Points of Honor
Short Stories of the Great War by a U.S. Combat Marine
Thomas Boyd, edited by Steven Trout
University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 2018, 216 pages
Book Review published on: May 4, 2018
On the one hundredth anniversary of America’s participation in World War I, Steven Trout, chair of the Department of English and codirector of the Center for the Study of War and Memory at the University of Alabama, rescued from obscurity a truly forgotten literary masterpiece of the war. Points of Honor: Short Stories of the Great War by a U.S. Combat Marine is based on Thomas Boyd’s personal experiences and observations as an enlisted marine during the war. There are eleven stories, each providing a unique perspective and our experience in France during the war.
One of the darker stories is “The Long Shot,” in which Boyd masterfully tells the woeful story of Duncan Milner. Milner’s tale begins when the reluctant sniper is reprimanded by Capt. Havermeyer, his commander, for not killing an unarmed German soldier. The Germans conduct a chemical gas attack as Milner is reprimanded by Havermeyer, and Milner is severely wounded when he fails to properly don his mask. Milner is subsequently discharged for these wounds and returns home. Despite the challenges of his health and war experiences, his life appears to be on the way up when he marries his sweetheart and accepts a managerial position back home. However, his world comes crashing down when Milner loses his job and learns that his wife is having an adulterous affair. Milner is arrested when he kills her lover. Milner soon finds himself standing before Judge Havermeyer, who originally reprimanded him for not killing the unarmed German soldier.
Marines will especially enjoy the last story titled “Semper Fidelis.” It is about legendary marine Sgt. Maj. John H. Quick at the Battle of Belleau Wood. Quick earned the Medal of Honor for gallantry in action by signaling naval gun fire while exposed to heavy enemy fire at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In “Semper Fidelis,” Quick volunteers to deliver a truckload of ammunition over a road swept by artillery and machine gun fire to a handful of marines facing a German counterattack at the Battle of Belleau Woods. Quick is awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and Navy Cross for his actions. Boyd ends the narrative describing how, through Quick’s unflinching bravery, he realized the highest ideal of the Marine Corps: Semper Fidelis, always faithful. Some men are larger than life.
The strength of the Boyd’s work is Trout’s excellent introduction and explanatory notes in providing background and context to the characters, events, and experiences. Points of Honor is a remarkable collection of eleven stories of events that took place “over there” during World War I. It would make a great addition to Elton Mackin’s Suddenly We Didn’t Want to Die: Memoirs of a World War I Marine and is highly recommend for anyone interested in a true story of courage, heroism, or World War I.
Book Review written by: Jesse McIntyre III, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas