Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Forgotten, The Untold Story of D-Day's Black Heroes, at Home and at War by Linda Hervieux.
The 320th Balloon Battalion was a unit of African American soldiers who also landed on the beach—their job—to use their curtain of armed balloons and deter enemy aircraft.
With the discovery of military records and the interviews of the last of the survivors, Hervieux has given us a look into the lives of those who served anonymously. While known and respected for their work, they were nonetheless ostracized by other U. S. battalions for race was still a major issue. Lacking freedom from their home in the U.S. the treatment and friendship they garnered in England and most of Europe opened their eyes to the way things could be if equality could really happen for them.
This work draws on the life of Wilson Monk, Henry Parham, William Dabney, Samuel Mattison and thousands of other sent abroad to fight for the liberties they were not yet afforded in their own country. These very experiences they carried back added fuel to the civil rights of the time.
As Hervieus tells the story of this group of freedom fighters she also imbues the work with the tensions of the racial politics of the time as well as the human bravery for a group fighting for freedom and for many giving up their lives for something they had yet to earn for themselves. For these veterans most of their stories remained unheard for the depth of danger and anguish made the retelling difficult.
As Hervieus tracks the stories through the lead up and aftermath of the Normandy landing you get a visual picture of the situations as well as the danger involved. Yet this team of amazing individuals were a very necessary part of taking the beach that day, and the trail of searching for them and getting the stories from the survivors and their families, as well as the few records, we once again see the courage and brilliance of their actions and how their heroism helped to fuel as well as inflame the civil rights movement that came after.
If you enjoy history and works about D-Day, and just getting to know more about the differing views of occurrences and as well as the lives and faces belonging to the Barrage Balloon Battalion you will find this a great work.
This would be a great work for a book club or reading group with a great deal of detail to discuss.