With his acclaimed novels of World War II, David L. Robbins awakened a generation to the drama, tragedy, and heroism of some of history's greatest battles. Now he delivers a gripping and authentic story set against one of our greatest wartime achievements: the Red Ball Express, six thousand trucks and twenty-three thousand men-most of them African-American-who forged a lifeline of supplies in the Allied struggle to liberate France.
June 1944. The Allies deliver a staggering blow to Hitler's Atlantic fortress, leaving the beaches and bluffs of Normandy strewn with corpses. The Germans have only one chance to stop the immense invasion-by bottling up the Americans on the Cotentin Peninsula. There, in fields crisscrossed with dense hedgerows, many will meet their death while others will search for signs of life. Among the latter are two very different men, each with his own demons to fight and his own reasons to risk his life for his fellow man.
Joe Amos Biggs is an invisible "colored" driver in the Red Ball Express, the unheralded convoy of trucks that serves as a precious lifeline to the front. Delivering fuel and ammunition to men whose survival depends on the truckers, Joe Amos finds himself hungering to make his mark and propelled into battle among those who don't see him as an equal-but will need him to be a hero.
A chaplain in the demoralized 90th Infantry, Rabbi Ben Kahn is a veteran of the first great war and old enough to be the father of the GIs he tends. Searching for the truth about his own son, a downed pilot missing in action, Kahn finds himself dueling with God, wading into combat without a gun, and becoming a leader among men in need of someone-anyone-to follow.
The prize: the liberation of Paris, where a ruthless American traitor known as Chien Blanc-White Dog-grows fat and rich in the black market. Whatever the occupied city's destiny, destroyed or freed, he will win.
The fates of these three men will collide, hurtling toward an uncommon destiny in which people commit deeds they cannot foresee and can never truly explain.
From the screams of German .88 howitzers to the last whispers of dying young soldiers, Robbins captures war in all its awful fullness. And through the eyes of his unique characters, he leaves us with a mature, brilliant, and memorable vision of humanity in the face of inhumanity itself.
In his latest WWII novel, Robbins powerfully integrates the theme of racial bigotry from Scorched Earth with the successful formula of his previous three combat novels (The End of War, etc.). The 688th Truck Battalion is part of the famed Red Ball Express, which struggles to supply the fast-moving combat following D-Day as American forces fight through the French hedgerows and villages toward Paris. In recounting the battalion's heroic saga, Robbins's tale unfolds from several perspectives--that of Ben Kahn, an aging Jewish army chaplain from Pittsburgh, who fought as a doughboy in the trenches in WWI; Joe Amos, a young, black, college-educated truck driver; and "White Dog," a shadowy, corrupt downed B-17 pilot profiteering on the black market in German-occupied Paris. Bolstered by desperate hope he might find his son--a B-17 pilot shot down over France--Kahn lands on Omaha Beach five days after D-Day and hitches a ride to the front on a GI two-and-a-half ton Jimmy (GMC truck) with Amos. Both men are quickly seasoned by the horrors of war as Kahn heads for a showdown in Paris and Amos makes sergeant and finds romance with a Frenchwoman after shooting down a German plane. Although this isn't quite up to the standard of Robbins's best work--it's occasionally slowed by overwriting and repetition--it's a fine effort from an ambitious storyteller.
Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
October 24, 2005
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from Liberation Road by David L. Robb
september 15, 1944
The search for his son stopped here.
Ben Kahn toted up the sum of the young man standing in front of him. Well fed in a starving city. White-skinned and clean where millions lived without soap. Clothes expensive and dark. The long occupation, the fight for Paris, a nation's hunger--none of it had marked him. He'd flourished.
Ben waited while black eyes added him up, as well.
The boy shrugged. "You got me all wrong, Pop."
"Don't call me Pop." Ben winced. A pain in his side threatened to rip open. He put a hand there to hold it in.
"S'matter?" the boy asked. "You got no stomach for business? That's all it ever was--business. Everybody did it. Get serious."
Ben felt unsteady. He reached for a tabletop to catch himself.
His son had been a pilot. That was honorable. A year and a half ago he was shot down over France.
The crash didn't kill him. Paris killed him. Paris murdered everything honorable and good about his son, and he in turn killed others. Ben stared at the monster, traitor, in front of him and thought, My son became . . . this.
The room was a big space, a garage hung with chains and grimy tools, metal rafters and water pipes. A Citro'n waited under a jacket of dust; for four years no one had worked on civilian cars in Paris, with little gas to run them. The walls of the building were thick, the street outside was a quiet alley. The thoroughfares beyond were still flush with the Liberation. No one was looking for this young man. He was missing. Presumed dead.
"So, Pop. What are we gonna do? I can't stand here all day chattin' about old times. You don't look like you want to, either."
Ben did not correct him for calling him Pop.
He reached under his olive jacket. He hauled the .45 pistol from his waistband. The gun filled his hand and lifted his arm. Ben felt as though he could let go and the pistol would stay in the air, hammer cocked.
"What are you gonna do, shoot me?"
Untold deaths had passed through Ben's hands.
Ben stared at the white face turned incredulous, cringing. This was a coward, too. Of course he was.
"You can't do that!"
"Yes I can." Ben's voice was cool.
"No, no, no. You're . . . you're a man of God."
Ben answered down the barrel.
Logistics were the lifeblood of the Allied Armies in France without supplies, we could not move, shoot, eat.
General Omar Bradley
A General's Life
june 11, 1944
The first body of the second war in Ben Kahn's life drifted past.
The corpse bobbed on a thieving wave, a little salty crest that snuck onto the beach and floated away the soldier beneath anyone's notice. The water tried to ferret its catch back out to sea, a quiet and greedy bier. A cotton mattress cover had been buttoned around the corpse in its wait for burial somewhere close to this beach. Soaked, the sheath matted to its knees, shoulders, boot tips, even the nose and hollows of eyes.
He leaned over the rail of the truck bed, where he rode to shore. The truck, a deuce-and-a-half in an armada of vehicles, churned through the long shallows of the Norman coast, making for the beach. Colored boys drove all the trucks. Ben Kahn looked through the rear window at the two black boys in the cab of his truck. Both craned their necks to see the corpse bob off the right fender. Ben scooted across crates of ammunition to the tailgate of the truck. The water here off OMAHA should not want more, he thought. How red has it been already? He jumped into the water, hip deep. The truck stopped at his splash.
The driver shouted, "Hey, you alright?"
"Yeah. Figure I'd fetch this fella back to shore. You two go ahead. Thanks for the lift."
The driver nodded, said something to his assistant, and pulled away. Ben waded to the body, grabbing the mattress cover. The tug of the Channel seemed jealous. Ben pulled against it and plowed forward to the beach.
The walk was long, almost two hundred yards to the low-tide shelf. The body stayed buoyant behind him. Ben imagined how bloated it must be to float like it did. He towed the corpse in its white sack past obstacles the Germans had hammered into the sand. Allied engineers had been hard at work here, clearing paths for the constant invasion. Ben and his dead soldier passed steel tetrahedrons that would gut any boat floating across them at high tide, Belgian gates eight feet high laced with teller mines, barbed-wire lattices, and fat poles jutting in pyramids clotted with barnacles. The hulks of burned, stove-in landing craft, each a fiery story to itself, made the surface of the water jagged. Left and right Ben looked dragging the body, now in shallower water dragging its own heels as if saddened like Ben to return to France.