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Victory Road

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Victory Road: The World War II Memoir of an Artilleryman in the ETO
  • by Robert C. Baldridge
    • Merriam Press World War 2 Memoir Series
      • Sixth Edition 2012
      • 352 6x9-inch pages
      • 177 photos
      • 3 illustrations
      • 6 maps
      • 30 documents
  • Video interview with Bob Baldridge in 2001: Part 1 and Part 2 (each runs about six minutes). This was filmed by the History Channel during their research for a one-hour show honoring American forward artillery observers. Bob's interview never made it into the show because another FAO was interviewed and that veteran had received the Medal of Honor for his work as an FAO. The producers decided that they only needed one WWII FAO veteran for the show, and felt the MOH recipient was a better choice for the show.
  • Another interview with Bob, conducted on August 4, 2004, at Bob's home on Long Island. Veteran oral history interview produced by the New York State Military Museum. Runs one hour.
  • Bob passed away on February 19, 2005. During the prouction of Bob's book back in 1995, I met Bob (and his wife) twice. A fine gentleman, Bob and I had many interesting phone calls right up until his death. Bob was also responsible for connecting me with several other World War 2 veterans who had written manuscripts about their wartime sevrice and those books were published and are still in print.
Victory Road is a great World War II memoir: The gripping story of a determined young soldier in an artillery battalion of the famous 9th Infantry Division of the U.S. First Army, which invaded Normandy in June 1944 and fought on through five battle campaigns to victory over Germany in May 1945 at the Elbe River.
     The author accurately and compellingly describes a soldier's experiences in Army basic training
  • being shipped overseas to England in December 1943 on the ocean liner Queen Mary
  • further training in England
  • crossing the English Channel to Utah Beach in Normandy on D-Day + 4
  • and then fighting the German forces for almost a year while living in the field during all four seasons.
     He explains how an artillery battalion functions, how it supports in battle the division's infantry regiments and in a fashion that brings to life what real combat action is all about.
     Baldridge earned a battlefield commission to second lieutenant and was awarded a Bronze Star medal for the part he played as an artillery forward observer up front with the infantry in all of the many major battles that the First Army fought.
     He also ties in his experiences with what was going on at the same time with the larger picture at higher levels of command on up to SHAEF.
     The reader thus gets an historical approach to the winning of the war in Europe from both the American/British and German viewpoints.
     Baldridge describes battles in which he was involved, including the Normandy invasion
  • the cutting of the Cotentin Peninsula and the capture of Cherbourg
  • the Normandy Operation COBRA bombing, breakthrough and then breakout
  • the German counterattacks in the Mortain area
  • the "Falaise Gap" victory
  • the chase across France and Belgium
  • the breaching of the Siegfried Line near Aachen, Germany, and the resulting stalemate there
  • the long and terrible forest fighting in the Hürtgen area
  • the "Battle of the Bulge"
  • the Roer River dams
  • the bridge and beachhead across the Rhine at Remagen
  • the Ruhr Pocket encirclement
  • the despicable Nordhausen V-2 slave labor camp
  • and final action in the Harz Mountains before reaching the Elbe just north of Torgau where the Americans and the Russians first made contact.
     The author concludes with stories of his occupation duties near Munich, and personal observations of his about the Germans at that time. Finally, going back home "on points" in January 1946 after missing three Christmas's there while overseas in four countries.
     What adds even more to this book is his recounting of his family's experiences during those wartime years.
     His father, a World War I artillery captain in 1918 in France and later a U.S. Congressman and lawyer in Nebraska, was instrumental in helping to get Congress to pass the 1940 Selective Service Act—the "Draft"—and then joined the Army Air Forces. He finished the war in 1945 as a colonel, in Italy, after winning four decorations, including the Legion of Merit.
     His brother, Malcolm, was also an artilleryman and forward observer, serving as a first lieutenant with the 27th Infantry Division during the final battles against Japan on Okinawa in the Pacific, and then as a captain in General MacArthur's headquarters in Tokyo during occupation there. (Later, in May 1995, he was inducted posthumously into the Ft. Sill OCS Hall of Fame as a distinguished graduate, having been Secretary of Commerce from 1980 to 1987, and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.)
     Veterans and their family members will enjoy reading this book—and will learn some things from it.
     Readers too young to remember how our nations felt about war before Pearl Harbor and the five-year conflict with the Axis powers thereafter will find in the pages of this memoir a revealing portrait about how America reacted in those critical years.
     Victory Road is dedicated to the Reserve Officers' Training Program—known as ROTC. It includes all the military services, not just those of the Army. ROTC programs have supplied since before World War I over seventy per cent of the officers for our Army, Navy, Air Force, National Guard and the Organized Reserves. This demonstrates the importance of ROTC to the defensive safety of our country.
     The author describes, in the early part of the book, his Junior ROTC training at Omaha Central High School, and afterwards his one year of Basic ROTC at Yale University before enlisting in the Army. His brother finished Advanced ROTC at Yale before going on to OCS at Ft. Sill, as did his father who became an artillery battery commander in France. 
 
