Official Review: Good War, Great Men. by Andrew J. Capets

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Official Review: Good War, Great Men. by Andrew J. Capets

Post by kislany » 28 Dec 2017, 02:21

[Following is an official review of "Good War, Great Men." by Andrew J. Capets.]
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4 out of 4 stars
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Few people think about WWI the same way they think about WWII, the war which everyone believes to have had a stronger impact on our modern life. Yet, WWI has created the modern mechanical warfare. It also brought mass death on such a large scale. And it was the first war where PTSD became a thing (even though back in the day they called it “shell shock”).

In Good War, Great Men.: 313th Machine Gun Battalion of World War I, Andrew J. Capets wants us to remember the great American soldiers who fought away from their country. His own grandfather, Andy Capets, was part of it, even though once he went back home, he never talked about those times anymore. A proud War Veteran, Andy Capets experienced it all. But his name was often forgotten during Memorial Day observation events. In fact, his name was not even added on the bronze plaque until much later. Often, during the memorial service, the American Legion Commander would mention his name only as an afterthought. “Andy, we almost forgot you again,” he would say.

When Andrew J. Capets grew up, he wanted people to remember his grandfather and everyone else in his battalion during those trying times. As his grandfather never talked about the war and never left behind letters or journal entries, Andrew began his own in-depth research. All he knew was that his granddad was part of the 313 Machine Gun Battalion. So he met relatives of other soldiers from the same Battalion. He got journals, diaries and letters that they would send home to their loved ones. And he put together a fascinating story for posterity.

The letters are organized in chronological order, so you will find two, three or even four soldiers’ accounts of the same day. I found this system very effective because it gives a full narrative of the events from many points of view. While one person’s account could be anecdotal, several people’s almost identical experiences of the same event make it a fact.

I also appreciated that every new person introduced had their date of birth and death included next to their name. Some even died the year I was born, so while reading, I reflected on the weirdness of life. Here I was just one year old when unsung heroes were living their last days on Earth.

The book starts with a section called Glossary and Abbreviations. I already knew many of the terms included. As a European, WWI and WWII are subjects we extensively learned about in school. But for readers in America, this section will be very useful to make sense of the many different strange words that were mentioned in the entries.

The end of the book includes a Post War section, where the author details the lives of some of the soldiers that we got acquainted with throughout the story. Some died, while others returned home and could barely function thereafter. Yet, others managed to turn their lives into something meaningful. Those were the lucky ones who picked up the pieces and somehow moved forward.

In school, we’ve learned from history books about that horrible time every single year. I realize, however, that we were hardly aware of the US Army’s involvement in the Great War. For us, the war (although called “World” war) was strictly European. Our allies were fighting the Germans and their allies. As far as we knew, the Americans were fighting the Japanese somewhere very, very far away. The US entered the war in its last year and helped bring peace forward faster, especially in France, which is what the book focuses mostly on. Thus, while Good War, Great Men.: 313th Machine Gun Battalion of World War I is a way for the author to remember his grandfather and the Battalion that sacrificed so much in France, for the rest of us it is also a reminder that it was truly a “World” war, and many good American combatants served in the trenches and even died to bring us peace.

In the book, we see the war through the soldiers' eyes. At times, I was so enthralled by what was happening that I forgot this was a real-life tale and not a fictitious one. The letters often describe their ordinary lives: sometimes boring, and more often than not, uncomfortable; at times, downright dangerous. With every page, I would observe their moods slowly changing. Initially, before they felt the first bullets hit their trenches, they all had a sunny disposition. They were smiling, singing, eating and sleeping all day. This, however, would gradually change as the combatants would get shot, their mates would die, or they would witness carnage first hand.

The writing style in the book is very personal. The author lets the officers speak with their own voice. Thus, the letters have numerous grammatical and punctuation errors. Yet, I can’t blame anyone for a lack of editing. After all, these documents are now part of official archives; they are part of history.

