Sunday, September 13, 2009

Book Review - One Soldier's story by Bob Dole

One of the best memoirs of WWII and one of the most honest it chronciles Bob Dole's military service in WWII from his enlistment in December 1942 to his wounding and eventual recovery after the war. Its honesty is refreshing because Dole makes it quite clear he didn't want to be in the infantry and would have been quite happy to have stayed in the ASTP studying to become a doctor.

Like many of the "Greatest Generation" Dole was a reluctant hero. When Pearl Harbor was bombed, Dole did not rush out to enlist. His dream was to become a doctor and he was quite happy to stay in college. However, in November 1942 the draft age was lowered to 18, and Dole became eligible. So, he enlisted in the US Army since it allowed him to join the Medical Corps. and delay entry into the Army until he finished his Sophomore year. Called up in June 1943, Dole graduated from basic training and in October 1943, Dole was recommended for OCS and then made a life alternating decision. Rather than waiting in the medical corps for OCS opening, he applied for and was accepted by the ASTP (Army Student Training Program). This program was setup to allow bright men like Dole to stay in college and study to become engineers, doctors, etc.

Unfortunately, for Dole, the ASTP was terminated early in 1944 and Dole and his classmates found themselves back in the infantry training to fire the 57mm anit-tank gun. In July 1944 Dole decided if his had to go Overseas it'd be better to go as an officer, so he applied for OCS, was accepted and graduated as a 2nd Lt. in November 1944. He was quickly shipped out to Italy, arriving in Naples on Christmas Day 1944. Dole then spent almost 2 months at an Officer Replacement Depot, finally joining the 10th Mountain Division in late February 1945.

On March 18, 1945 Dole was wounded by fragments from an American grenade while on night patrol and awarded the Purple heart. Finally on April 15, 1945 Dole led his platoon on assault on Hill 913 and was severely wounded.

So Bob Dole was - in a way - one unlucky S.O.B. Lots of guys that didn't have his smarts spent the war in a V-12 program or in some safe, comfy job in the Air Force or Navy. This no doubt explains Dole's rather bitter/dark side.

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