Contents
  • Testimonial Letters
  • Foreword
  • Early Days-Omaha, Nebraska: 1930-1940
  • Getting Ready for Service: 1942-1943
  • Rookie Days: 1943
  • Getting Ready for Action: December 1943-June 1944
  • Normandy Campaign: June 10-July 24, 1944
  • Northern France Campaign: July 25-September 14, 1944
  • Rhineland Campaign: September 15-December 15, 1944
  • Ardennes Campaign and the Rhineland Again: December 16, 1944-March 21, 1945
  • Central Europe Campaign: March 22-May 11, 1945
  • Final Days: May 12, 1945-January 12, 1946
  • Postscript
  • Hitler and His Nazi SS Murderers
  • AppendicesBibliography
    • Statistics Tell a Sad Story
    • Selected Chronology
    • Commanders
    • Colonel Baldrige [author's father] on Russians
    • Commander in Vietnam: William Childs Westmoreland; Westmoreland Says Military Has Made the World Secure
Reviews
 
Publisher's Note: Bob's book has been used as a reference source for a number of other works, including Citizen Soldiers by Stephen Ambrose, and After D-Day: Operation Cobra and the Normandy Breakout by James Jay Carafano.

Baldridge was one of those prescient types who saw trouble in Europe coming. He was also a member of a remarkable family who saw it as a duty and a privilege to serve. Anyway he did ROTC and was a very militarily aware young man in general. After being accepted into active service he is assigned to the 9th Infantry Division and sent to England. After a narrow escape from becoming an MP he gets where he wants to be, the 34th Field Artillery Battalion and it is in this formation he goes to war.
     While Baldridge is with his battalion from Normandy, it had of course seen action in the Mediterranean, so it is a professional and experienced unit. He does a variety of roles, including survey, observation and some actual gun crew roles, too, with the 155mm Long Toms [sic—they were 155mm howitzers; the Long Toms were guns, a very different type of artillery piece]. Despite being in action throughout the European campaign and fighting in Normandy, the Hürtgen, the Bulge, at the Remagen Bridge and through Germany (including looks at concentration camps), the author writes surprisingly little of his actual combat experiences. There is some technical information from time to time and he mentions casualties but it is a very general account in this sense. There is a lot of greater context about the battles the 9th fought, appraisals of generals and the situation on the German side but I have to say, detailed as some of this was, it was all a little dry.
     I certainly liked the author himself. He could’ve had an easy war but bulled his way to the front. He was no fan of the Germans and calls them on their ‘no Nazies here’ post-war attitude. It is a slightly unusual memoir where the author wants the focus to be on the campaign rather than on his own story. This is commendable in a way, but it won’t suit every reader. There is a lot of personal material in the many photos and copies of documents. It is very well researched and gives a flavor of the times. Of interest.
—John E. Larsen

My father received the book today and it is in excellent condition. He is really happy and will spend hours reading it. Thank you!
Connie Terricola (via email)

The primary reason I purchased [Bob's] memoirs initially is because I am interested in the individual stories of soldiers from the 9th Infantry Division during World War II. I am very impressed with his memory of his various funny/scary/interesting stories during his time in the ETO, which contrasted sharply with other personal accounts due to his detail.
—Al Morrow, Chicago, Illinois

This is a fascinating book—the story of a young man from an old Ivy League family who volunteered to serve in combat. It is a highly personal account of an eager young man in uniform, and 'in the trenches,' woven into the broad historic events of the time. It is a story of family pride in the responsibility of citizenship and the personal regard of service to country.
—William C. Westmoreland, General, U.S. Army, Retired

I was somewhat in awe over the extremely well written, in-depth history… It will certainly be a valuable addition to our archives and a great aid in our study of the European theater during the Second World War. (Ambrose mentions Baldridge in his book Citizen Soldier, utilizing information from Victory Road.)
—Stephen E. Ambrose, late author, historian and former director of the Eisenhower Center in New Orleans

Thank you for a copy of Victory Road. I believe it is very important for veteran's of America's wars to share their memories, thoughts and ideas with today's soldiers. Because you have selflessly taken the time to share your insights, future generations of American soldiers will know about the exploits of the 9th Infantry Division and those who walked the 'Victory Road.'
—Dennis J. Reimer, General, U.S. Army, Chief of Staff

It vividly documents your feelings and activities and makes a valuable contribution to the literature on that war. We plan to place your manuscript in the Fire Support Research Collection for permanent retention.
—Fred F. Marty, Major General, U.S. Army, Retired, Commanding the U.S. Army Field Artillery Center at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma

On behalf of the U.S. Army Military History Institute, and the military history community at large, please accept my sincere thanks and appreciation for the donation of your superb memoir, Victory Road. This is precisely the kind of material we are seeking in our World War II veterans survey.
—James R. McLean, Lieutenant Colonel, Field Artillery, Director of Operations of the U.S. Army Military History Institute, U.S. Army War College, at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania

I think you have put together an outstanding record of your military service, and in a very readable form! I like the way you also add the various contributions of your family to the war effort. What I'd like to do is add your manuscript to the archives of the Nebraska State Historical Society—your family are Nebraskans, and this adds to our record of what we did in the war.
—Thomas R. Buecker, Curator of Ft. Robinson Museum at Crawford, Nebraska

In painstaking detail, he [Baldridge] has composed a memoir of military activities before and during the war, with a special emphasis on the involvement of all the members of his remarkable family. Victory Road could easily sit beside The Longest Day as a powerful record of first-hand battlefield experiences.
—Robert M. Snyder, Associate Editor, South Shore Record, Long Island, New York

The MOAA said of Victory Road, “Baldridge’s book is a World War II memoir that tells the gripping story of a determined young soldier in an artillery battalion of the famous 9th Infantry Division of the U.S. First Army. He landed on D-Day +4 in Normandy in June 1944 and fought through five battle campaigns to victory over Germany in May 1945 at the Elbe River. As an artillery forward observer, Baldridge was awarded a Bronze Star medal and a battlefield commission to 2nd lieutenant.”

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