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Sample Book Review on Roll Me Over: An infantryman's World War II

Roll Me Over: An Infantryman/’S World War II” is a book written by Raymond Gantter and was published by Ballantine Books in 1997. It documents Gantter’s experience as a foot soldier during the World War II among other events. It is a non-fiction military memoir that outlines the military history as experienced during the World War II. The author indicates that the book is a tribute to all the former infantrymen as well as a personal narrative to his family and any foot soldier who will be engaged in war in the future[1]. He strongly believes, as noted in the prologue of the book, that no matter how technology advances, foot soldiers will still remain the integral unit in a combat. Notably, the author uses notes he took during the war and personal letters that he drafted to the family in recounting the events that took place during this period. In this context, this essay outlines the author’s main argument in the book Roll Me Over: An Infantryman/’S World War II. Additionally, the essay identifies the audience of this book and the evident benefits to the appropriate audience of the book.

Raymond Gantter was an American who loved playing piano and joined jazz bands at the tender age of fourteen years. After graduating at the Syracuse University, Gantter worked as a program manager at a radio station in Sycrause where he worked until the age of 30 years; he had already been married and had three children. Thereafter, he quit his employment as a program manager after receiving his third deferment and immediately joined the army, while having unlikely physique characteristics for infantry as he was nearly six feet tall and weighed 130 pounds. He was rallied as an infantryman and within six months he was moved from private to a squad leader before being awarded the Silver Star and a battlefield commission. Gantter began working on the book Roll Me Over: An Infantryman/’S World War II in 1944 and finished it in 1949 and it was first published in 1997. Unfortunately, Gantter met his death in 1985 before his manuscript was published.

An infantry is defined as a group of soldiers who fight on foot as well as capture, and repel enemies on ground forces. In normal instances, infantrymen suffer the largest number of casualties and endure the highest degree of infliction during a combatant. According to Gantter’s book, during his tenure in the forces, the infantry entered the battlefront as fresh recruits who did not have any experience in the armed forces. There was a lot for them to learn immediately after they joined the force, and some of the lessons can be inferred from the book.

The first theme to be drawn from this book is military heroism. Gantter states that he was astonished that people may wear decorations and be rendered as heroes even though they have not earned the title. Shockingly, soldiers who were in the warfront did not ultimately receive recognition after triumphing in the war, but their leaders, who were mostly in the offices, received the ultimate acknowledgement for the victory. This argument resonates with Franco, Blau, and Zimbardo perception of heroism; they describe heroism as the act of pre-social manner despite the personal risks involved in carrying out the outlined event[2]. The three authors continue to assert that the simple presence of risk accompanying pro-social behavior is not solely enough to define heroism[3], thus, it may involve a combination of concepts in defining a heroic act.

In this connection, the martial heroes’ scholars argue that there is a great difference between courage and heroism. This implies that courage is a necessity in military but insufficient to meet a standardized description of heroism. It is rather unfortunate that heroism is a socially imposed concept and it has no standard measurement of determining the act[4]. As discerned from Gantter’s description, the society may crown an individual for a certain heroic act that he or she did not directly contribute to.

Similarly, military heroism is reflected in the allocation of ranks in the forces. Education levels, age, and literacy ideologies, are not taken into account in determining the person leading the soldiers in the forces as explained by Gantter.  “Something that always angered and frightened me was the small horizon of the man in the ranks[5].” The author recollects the soldier who took them for their first orientation as fresh army recruits was barely 21-year-old, while the author was 30. Gantter wondered how the young kid had much authority to command respect and issue orders despite the fact that he was young and barely educated. In this regard, military ranks may sometimes be allocated depending on the individual’s experience and expertise in the profession. According to Campbell, a hero is shaped by the acts that can be witnessed by third parties and not an ideology of what people think he or she can do[6]. A hero must prove to the society that he or she has done an extra-ordinary thing to earn the title. This basically means that a hero should not be affected by factors such as age and literacy level but the capabilities.

Living conditions in a combatant mission are often deplorable and impoverished, as witnessed in Gantter’s story. Gantter likens the meal they ate in Belgium with “tasteless sawdust[7].” In one of the menus that Gantter has mentioned in the book includes four dog biscuits and a single slice of bacon. This implies that the quantity of food served in battles is quite minute to last an individual. The author asserts that food was part of the main conversation in the warfront; however, he still acknowledges that there was no remedy for quality food in such trying conditions. In addition to the little food quantity offered, soldiers were exposed to extreme temperatures and remedies such as night fires were banished. It is quite clear that infantry deny themselves provisions that are considered basic necessities in civilian life. The word 'comfort' is such an antonym based on the conditions that military endure when they are at war. Gantter also notes that when he was transferred to Germany he got an opportunity to eat “real food” including potatoes and cabbage which fueled his body that had been dehydrated for days[8].

Gantter recounts that on November 17 they had received an announcement that they will be moved to a village that is more cozy and luxurious[9]. There were promises of stoves, cots, and better food. This news overwhelmed the soldiers and they spent the night with extreme anticipation. However, there was a turn of events on the wake of November 18 when they received a contrary announcement that they will be deployed for immediate duty on the front[10]. That night the infantrymen spent their time cleaning their riffles and filing the dugouts in preparation for an ambush. The following morning the orders were not actualized but 23 men were bundled in a lorry and taken to another forest in Germany[11]. This shows that communication in this war was up-hazard and ineffective leading to the lack of appropriate preparations. It was quite uncommon for Gantter and his colleagues to rely on information from their captains as it kept on changing. In modern day management literature, communication efficiency is identified as one of the basic pillar for success in any profession. Improper communication tools and strategies are clearly identified in this book as illustrated by the author.

Another thing that the author recounts is emotional and mental imbalance by the foot soldiers in the war zone. Four days after landing in Europe, Gantter and other infantrymen could see bodies of dead men be dragged or lying along the pathways. In the civilian life, Gantter states that killing is a felony that is viewed as an imaginable inhumane act. Gantter and his fellow soldiers had this notion that killing is bad when they joined the war until they learnt that killing was a necessity in a war. Actually, this was a disturbing fact that troubled the soldiers and brought mental instability and emotional imbalance among them. It is quite common for veteran soldiers to be diagnosed with post traumatic disorders after their return from a war zone[12]. Such disorders are attributed to unpleasant exposures in the battlefield that Gantter says he was not adequately prepared for.

Roll Me Over: An Infantryman/’S World War II is a book with some fascinating historical events that took place in the World War II. The author basically targets two types of audiences; potential infantry men and civilians. The author creates an environment in which a potential combatant fully understands what to expect in a war; hence, he or she will be both physically and emotionally prepared. Civilians on the other hand have much to benefit from Gantter’s publications. They need to understand what the foot soldiers go through on a battlefield. As a result, they will be able to appreciate the impeccable duty played by soldiers who offer protection to civilians. The society at large will learn how to create a hero by acknowledging the actual people who were involved in the heroic activity. Therefore, Roll Me Over: An Infantryman/’S World War II is a moving memoir that is recommendable to all kinds of audiences to read.

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