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Not Me!

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Not Me!

The World War II Memoir of a Reluctant Rifleman
  • by Alexander Hadden
    • Merriam Press World War 2 Memoir Series
      • Sixth Edition 2012
      • 360 6×9-inch pages
      • 32 photos
      • 3 maps
      • 3 appendices
What happens when an Ivy League preppy is suddenly dumped from a comfortable college environment into World War II combat as an infantry rifleman? Sandy Hadden well knew that he would find no glamour or glory in a foxhole, and for the first two years of his service managed to avoid answering that question.
 
Knowing he would never be a hero, he said "Not me!" to Air Corps flight training and "Not me!" to dropping behind German lines in an OSS parachute. But like a moth to the flame, he was sucked into war's vortex.
 
And so it was that in the early morning hours of December 16, 1944—the date personally picked by Hitler to launch his surprise Ardennes Offensive (the "Battle of the Bulge")—Hadden found himself exactly where he dreaded to be: in a front line foxhole with Baker Company of the 28th Division, stupefied by the first assault.
 
This book explains how this came about and the horrors that followed. It tells of the terrifying German tank and artillery attacks, of the chaos of retreat and being reported as missing in action, of Baker's devastating losses and of the anguish of its men.
 
And it goes on to document how almost miraculously the survivors rose above their "chickenshit" training, their misguided and even cowardly leadership, and especially their own terror to take the war to the Nazis. In doing so, it strips away the veneer and cant that cloaks most combat writing and lays bare what soldiers really think.
 
The closing chapters are startling in their contrasts: as a new second lieutenant, Hadden is a staffer at the Potsdam Conference where he rubs elbows with Truman, Churchill, and Stalin, and he then spends a year of extraordinary occupation duty in postwar Berlin with side visits to romantic Paris.
 
This book is unflinching in its look at combat. Its style is direct and unaffected, and it has the kind of real drama about it that comes from absolute authenticity. 
 
Contents
  • Introduction
  • Distant Drumming, 1941-43
  • The Army Air Corps, March-June 1943
  • My "Phony War", June 1943-April 1944
  • The Infantry and Camp Rucker, April-September 1943
  • En Route to Europe, September-October 1944
  • England and an Introduction to German Weapons, October 1944
  • The War is Being Won Without Me; I Land in Europe, October 1944
  • Carentan, France; I Meet René Bucaille and Family, October 1944
  • Through the Repple-Depples; Verviers; Christine, October-November 1944
  • I Join the 28th Division in the Hürtgen Forest, November 11, 1944
  • The 28th Division Through Hürtgen
  • More on Hürtgen, November 1944
  • My Second Phony War, November 16-December 16, 1944
  • The Ardennes Offensive: The Strategic Background, July-December 1944
  • The Ardennes Breakthrough, December 16, 1944-January 16, 1945
  • Alsace; The Colmar Pocket, January 17-February 19, 1945
  • Back Into Germany and to the Rhine; My Shooting War Ends and I Am Alive, 15 February-6 April 1945
  • Combat: A Summing Up
  • Officer Candidate School, Fontainebleau, France, April 6-June 11, 1945
  • Back Into Germany; The Potsdam Conference, June 12-August 2, 1945
  • Berlin; Paris; The Trip Home, August 1945-July 1946
  • Afterthoughts
  • Appendices
  • Journal of European Trip: August 18-September 6, 1990
  • "Unconditional Surrender": The Wrong Policy
  • Baker Company's Reunions, June 1992 and August 1994
    The Author
     
    After emerging in one piece from infantry combat and a year of occupation duty, Sandy Hadden returned to Yale and then attended Case Western Reserve Law School, joining a Cleveland law firm on graduation in 1951.
     
    His work there took him on a storybook adventure to Pakistan in 1956 in a successful effort to locate a shipment of defective anti-tank mines which had been manufactured in the U.S.
     
    He later specialized in trial and appellate practice which included arguing two cases in the U.S. Supreme Court.
     
    As a partner in the firm he served from 1964 to 1970 as general counsel to the American League of Professional Baseball Clubs.
     
    In 1970 he moved to New York as Secretary-Treasurer and General Counsel to Major League Baseball in the office of Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, thus uniting his professional career with a lifelong sports interest. In 1985 he was named Deputy Commissioner of Baseball by Commissioner Peter Ueberroth.
     
    After his retirement in 1986, Hadden lived in the Florida Keys and Vermont. He passed away several years ago. He is survived by his wife and four children and six grandchildren.
     
