Shrapnel

Shrapnel

A Memoir

Book - 2013
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Author of such classic wartime novels as Birdy and A Midnight Clear, William Wharton was one of the most acclaimed writers of his generation. However, he was also a very private man--he wrote under a pseudonym and rarely gave interviews--so fans and critics could only speculate how much of his work was autobiographical and how much was fiction.

Now, for the first time, we are able to read the author's own account of his experiences during World War II--events that went on to influence some of his greatest works.

These are the tales that Wharton never wanted to tell his children. Together, they illuminate a deeply personal, transformative experience: of learning to kill, to "abandon my natural desire to live, survive, and to risk my life for reasons I often did not understand and sometimes did not accept." Moving and insightful, Shrapnel is a powerful, timeless work from an acclaimed American master.

Publisher: New York, NY : William Morrow, c2013.
Edition: 1st William Morrow ed.
ISBN: 9780062257376
0062257374
Branch Call Number: 940.5481 WHA
Characteristics: 263 p. ; 19 cm.

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tonyalanjeffers
Aug 31, 2015

I'm not calling Mr. Wharton a liar and he is no longer around to defend the accusation and I am sure he was too sweet an old man for anyone to question him about the veracity of his tales. But he was a fiction writer and I am very sceptical that all the events he describes in this book could have happened to the same guy in the same war.
I don't feel he had anything to be ashamed of I think most of us would have done exactly the same things in the same circumstances.
This is really a great book and I can recommend it wholeheartedly rather you can swallow it all or not.
If you enjoy this book you will certainly like "Tales of the South Pacific" by James A. Michener. as well as Michener's autobiography.

a
athena14
Oct 17, 2013

Possibly the most realistic and honest book ever written about a young American's time in the army in WWII Europe. Funny, frightening, disgusting.

c
coreyconover
Sep 14, 2013

"Shrapnel" by William Wharton is, in part, an edgy and disturbing account of Mr. Wharton's military service, particularly in western Europe in 1944 and 1945. In part, it is a light hearted account of an ordinary 19 year old assigned to the army infantry.

The disturbing part relates to Mr. Wharton's involvement to some degree in various war crimes. For instance, he was assigned to assist an officer who was interrogating captured SS soldiers and torturing them in the worst way. He may have even murdered some of them. There is no part of the account that includes efforts to stop the torture or seek prosecution of the torture.

He also describes leading a squad that took a number of German prisoners captive. For some reason, he left his squad to go back to camp, leaving it and the German prisoners in the charge of his second in command. His squad murdered the prisoners, allegedly in blind retaliation for the Malmedy massacre. These were apparently just German soldiers in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Mr. Wharton also describes the sexual abuse and rape of German women. While he claims he tried to stop it. He doesn't give any information on what, if anything, he did to report it.

He also describes widespread theft from civilians and prisoners. His account appears arguably to cast U.S. soldiers as being as bad as the Germans and Russians.

It was an interesting, but disturbing read. No wonder he waited until very old age to write it. My father, who was an infantry soldier in Germany in 1945, once told me he never did anything he was ashamed of overseas. I always wondered what he meant. Now I have some idea of what he may have meant. I will never know what he really meant.

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