I give the book 4 out of 4 stars, and I recommend it to any reader of serious military history who is interested to learn more about the First World War, including many little-known stories about the frontline experiences that American soldiers had in France.

Good War, Great Men.
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Post by BookHausJ » 28 Dec 2017, 08:12

An informative story of World War. Your review makes me think of lining up this book as one of my interest. The soldier being excluded as one of the Battalion fighter to achieve freedom for me is unjust. Putting myself on the shoe of Andy Capets I will do the same he did. The review is interesting. Thanks!

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Post by kandscreeley » 28 Dec 2017, 08:15

I definitely think that we need to keep history in the forefront of our mind to avoid repeating the same mistakes over. I love that the author includes the name, date of birth and death for each new person. Sounds like a good story overall. Thanks for the review!
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Post by Whitney Marchelle » 28 Dec 2017, 13:14

My best friend is such a history war buff, and this review was awesome, I think I will be recommending this to her for the new year!

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Post by Mercy Bolo » 28 Dec 2017, 16:32

History wasn't my favorite subject in school, but I find myself watching a lot of documentaries. From your review, I would definitely enjoy reading this book.
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Post by Miriam Molina » 28 Dec 2017, 17:18

Thanks for the touching review, Kislany! One of my last reviews also had me looking at WWI, then also called The Great War. I cannot imagine how any war can be called "great" or even "good." (I am more likely to agree with Boy George that "war is stupid.")

While wars do make great men (and women), they are usually broken men (and women). It is also a paradox that we need war to have peace.

It's all good to know the sacrifices that many have made for the world we know today. But I wish we could all as one say, "Never again!"

P.S. Regarding the grammar in those letters, how can anyone bother with commas when one is busy not getting killed?

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Post by Sahani Nimandra » 28 Dec 2017, 21:44

The book is very touching! the authors tribute towards his grand father is remarkable and appreciable, "a man not to be forgotten". The book sounds amazing, result of a very effective review. The approach of using many accounts from different people to prove the fact in history is truly effective. But yes as a human, I too believe this book will help us to remember those dark times and also for the generations to come that, "we don't want such a holocaust again!"
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Post by kislany » 29 Dec 2017, 02:12

BookHausJ - yes, it was definitely a very interesting and informative book. I was not sorry to have read it at all.

kandscreeley - truer words never spoken!

Whitney Marchelle - I'm pretty sure your BF will love it!

Mercy Bolo - as a European, our two major wars are part of who we are. We got this information in school (actually was drilled into our brains until we could recite all the main events in the two wars), and was also orally transmitted from generation to generation. So, whether we liked history or not, we had to know it.

Miriam Molina - "P.S. Regarding the grammar in those letters, how can anyone bother with commas when one is busy not getting killed?" - you know, I haven't quite looked at it that way, but boy, are you right! Thanks for the great perspective!

Sahani Nimandra - "we don't want such a holocaust again!" - no, we don't, indeed!

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Post by ParadoxicalWoman » 01 Jan 2018, 05:44

This is a good additional history book for me. Its good to know the details of the soldiers like their date of birth and death are included because I feel that their contributions are deserve to be remembered! Thank you for your good and informative review.
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Post by Sarah Tariq » 02 Jan 2018, 11:21

Book seems interesting and informative. I like military histories. Great review. I Iike it.
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Post by Boypnet1 » 05 Jan 2018, 08:54

The history of war is necessary so the author I just want to thank your for your good job

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Post by ButterscotchCherrie » 07 Jan 2018, 10:20

Wow, that part about learning about the same event from the letters of several people really made an impression on me! That's a great way to document history of course - through as many eyewitness accounts as possible. AFAIK there is no one who served in WW1 alive today. It's great that this writer researched and recorded his grandfather's experiences. Thanks for the comprehensive review.

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Post by N_R » 09 Jan 2018, 03:59

Thanks for the review - these books are sometimes so hard to read but it would have been harder to live through the war. Definitely one for the bookshelves.

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