    Reviews and Testimonials
     
    Not Me! kept me up two nights running. It is a wonderful book, written by one of the most intelligent and thoughtful infantrymen imaginable. Hadden's criticism of battalion and regimental commanders for their apparent cowardice and lack of interest in the welfare of their men is especially welcome, and true. But the best things in the book are revelations of the ghastliness of infantry life, still so little known in the United States. Give this book to some boy who needs to be cured of military romanticism and perform a public service.
    —Paul Fussell, author of Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War
    This is a real and thoughtful story of an infantryman's war.
    —John Keegan, author, former senior lecturer at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, and Daily Telegraph defense correspondent
     
    Not Me! is the engaging personal chronicle of a young man's passage from reluctant recruit to battle-tested infantryman in World War II Europe. The book also includes revealing behind-the-scenes views of the post-war occupation of Berlin and a close-up of the Potsdam Conference at which Truman met Stalin.
    —Kenneth Koyen, author of The Fourth Armored Division
     
    They'd even die to be a hero. Not me! But who could help but be a hero in the Bulge? An army is smashed through and revived in the intelligence, courage and fright of a GI who was there, through dark, cold, and out-of-nowhere fire and pain, from the lead tank's breakthrough roar to the church bell's thrilling news of peace. A personal experience, for the reader, of the climactic battle in the West.
    —Robert Irwin Elliott, damage control officer and ship's newscaster on Adm. Halsey's and Spruance's flagship New Jersey (night after night he reported the Battle of the Bulge)
     
    Sandy Hadden's Not Me! holds a war's worth of insight into the GI's life in combat and how we all negotiate with those memories half a century later. A realistic and positive story.
    —Roger Spiller, Professor, U.S. Army Command & General Staff College
    I just bought one of your titles this Veteran's Day at the Pennsylvania Military History Museum, home of the 28th Infantry Division memorial. Appropriately enough, the book was Not Me! The World War II Memoir of a Reluctant Rifleman, by Alexander H. Hadden, a veteran of the "Bloody Bucket" Division. This was an excellent book, both in terms of content and production. On the strength of this book, I am interested in buying several other titles… listed at the rear of the Hadden book. Again, I must say that I am glad to have made the acquaintance of Merriam Press, and I hope that the titles [being ordered] are as good as Not Me!.
    —Andrew J. Swanger, Lebanon, Pennsylvania 
     
    Through sheer chance while surfing the Internet looking for the existence of any history or photos of the 1945 U.S. Infantry Officers School in Fontainbleau, France, excerpts of your book Not Me! describing the school and the surrounding area popped up. What a wonderful surprise to also find a fellow graduate. I graduated the end of April or May 1st, 1945. I subsequently traced down the publisher, Merriam Press, ordered and received your book and have now read it for the second time.
          I cannot adequately express the joy and yet mixed emotions of sorrow and anger attributed to the lifeof an infantryman contrasted toi life of the higher military echelon that your book evokes. Your book should be compulsory reading for the public and for our leaders who put us in harm's way but never bear the brunt of their decisions equally.
         In retrospect, I would certainly volunteer again, if need be, as an infantry officer as we do live in the greatest most beautiful country in the world—America.
         Thank you so much for authoring this wonderful book. Warmly,
    —Jack D. Bloom, San Diego, California; served with the 79th Infantry Division and the 102nd Infantry Division, respectively, from 1942 to 1946. Landed in Normandy 12 June 1944 and came home from overseas March 1946

    Enjoyable read but limited combat account

    Hadden served with `B' Co, 1/112th Regt, 28th Division, which he joins on its final day in the Hurtgen and so in time for the Bulge. It is a good sized book (359 pages)but the combat experiences revealed make up a relatively small part of it. He starts with some very good detail relating to his introduction to the front. The way he records what he sees, hears and learns, conveys the sense of wonder he feels, despite the absolute terror of the situation. He is, as the subtitle says, a reluctant rifleman. The main title itself, reflects his continued efforts to avoid any move that will take him towards battle. There are quite a few occasions when he is confronted with a chance to get into `things' but he responds with a heart felt "Not me" (and a couple of these are hilarious!), not that it ultimately helps him.
         I've said above that this book is a little shy on combat accounts. Partly this is because Hadden can not remember what happened. A few events he was able to recall after talking with fellow veterans almost 50 years later but there are days which he admits are completely blank. He does though write about shooting a German for the first time. The way he reveals the sense of astonishment at what he has just done is quite compelling. He is also shelled heavily in the open and later attacked by tanks. The later came so furiously that he flees weaponless into the forest. There is detail for what he recalls in these incidents but I think the reality of Hadden's Bulge is so overwhelming that quite a lot of stuff is blocked out or remembered in only a fleeting way. There are then a few more accounts of general front line combat before he is sent to officer school, thus missing the final months of the war. Still, some of his experiences are very clearly expressed and graphic battle accounts.
         The books strength for me though, was the beautifully revealed sense of wonder Hadden feels at being a young American soldier in liberated France. This can be a tedious hold up to the action in other books but here it is fascinating and enjoyable. Hadden had taken the chance to learn French (while otherwise avoiding much else) and this serves him well as he befriends some of the French people he meets. There is something very wonderfully human about these exchanges. Following the end of the war, Hadden, now an officer, is posted to various roles in Berlin and the Potsdam Conference. And again, there was much that was interesting about this phase of his story. I felt my interest slip a little though - no doubt because the war `stories' had stopped. An interesting aspect of his memoir is his thoughts on his commanders, including Cota and the 'Unconditional Surrender' policy. He has some strong, heart felt views of the follies/incompetence of all these!
         Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Hadden is very honest, very human and very likeable. Indeed, there are a host of glowing endorsements from various people, including historians Paul Fussell and John Keegan. As with many of the books here, I wanted the author to reveal more about his combat experiences and while I completely understand the difficulties associated with that, it is the focus of my reading and my rating reflects this. This said, Hadden was a rifleman. He was shot at and shot back.
    John E. Larsen

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