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 definitively with issues of strategy, leadership, context, and tactics, Fussell has an additional purpose: to tear away the veil of feel-good mythology that so often obscures and sanitizes war’s brutal essence.
“A chronicle should deal with nothing but the truth,” Fussell writes in his Preface. Accord-ingly, he eschews every kind of sentimentalism, focusing instead on the raw action and human emotion triggered by the intimacy, horror, and intense sorrows of war, and honestly addressing the errors, waste, fear, misery, and resentments that plagued both sides. In the vast literature on World War II, The Boys’ Crusade stands wholly apart. Fussell’s profoundly honest portrayal of these boy soldiers underscores their bravery even as it deepens our awareness of their experiences. This book is both a tribute to their noble service and a valuable lesson for future generations.
From the Hardcover edition.
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|Title of eBook: The Boys' Crusade|
|Release Date: 09-09-2003|
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|Publisher: Random House Publishing Group|
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The Boys' Crusade
The Boy Crusaders
When Ike Eisenhower was a boy, European history was more avidly pursued in schools than now, and it’s also possible that he knew a bit about the Crusades from his own reading, if he hadn’t heard about them in church—his family was pious—or at elementary or high school or even at West Point. In any event, the imagery of the Crusades was lodged strongly in his mind. In an Order of the Day given or read to “Soldiers, Sailors, and Air- men of the Allied Expeditionary Force,” just before the invasion of Normandy, he informed them: “You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months.” And, once successfully over, he would title his memoir of the war Crusade in Europe.
Eisenhower was not the only one conscious during the war of the Crusades. One of the enemy, Panzer leader Hans von Luck, had occasion three times to recall a poem about a military moment in the Crusades whose horrors resembled those he witnessed in the Falaise Pocket in 1944. He writes, “ ‘Man, horse, and truck, by the Lord were struck.’ This saying, from a poem on the battles of the Crusaders in Palestine about 1213, had come to my mind twice before: in December, 1941, by Moscow, and in 1943 in North Africa.”
The date 1213 suggests the so-called Children’s Crusade, about whose actuality some historians have doubts. In the year 1212, it is said, an odd army set out from France and Germany. Its purpose was to liberate the Holy Land from the profane grip of Islam. This Crusade is reputed to have numbered fifty thousand young people, of whom only three thousand survived