Thursday, April 04, 2013

Defining Moment at Wirtzfeld: The Story of the Military Police Platoon, 2nd Infantry Division, in World War II, by James Edwards

This is a "son of a vet' book about the MP platoon of the 2nd Infantry Division. 

First, I have to say- do not let the rimmed British .303 rounds on the cover discourage you. When I saw them I took a deep breath and chanted "it's only the cover designer…"     Second, it was a massive shock to find that I was thanked at the end of the forward for 'Finding Your Father's War.' I had no knowledge of this book at all until I saw a mention of it on the web.

In any event, it is a very competent history of the 2nd MP platoon. I will say the author has really done his homework and gone through not only the unit records, but also company morning reports, families of other veterans, and whatever else he could turn up.  So this is by no means a dull "written from a few letters my dad sent home and what WW2 books I found at the library;" there's a lot of in depth work here.  Sadly, only two MP platoon vets were able to be located to interview for it (an amazing number in this day and age).  

Also, a number of family members of vets he located turned out to have photos from the war, and the book is filled with them. Sadly, many are the tiny ones that are never as clear as you want them to be, but a far cry from overused generic  signal corps ones. Sadly, there's not too many MP details to be gleamed from them, but some good ones showing helmet and jeeps markings at various times.

As a unit history of that platoon it is very good. Unfortunately, where it stumbles is in dealing with all the minutae of being an MP in WW2, which has never been well documented. No blame to the author here- you cannot write about something that pretty much everyone that ever knew it has died.  Which is why I got depressed reading this book: we're very close to the end of having any living input into books on WW2.  

If you have an interest in the 2nd Infantry Division you will find a lot of the info interesting, especially of the stand at Wirtzfeld which is certainly a major event in the unit's history. Likewise this makes it a good book for any one really deep into the Ardennes. If you are just interested in what MPs did, you may be somewhat disappointed as there's not a lot of that material here.

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