One of the things that draws me to the World War II era is the sheer variety of stories. In Longshore Soldiers, Andrew J. Brozyna explores an aspect of wartime service that receives little attention – the port battalions.
For every soldier on the front lines, ten labored behind the lines. While they experienced less physical danger, they were still separated from home, family, and their ordinary lives. They still lived in the military world of orders and rations and restrictions. They labored hard for long hours in uncomfortable conditions. Most importantly, they served.
Longshore Soldiers tells the story of the American port battalions in Belgium and France in World War II. Using personal recollections of the author’s grandfather, Cortland Hopkins, and a dozen other veterans, Brozyna draws an compelling picture of these unsung heroes, from their lives on the Home Front, to the draft, to training, to their service overseas. While these men hauled bombs from ships onto DUKWs, they ducked artillery, strafing aircraft, and the savage V-1 and V-2 flying bombs. A particularly fascinating story tells how Hopkins found himself on the wrong part of the ship on D-Day and ended up storming Utah Beach with the infantry!
Excellent research and plenty of details and appendices make this book essential for the serious historian, but Brozyna’s engaging writing style and the colorful personal stories make it thoroughly enjoyable for anyone interested in World War II.