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The Cow Spoke French: The Story of Sgt. William True, American Paratrooper in World War II

by William True and Deryck Tufts True

Merriam Press World War II Biography

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Hardcover - ISBN 9781435755406 - $43.99

The Cow Spoke French is a collaborative project. The two creators are Sergeant William True, an American paratrooper who took part in all the battle campaigns of the 101st Airborne Division in Europe, and his eldest son Deryck, who served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam era.

The thrust is to bring alive the human experience of the combat veteran in a way that is immediate and personal to the reader. Though the subject of World War II has been covered extensively in print over the last 50-odd years, the book is refreshingly unique in both approach and format.

A traditional third-person narrative is created by the son, Deryck, based on extensive interviews with his father and other veterans, along with appropriate research of well-known historical sources. Original photographs and custom maps are included. The story emphasizes the day-to-day reality of a combat soldier, which has often and correctly been described as ‘long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of stark terror.’ There is no mask for the harsh fact of men killing one another. And while courageous actions are depicted at length, human failings are also a reality for men at war. This truth also is not avoided. Still the pathos, sentimentality, and even occasional humor of life for troopers in the field are very much a part of the chronicle, including ribald tales of cat-house misadventure. This book is neither for the squeamish nor the prude.

The book is interspersed with personal accounts written by Bill True himself. Each account fits into the narrative chronologically and by its nature, gives readers an intimate connection to the story.

We believe this approach will accomplish two things which are normally not possible for a single author. A soldier in the field has the real-life ‘in-your-face’ experience of combat. This will be vividly revealed in Bill’s writings. But individuals are almost always isolated on the battlefield, often begging news from the home front to discover the big picture of which they play a vital part. The third-person narrative puts the soldier’s story into context within the broader military events and movements surrounding it.

The title The Cow Spoke French derives from Bill True's jump into Normandy at 1:20 a.m. on June 6, 1944. Parachuting from his plane into France amid a hail of machine gun and anti-aircraft fire, Bill landed in a pasture next to a very placid and unconcerned Normandy cow. Grateful for having survived the jump, he spoke a friendly greeting to her, but received no response. Why not? Because the cow spoke French.


The Wild Blue Yonder: Transition to Army Life
Separating Men From Boys: Camp Toccoa and Currahee Mountain
The Silver Badge of Courage: From Fort Benning to the Overseas Transport Samaria
Thatch Roofs and Warm Beer—England: The Run-up to D-Day
Invasion: “The Cow Spoke French”
Rat Killin’: The Normandy Campaign
Long Drills and Short-Arm Inspections: The Lull Between Storms
A Narrow Road Too Long—Holland: Operation Market Garden
The Screaming Meemies: Life on “The Island”
White Christmas in a Foxhole: Bastogne and the Battle of the Bulge
“Wie Eins Lili Marlene”: From Alsace to Berchtes-gaden
Kilroy Was Here! 85 Points Gets a Ticket Home
Normandy KIAs
Old Army #849: A History of 1st Lt. Wayne King’s Favorite Aircraft
Graves Registration: Interview with Col. Elbert Legg
D-Day Message from Dwight D. Eisenhower
“Nuts!”—German Surrender Demand and Christmas, 1944 Message at Bastogne
A Coincidence of Dates
“The Recruit”: A Ballad by Bill True

410 6x9-inch pages
59 photos, illustrations, maps

The Cow Spoke French: The Story of Sgt. William True, American Paratrooper in World War II

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