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|Jump: Into The Valley Of The Shadow, by
When Dwayne Burns turned 18
during World War II, he decided that he wanted to fight alongside America’s
best. He joined the paratroopers and was assigned to the 508th Regiment of the
82nd Airborne Division. Little did he suspect that a year later he'd be
soaring in a flak-riddled C–47 over Normandy, part of the very spearhead of
the Allied drive to seize back Europe.
Military Book Club Review:
Dwayne Burns, a sergeant in the 508th Regiment
of the 82nd Airborne, was in the middle of all the action in Europe, from
D-Day through the bitter, bloody Bulge. Jump... delivers an
extraordinarily powerful account of his combat experiences through the
eyes of a kid in his late teens whose fierce desire to survive was equaled
only by dedication to country.
As honest as combat writers
get, Burns reveals how scared he was when he first began jumping out of
planes (Yea, though I JUMP INTO the valley of the shadow of death, I will
fear no evil, he would pray.) The story has a keen knack for describing
scenes in a quiet, subdued way, which somehow makes them seem that much
more part of a nightmare. For instance, after landing in France on D-Day
Burns and his comrades duck behind a hedgerow at the sound of a German
truck: On the back I saw my first dead trooper. The Germans had thrown him
in feet first and face up. His bare head was nearly hanging off the rear.
The truck simply drives past and that's that. The eerie moment hangs in
the air for a second, and then they have to move on.
Jump is a solid, well-structured, moving war memoir, and
the most honest we've seen in a long time. It belongs on the shelf of
every WW II buff out there. B/W photos. 256 pages.
From The Flyleaf: Burns landed behind German lines during the dark, early hours of D–day, and
gradually found other survivors of his division. The paratroopers fought on
every side in a confused, running battle through the hedgerows, finally making
a stand in a surrounded farmhouse. With one room reserved for their growing
piles of corpses, the paratroopers held their ground until finally relieved by
infantry advancing from the beaches. After being pulled out of
Normandy, the airborne troops were said to be “burning a hole in SHAEF’s
pocket,” and thus were launched into Holland as part of Montgomery’s plan to
gain a bridgehead across the Rhine. This daytime jump was less confused than
the nocturnal one, but there were more Germans than expected and fewer
Allied forces in support. It was another maelstrom of pointblank combat in
all directions, and though the 82nd achieved its objectives, the campaign as
a whole achieved little but casualties.
The 82nd had hardly refilled with replacements when the Germans broke
through the U.S. front in the Ardennes. The 82nd’s paratroopers were put
aboard trucks and hastened to stand in the way of the panzer onslaught.
Passing through Bastogne they went farther north to St. Vith, where the U.S.
7th Armored and other divisions were reeling. The 82nd held its own with
quickly assembled defense perimeters, allowing other units to escape. After
beating off massive attacks by German SS, the paratroopers were disgusted to
hear that they, too, had been ordered to retreat. They didn’t feel they
needed to, but Monty was determined to “tidy up the battlefield.” On January
3 they counterattacked through the freezing hills, sealing off the Bulge and
pursuing the Germans back into the Reich..
In this work, Dwayne Burns, assisted by his son Leland (U.S. Army, 1975–79),
not only relates the chaos of combat but the intimate thinking of a young
soldier thrust into the center of several of history’s greatest battles. His
memories provide a fascinating insight into the reality of close-quarters
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