses how a company and platoon leader hated each other. So the Company Commander sent the platoon out on an unsupport
...more
Eric Smith
This is the seventh book by Paul Fussell that I've read and I enjoyed it, but it is light weight in comparison to "Warfare," which is a much better book.

"The Boy's Crusade" is a small book with big revelations inside it if you have never read much of the truth about World War Two. Fussell calls the first few minutes of "Saving Private Ryan" good and accurate, but the rest of the movie is hopeless nonsense. Fussell uses telling details and short descriptions of battles (most of whom none of us ha
...more
Betsy D
Insights into what was likely my father's experience in France in 1944-5.
Art
I would call this a follow up to his classic Wartime, going into several stories and accounts from the 18 year old draftees point of view instead of the big picture. A small fast reading book.
Mallon
This was my Dad's war (a veteran of the Bulge) -- lots and lots to think about.
Sean
Jul 22, 2009 Sean rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Yes
Recommended to Sean by: Saw it on the shelf at the book store
Shelves: history
I found this book very insightful. Fussell tells the facts with very little "coloring" or "fluff" I found his recollections and thoughts on the subject matter well presented. The format of each chapter was short and written in an almost thesis style. That took a little time to get use to. All in all I would recommend this book due to it pulling no punches about the build up of troops in England,the invasion of France, the break out and the final push through to the end of the conflict for the bo ...more
Leonard Romney
A different slant on the war that dominates my reading. Fussell writes well about the army, a force of 17, 18, and 19 year old boys sent to destroy the German Wehrmacht. Well told but I wanted not so much overview but more of the war as seen through 18 year old eyes and the I,pact on 18 yer old kids who may have three months before occupying a fox hill on the Bulge was earning his letter in football at some high school. A gentle recommendation to read.
Todd Miles
Fussell writes from the perspective of one who is there, and though he believed and believes in the necessity of the War, his desire is to de-romanticize WWII. He looks at the underbelly of the European war effort through the eyes of the too-young men that we sent to France and Germany to fight. The result is a non-sanitary version of the war that rings true without being an anti-war harangue. Very entertaining.
Harry
This book is about the 17-19 year old draftees near the end of WWII who fought in some of the bloodiest battles in Europe. Unlike some recent histories about this generation of men, it includes mention of some of the incompetent actions by allied military leaders, desertion rates among US forces, friction between the allies and the effects of the discovery of the Nazi slave labor camps on the liberators.
Joaquin
This was a very moving book. Makes me want to read more memoirs from WWII veterans reflecting back on the experience through 60+ years of living. I thought the central themes of the book, which, for me, were "all wars, even the good ones, are monstrous and shitty, and everybody loses, even the winners."
Jim
brutal little book that strips away much of the propaganda about the greatest generation, addressing many of the snafus and disasters that have been underplayed or unreported by official accounts. It was difficult to read about the scared boys fighting administrative incompetence in hellish conditions.
Debbie Tanner
I thought this was ok. It gave some interesting information about the war from the perspective of a young soldier. It wasn't particularly well written (in my opinion) but it was easy to understand how things happened during the war when so many of the soldiers were young, naive men.
Joe Blow
Jan 24, 2008 Joe Blow rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: WW2 Buffs
I really enjoyed this book, short and to the point (like a good song may I add). I was surprised that it talked about some of the less glamorous action taken by our boys during the war, which was refreshing yet disheartening. Easy read, full of facts, and some truly gruesome stories.
Emily
Fussell holds nothing back here. The book is fresh, honest, well done. I feel like he may have overdone it here and there, but since I can't quite put my finger on what he overdid I can't say much about it. It's a quick read, but a good one for anyone interested in WWII.
Tom
This was an iteresting read, but too short, and oddly titled. Many of the chapters didn't really deal with the youth of the combatants. Also, it didn't really address the whole campaign. It read like a set of essays titled by the editor. Good, but too short.
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Paul Fussell was an American cultural and literary historian, author and university professor. His writings covered a variety of topics, from scholarly works on eighteenth-century English literature to commentary on America’s class system. He was an U.S. Army Infantry officer in the European theater during World War II (103rd U.S. Infantry Division) and was awarded both the Bronze Star and the Pur ...more
More about Paul Fussell...

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