Few dates in history have seen tragedy comparing to the June 6, 1944. Many American families and towns grieved the losses of the D-Day. Perhaps the most affected town is the tiny town of Bedford, Virginia, with approximately 3000 inhabitants. Bedford lost nineteen sons on that fateful day and other three people before the war ended. Basing on this historic tragedy, Alex Kershaw narrates the story of Normandy invasion from the perspective of the families left behind.
The boys from Bedford joined National Guard during the depression in hope to earn and help feed their families with extra money. These boys largely farmed before joining the security force. Using his style of video and photography to bring the intercultural exchange with people and communities, Kershaw brings out this past well. It is possible to tell which soldiers the author interviewed and which soldiers he just described basing on the interviews with their family members or the veterans. Using his unique ability, Kershaw uses about two thirds of the book to describe the life before the D-Day. The life at home, the cramped ship to England, the endless drills, the life in Britain - all resuscitate the untold stories of the World War Two. It could be through luck or political intervention that the boys were living in England for a whole year before they saw combat on Omaha Beach for the first time. The life of writing letters home, dancing with British girls, and learning to take British beer does not preempt the dark days lurking. As they fit into the culture of Britain, some of the boys fell in love with British girls, while others even married deep into the last weeks before their shipment out of Britain.
Suddenly, things change when the boys went to Omaha beach. The explicit coverage of the battle is enough to explain the extent of the destruction by the war. Kershaw goes ahead to explain that miserable weather prohibited both the air and the sea support from reaching the Americans. The challenges faced made it difficult to take out German machine gun hideouts. Kershaw paints battlefield which expounds on craters on the beach that provided protection for Allied soldiers. The decisions to invade, however, led to the shooting and death of many Allied soldiers. On the D-Day, June 6 1944, the boys died just as the war started. The landing craft carrying the nineteen boys dropped them in the shallow waters of Omaha Beach. The boys together with American soldiers were the first to land in Normandy. Once again, Kershaw describes painful story in detail without any form of gratuitousness. Drowning of some boys, pulling down by jackets of a few, and direct shooting of others in the open beach mark the rueful events at the beach. Fortunately, medics, despite the raging fire shots, miraculously saved some boys. The Bedford Boys is an intertwined book that can make a reader laugh, cry and yet develop admiration for the boys who became heroes in Normandy for their fighting spirit. It is intriguing to learn of one soldier who survives D-Day, returns to America and unexpectedly refuses to take a beer because he is too young.
The author, Alex Kershaw is a Briton born in York, England. He has written several accepted books on World War II after his studies in politics, philosophy and economics in the University College, Oxford and teaching career. Kershaw joined journalism in several British newspapers, such as The Guardian. His successes stretched to the film industry too, where he wrote and became a producer of the documentary of Bobby Kennedy. Kershaw has written many acclaimed and bestselling books, including The Longest Winter and The Few.
In conclusion, Kershaw gives a concise narrative of the boys from Bedford who survived and perished. This is a riveting story, whose antics are funny but the sacrifice is sad. It reflects a well-written piece and account that will always act as a reminder of the Americans’ journey to freedom. The boys will forever remain men from Bedford in the eyes of Americans.