Item description for Unless Victory Comes: Combat With a Machine Gunner in Patton's Third Army by Gene Garrison...
Gene Garrison spent a terrifying nineteenth birthday crammed into a muddy foxhole near the German border in the Saar. He listened helplessly to cries of wounded comrades as exploding artillery shells sent deadly shrapnel raining down on them. The date was December 16, 1944, he was a member of a .30-caliber machine-gun crew with the 87th Infantry Division and this was his first day in combat.
Less than a year earlier, he had taken the first steps in charting his future, entering college as a fresh-faced kid from the farmlands of Ohio. Now, as the night closed around Garrison, slices of light pierced the darkness with frightening brilliance. Battle-hardened German SS troopers using flashlights infiltrated the line of the young, untested American soldiers. Someone screamed "Counterattack!" In the maelstrom of gun fire that followed the teenaged Garrison struggled to comprehend the horrors of the present, his entire future reduced to a prayer that he would be alive at daybreak.
From those first frightening, confusing days in combat until the end of the war five months later, Gene Garrison saw many of his buddies killed or wounded, each loss reducing his own odds of survival. Convinced before one attack that his luck had deserted him, he wrote a final letter to his family, telling them goodbye. Garrison gave the letter to a buddy with instructions to mail it if he died.
From the bitter fighting west of Bastogne in the Battle of the Bulge to the end of the war on the Czechoslovakian border, Garrison describes the degradation of war with pathos and humor.
Gene Garrison's story is told through the eyes of the common soldier, a man who might not know the name of the town or the location of the next hill that he and his comrades must grimly wrestle from the enemy but who is willing to die in order to carry the war forward to the hated enemy. He writes of the simple pleasure derived from finding a water-filled puddle deep enough to fill his canteen; a momentary respite in a half-destroyed barn that shields him from the bitter cold and penetrating wind of an Ardennes winter; the solace of friendship with a core of veterans whose lives hang upon his actions and whose actions might help him survive the bitter, impersonal death they all face.
The rich dialogue and a hard-hitting narrative style bring the reader to battlefield manhood alongside Garrison, to each moment of terror and triumph faced by a young soldier far from home in the company of strangers.
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Gene Garrison retired after a 30-year career with the Department of the Air Force. Patrick Gilbert has worked as a journalist and editor for 35 years, and was twice nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Author website: unlessvictorycomes.com.
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Poignant Personal Memoir Aug 31, 2007
"Unless Victory Comes", by Gene Garrison (with Patrick Gilbert). Subtitled: "Combat With A Machine Gunner In Patton's Third Army". Casemate, Havertown, PA, 2004.
At the very end of his book, Gene Garrison states that "...this book is my memoir. It is not intended to be a definitive history of the fighting in Europe".
The author has accomplished his stated purpose, as he has produced a matter-of-fact memoir that describes his experiences in the European Theatre of Operations. As a young man (one of his chapters is entitled, "Turning Nineteen In Battle", page 29), Gene Garrison describes the journey from stateside, (Fort Jackson), to England and then to France, where his outfit, the 87th Infantry Division, arrived after the D-Day invasion.
Unlike so many other personal memoirs, this author rapidly sums up basic training and then his transfer to the "Golden Acorn" division, which he describes as a reserve division that had not seen action since World War I. Private Garrison was volunteered to be machine gunner, which he describes as good in that there were two men together, but was also bad since the firepower of the machine gun would draw down enemy attention. His description of standing on the back of a Sherman tank, as he fired the top mount fifty caliber machine gun is all presented with just the facts, even as he is pushed off the tank to avoid enemy fire. Garrison's memoir goes on in this matter-of-fact fashion until the end of hostilities in Europe. Then, at the very end of war in Europe, Garrison is diagnosed with yellow jaundice and required to go to the hospital. Very poignantly, as he leaves his comrades, he shouts a farewell to Tony D'Arpino, saying, "...you're the only one left from Fort Jackson".
The chapter is closed with a quote from the front of his book, "When the last man was gone, would there be anyone to miss him?"
This book belongs in your collection. Feb 9, 2006
Nice, easy to read account of some pretty intense action. I've read so much about the ETO that I'm starting to read accounts of the same events by different authors. That's pretty nice since I've found that some accounts support each other, and some accounts don't. That shows just how different units that fought the same battle a couple of miles apart could have had a completely different experience. This book adds a really great first person account to the history of WW2. Fans of the ETO will enjoy this perspective. Those less studied will find that Mr. Garrison helps put a face and name to the action that general interest WW2 volumes could never do.
I think you'll enjoy this book enough to reccomend it to someone else.