The Parachute Infantry: An American Paratrooper's Memoir of D-Day and the Fall of the Third ReichHardback
- Publisher: Louisiana State University Press
- Format: Hardback | 336 pages
- Dimensions: 155mm x 231mm x 25mm | 567g
- Publication date: 1 June 1994
- Publication City/Country: Baton Rouge
- ISBN 10: 0807119016
- ISBN 13: 9780807119013
- Edition statement: New.
- Illustrations note: 10ill.
- Sales rank: 715,209
This memoir was written soon after the author's stint as a paratrooper in World War II, using his letters home and recollections that he documented following his discharge. It details places and events, especially D-Day and the fall of the Third Reich.
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David Kenyon Webster worked as a reporter and writer after the war. He died in a boating accident, in 1961, while shark fishing. Webster is portrayed by the actor Eion Bailey in the HBO miniseries.
It's a mystery why these splendid reminiscences of a gentleman ranker who served with the US Army's 101st Airborne Division in Europe during the climactic months of WW II were rejected by book publishers following their completion in the late 1940s. However, the frequently sardonic, dead-honest text proves well worth waiting for. A Harvard student before his induction, Webster signed on with the parachute infantry, a posting that earned him the privilege of dropping behind German lines early on D-day, long hours before Allied forces launched their coastal assault on France's Normandy Peninsula. Having survived the invasion and its aftermath, the author made his second and last combat jump into Holland for the Arnem campaign, during which he sustained a leg wound that took him out of action for nearly five months. Rejoining his unit at the start of 1945, Webster helped chase the battered but still deadly Wehrmacht through the Rhineland and into Bavaria. At war's end he and his comrades-in-arms were drinking Hitler's champagne in Bertchtesgaden, the Fuhrer's fabled Alpine redoubt. Occupation duty soon palled, however, and the author pulled all available strings to get himself stateside for demobilization. Webster, who went on to become a reporter with the Wall Street Journal, penned his memoir shortly after discharge, drawing mainly on letters he had written from Europe. A permanent private with the soul of a short-timer, he had many complaints about the chain of command, in particular its propensity for thoroughly briefing the troops before any action and leaving them in the dark once the shooting started. He also understood that the ties that bind men in battle have more to do with brotherhood and its obligations than either God or country. Webster's words will ring a resonant bell with the legions of GIs who rather enjoyed soldiering under fire but despised the military for its chickenshit rigidity. (Kirkus Reviews)
Back cover copy
An English literature major at Harvard with a talent for writing, twenty-one-year-old David Kenyon Webster volunteered for duty in the U.S. Army's parachute infantry in 1943 with the aim of seeing combat firsthand and then describing his experiences. His introduction to warfare came at the invasion of Normandy on D-Day in 1944. Webster went on to see considerable action in the next two years, serving as a combat infantryman in the campaign through northwest Europe, during which he was twice wounded. He wrote Parachute Infantry a short time after the war, relying on his letters home and recollections he penned right after his discharge, making his memoir much closer to the war than most such works. With its abundant dialogue, charged descriptions of places and events, and skillful evocation of emotions, Webster's narrative resonates with the immediacy of a gripping novel. The memoir is divided into several episodes. The first takes place in May and June of 1944 and provides a detailed, suspenseful account of Webster's participation in the events of D-Day. The next covers several days in September, 1944, when Webster parachuted into Holland and then as part of a group of soldiers advanced through small towns, freeing them as the Germans retreated, until he was shot in the leg and forced to leave his unit. The narrative then picks up in February, 1945, after Webster has returned to his unit, and describes several weeks near the end of the war in Europe, when German resistance was still strong but weakening. Then comes the Allied victory in 1945. We see Webster's platoon arriving at Berchtesgaden (Hitler's vacation retreat in the Alps) right before V-E Day and the celebrations and laxdiscipline that followed the final collapse of the Third Reich. In the last section of the book, Webster recalls the monotonous routine of occupation duty, concluding with his return to the States in early 1946 to be discharged. Stephen E. Ambrose, director of the Eisenhower Center at the University of New Orleans, introduces Parachute Infantry, pointing out as two important strengths Webster's honesty and his ability to describe so well his fellow soldiers - men he never would have known or associated with in civilian life but with whom he developed the strongest bonds during his wartime experience. Parachute Infantry proves to be a riveting account of a young soldier's experience of war.