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This WW II novel revolves around the experience of a callow youth destined to join the Fourth Infantry Division in Hurtgen Forest. The narrative traces the bonded ties of six comrades in arms, three of whom are killed and three wounded. Vividly detailed, the stressful existence of Combat Infantrymen causes some men to break. What helps those who see it through is their loyalty to one another, called a "culture of caring" by their Chaplain. In Part I our innocent recruits are sobered by incidental casualties on the way up, which initiate them into the inconsequence of death. Part II takes them into Hurtgen, a battle fought under continuous icy rain in steep-hilled terrain favoring the well entrenched Germans. Casualties often run over l00% of a Company's authorized strength. Attacks are met by unrelenting artillery and mortar fire-machine guns at close range. In a typical situation, our narrator covers a Sergeant, who, after taking out a machine gun pinning the Company down, is himself killed by a sniper.A hard-headed West Pointer insists on night action, impossible in the Forest, and, after stepping on a mine that takes his legs off, he rolls on another that hits those nearby.
General Patton called Hurtgen "an epic of stark infantry combat." Part III deals with how, badly depleted in numbers and morale, the men successfully withstand the Breakthrough, thereby saving Luxembourg, a defense for which Patton gave the Fourth a Unit Citation. In the concluding Part, the narrator is wounded and put on limited assignment. He dislikes the rear echelon life-style, guys being obsessed with whores, drinking, stealing, and feasting, but he holds his peace and decides he'll return to the world where reality matters.