Douglas Brinkley, acclaimed historian and New York Times bestselling author of highly praised books such as Tour Of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War and Wheels for the World: Henry Ford, His Company, and a Century of Progress, 1903-2003 now delivers the powerful story of The Boys Of Pointe Du Hoc: Ronald Reagan, D-Day, And the U.S. Army 2nd Ranger Battalion.
The book is an intertwining tale of Ronald Reagan’s homage to the men of the Army Battalion and a riveting account of their bravery. Before Reagan dubbed the 2nd Ranger Battalion “The Boy’s Of Pointe Du Hoc” they were known as “Rudder’s Rangers” – named after their bulldoggish commanding officer, Colonel James Earl Rudder, who was called to active duty after Pearl Harbor. Brinkley does a very thorough job on the history and evolution of the group as expected. Through the crisp detailed writing, you get to know about these men - about their training, and discipline, and the harsh reality of war as only ninety-nine men of the two hundred and twenty-five survived the amphibious assault.
And you really get to know Rudder and what kind of horrendous year he had. He even had to write the condolence letters to the family of Rangers that were killed in the European Theater. A real hero, Rudder was wounded three times earning himself the Service Cross, Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and French Legion d’Honneur with Croix de Guerre and Palm.
It’s also a fascinating look into how Reagan’s speechwriter Peggy Noonan wanted to tell the under told or under aware story of these brave heroes. From page 152:
“The more educated Peggy Noonan became about the 2nd Ranger Battalion on D-Day, the more impressed she was. Why didn’t teenagers learn about them in high school? Why wasn’t their dramatic “finest hour” story more widely known? She agreed with a statement Lord Mountbatten made in his foreword to historian James Ladd’s Commandos and Rangers of World War II: ‘Today we are used to the daring exploits of 007, James Bond, but the story of these gallant raiders, commandos, Rangers and those associated with them is even more exciting and gripping for these were real men facing real live dangers. It is time their story is told.”
If you’ve seen Saving Private Ryan or Band of Brothers then you should read this book. If you’re interested in Reagan’s famous speech from 1984, then you should read this book. At just a tad over two hundred pages it’s a worthwhile read for people of all ages.