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

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  413 Ratings  ·  58 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 ...more
Paperback, 184 pages
Published September 13th 2005 by Modern Library (first published 2003)
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Feb 23, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Paul Fussell was a WWII veteran. He served as an infantry officer with the 103rd Infantry Division in France and Germany. After the war he went on to have a distinguished career as a writer and professor. Like many men of his generation the War never went away and it remained an essential part of his life. It could be argued that the experience shaped him and influnced him for the decades that he lived after leaving the army. Like it did so many others.

"The Boys' Crusade" is a series of essays
Gary Foss
Jun 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, war
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
May 22, 2012 rated it liked it
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.
May 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, military
I chose to read this book now because the previous thing I read was a really long slog of a book about madness, and I wanted something short. Short this might be, but it was not an easy read. I've read quite a bit of Fussell and really admire his work, but this was even more focused than he usually is on the incompetence and cruelty that war inevitably involves. I could read only about twenty to thirty pages at a time, and to cheer myself up, I alternated the Fussell with rereading The Hunger Ga ...more
Jun 16, 2007 rated it liked it
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
Gary Platt
Mar 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
During a recent conversation with a friend and ex-client who was a member of my father's generation and a retired military intelligence officer, I was referred to this book as a good representation of what it was really like to be in the infantry in WWII in the battles of northern Europe. The author, Paul Fussell, tells it like it was, which is to say, brutal, bloody, and--surprisingly, for one like me with no military experience whatsoever--eye-opening to say the least on the subject of how dis ...more
Jan 25, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Paul Fussell’s book is an unusual contribution to the Modern Library Chronicles series. Whereas most volumes provide short introductions to their respective subjects, as other reviewers have noted, this is not a straightforward military history of the war with Germany. Instead, Fussell offers a much more idiosyncratic work, a social and cultural history of the American riflemen who fought in northwestern Europe after Normandy.

This is not to say that this book isn’t worth reading – quite the cont
Jan 19, 2015 rated it liked it
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
Jul 23, 2014 rated it liked it
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.
Amy Rohmiller
Aug 31, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: school
Short, but makes its point. War is hell and not good and not the heroism that Ambrose portrays it to be. Very difficult to write a chapter by chapter review because it's vignette/essay style.
James Castle
Oct 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Written as a kind of antidote to saccharine movies like Saving Private Ryan, The Boys' Crusade is readable, informed, suggestive rather than exhaustive, and mercifully short - all qualities missing from most histories. Fussell maintains a sad, understated tone throughout, but it's an earned tone: Fussell was there. As always when reading about WWII, the sheer scale of the murder can make post-war history seem slight.

The afterword contains a good listing of books for further reading on the subje
Feb 26, 2018 rated it liked it
This book seemed to be two works in one. One was a very good, passionate (even angry) essay about the waste of young men in war. The other was fascinating anecdotes from the front lines. But the two didn't seem to mesh well.
Oct 25, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: world-war-ii
A fast-paced book that follows the American advance from the beaches of Normandy into the heart of Germany. Fussell's writing style sets himself apart from other writers on the war such as Ambrose, he is less patriotic in tone and much grimmer, focusing on the horrific struggles the G.I. had to endure fighting in Europe. In this particular work, Fussell reminds us about how relatively young the majority of Eisenhower's Crusaders were, and how for many of them, the war ruined what many consider t ...more
Apr 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you want to look into the devil himself , read this book. War when practiced by evil men is no longer war, but murder without consciousness. A definite must read.
Feb 23, 2017 rated it liked it
This was a discussion of experiences of GIs in the WWII European theater. Especially focused on how rough it was for the thousands of teenage boys who were drafted and really not prepared for what was ahead of them. As you could probably have guessed, the movies get lots of things wrong.
Feb 15, 2011 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
Jul 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: world-war-ii
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
Nov 12, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: world-war-ii, memoir
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
Mark Valentine
Mar 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Fussell's account of teenage solders in Europe has had a gripping impact on me for all its brutal honesty. This short history is an antidote to some of the Hollywood pseudo-history war dramas like "Band of Brothers" since Fussell reveals how inexperienced, fearful, poorly-trained, and misled soldiers were. Also, I think it should be a companion to novels like Catch-22 and Slaughterhouse Five because it shows the ineptitude of the Military commanders leading youths to slaughter by gross neglect, ...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
Dec 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Eric Smith
Jan 14, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction
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
Jul 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Todd Miles
Feb 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: military, history
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.
Leonard Romney
Aug 02, 2013 rated it liked it
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.
Nov 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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.
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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
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