A Teenage Tank Gunner Comes of Age in Combat--1945
John P. Irwin was born in Norristown, Pennsylvania, in 1926, and enlisted in the army in August 1944. He was honorably discharged in July 1946 and went on to Ursinus College in 1952, eventually earning his Ph.D. in philosophy from Syracuse University. He taught philosophy at Lock Haven University from 1964 until his retirement in 1990. He lives in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania. From the Hardcover edition.
Irwin, a 76-year-old retired philosophy professor at Pennsylvania's Lock Haven University, offers a brief account in 10 chapters of his WWII service. Born in Norristown, Pa., Irwin enlisted in the army in August 1944 at age 18 and was honorably discharged in July 1946. An eventful march through Germany, including a surprise capture of enemy soldiers that turned out to be more of a nuisance than a triumph for the American side, accentuates the battle-weary and ultra-realistic tone of the memoir, puncturing illusions about the so-called grandeur and glory of war. Its tragic culmination occurs when Irwin and his company arrive at the Nordhausen slave labor camp, where the V-rockets that destroyed much of London during the infamous Blitz were manufactured. This undeniably important and exciting historical setting is rendered in a deliberately flat style that conveys the tedium of service, interspersed with moments of combat. Trying for general conclusions tends to twist that style into knots (e.g., "There is something about the semi-conclusion of a battle-not-lost that encourages men to continue to believe in a future"), and sometimes a mildly bemused stretch at humor effectively bowdlerizes the account: "I choose to omit here the captain's ensuing tour de force of specialized military vernacular." Yet readers looking for a balanced first-person report from the greatest generation will find this measured look-back genially winning. (May) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
"In the intensity of the action that followed, I completely forgot about who was doing what. For the moment I forgot how immediate death could be and how vulnerable we all were. I focused on the range marks in my telescopic sight, the machine-gun trigger on the power traverse I was gripping, and the targets I was searching for. The turret smelled like wet diapers, and time once more stopped."-from Another River, Another Town