I finished "To Conquer Hell" at 12:15 this morning. It was probably the most emotionally draining history book I've ever read.
Now this is no small statement. I've been reading history books, particularly ones about war, for almost 20 years now. Most of them have been books about the American Civil War and many of them had soldiers' recollections just like this book had. But they were not as raw and the circumstances not nearly as horrific, or they pulled their punches when writing their letters home and memoirs.
Also, those soldiers aren't as forgotten as the American World War One soldiers are.
Seriously, think about it, how many WW1 memorials and monuments can you say you've seen?
How many Civil War memorials and monuments have you seen?
Notice how your first number is much smaller than your second number.
Did you know that there is NO national World War One Memorial? The only WW1 Memorial in DC is one to the soldiers of the District of Columbia who fought in the war.
I guess this lack of recognition of their service is one of the reason's I'm drained about this. We forgot these guys. I feel bad about that. Everybody from Vietnam to WW2 has a memorial. The Spanish American War has a Memorial, the Mexican War, the Marines, the Air Force the Navy, the War of 1812, the Civil and Revolutionary Wars have a whole pile of parks chock full of monuments. But the Doughboys are absent.
If you happen to read this book you'll probably come away with two questions:
1.) Why didn't they get their memorial?
2.) Why did we forget them so quickly?
I don't know the answer, perhaps because it was so awful and so short that nobody, including the soldiers, wanted to think about it anymore...and then WW2 came along and it became obvious that the job wasn't done and the Doughboys had to send their sons and daughters overseas to finally finish off what they had thought would be the War to End All Wars.