Valor of Many Stripes
Remarkable Americans in World War II
McFarland, Jefferson, North Carolina, 2019, 224 pages
Book Review published on: June 21, 2019
Scott Baron offers a moving collection of lesser-known stories of valor during World War II in Valor of Many Stripes: Remarkable Americans in World War II. The stories are about soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, spies, prisoners of war, a chaplain, the son of a U.S. president, and even a dog. Baron posits that the receipt of an award is the only recognition for valor. However, the award itself does not define valor, but rather it is the actions of the individual that define it. By describing the circumstances surrounding the actions of the recipients, Baron hopes to bring to the forefront stories of valor that have often been overlooked or forgotten.
Baron compiles twenty-seven stories describing valorous actions ranging from the last horse cavalry charge in U.S. military history to the story of Signalman 1st Class Douglas Munro, the only U.S. Coast Guardsman to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor. An author and coauthor of eleven other books, Baron skillfully tells the story of these valorous actions.
While he selected quite the variety of individuals and events to describe, the rationale for why he made these particular selections is not clear. For instance, the story of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s (FDR) son, Maj. James P. Roosevelt, who was the executive officer of the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion. (In one of the earliest offensive operations in the Pacific [17 August 1942], Roosevelt’s battalion was the first commando operation launched from a submarine during the raid on Makin Island.) Or the stories of Col. Demas T. Craw and Maj. Pierpont M. Hamilton, who were the only aviators during World War II to receive the Medal of Honor for actions not involving air combat during Operation Torch.
Baron offers a connection to the film industry by describing two stories he attributes as an inspiration to the famed Steven Spielberg movie Saving Private Ryan. Baron tells the story of the Niland brothers, in which Sgt. Frederick Niland was ordered home by FDR when his three brothers went missing or were killed after the Normandy invasion on D-Day. He also tells the story of the Borgstrom brothers, Clyde, Leroy, Rulon, Rolan, and Boyd, in which all but one die in different theaters of battle. Clyde, a marine, was killed in Guadalcanal. Leroy and Rulon, U.S. Army soldiers, were killed in Italy and France, respectively. Rolan, Rulon’s twin, Army Air Corps, was killed in Germany. The sole surviving brother, Boyd, was a marine and served as an antiaircraft gunner in the Pacific. Their parents, Alben and Gunda Borgstrom, proudly displayed their sons’ service banner, complete with five blue stars.
Continuing a theme of families, Baron tells the story of the Stokes twins. Claude and Clyde, originally from Dierks, Arkansas, joined the Army in January 1943. As an exception to the sole survivor policy and as approved by FDR, the Stokes twins served together in the same unit and on the same M-10 Tank Destroyer. It was their actions at Salerno, Italy, on September 1943 that prevented a breakthrough by the Germans. For these actions, the twins were each awarded the Silver Star. They continued their service together, spending 133 continuous days in combat and earned Bronze Stars with “V” devices and a total of three Purple Hearts.
The stories Baron tells are motivating, awe-inspiring, and replete with commitments to the country, mission, and fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines. The stories cover the gamut of the war from the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor to the Philippines to the closing battles of the war in Europe. Baron sets out to educate us on the lesser-known or forgotten stories of valor. However, it is not the interesting pieces of history this book unveils that make it a must read for current and future members of the profession of arms. Rather, it is the valor that the stories reveal and the personal conduct of these heroes that we should understand and to which we should all aspire.
Book Review written by: David D. Haught, Fort Belvoir, Virginia