Forgotten: The Untold Story of D-Day’s Black Heroes, at Home and at War

By Linda Hervieux
Read by Ron Butler

9.55 Hours 10/27/2015 unabridged
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The injustices of 1940s Jim Crow America are brought to life in this extraordinary blend of military and social history, an account that pays tribute to the valor of an all-black battalion whose crucial contributions at D-day have gone unrecognized to this day. In the early hours of June 6, 1944, the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion, a unit of African American soldiers, landed on the beaches of France. Their orders were to man a curtain of armed balloons meant to deter enemy aircraft. One member of the 320th would be nominated for the Medal of Honor, an award he would never receive because the nation’s highest decoration was not given to black soldiers in World War II. Drawing on newly uncovered military records and dozens of original interviews with surviving members of the 320th and their families, Linda Hervieux tells the story of these heroic men charged with an extraordinary mission, whose contributions to one of the most celebrated events in modern history have been overlooked. Thousands of African Americans were sent abroad to fight for liberties denied them at home, including these members of the 320th: Wilson Monk, a jack-of-all-trades from Atlantic City; Henry Parham, the son of sharecroppers from rural Virginia; William Dabney, an eager seventeen-year-old from Roanoke, Virginia; and Samuel Mattison, a charming romantic from Columbus, Ohio. In Europe, these soldiers discovered freedom they had not known in a homeland that treated them as second-class citizens—experiences they carried back to America, fueling the budding civil-rights movement. In telling the story of the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion, Hervieux offers a vivid account of the tension between racial politics and national service in wartime America and a moving narrative of human bravery and perseverance in the face of injustice.

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Summary

Summary

The injustices of 1940s Jim Crow America are brought to life in this extraordinary blend of military and social history, an account that pays tribute to the valor of an all-black battalion whose crucial contributions at D-day have gone unrecognized to this day.

In the early hours of June 6, 1944, the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion, a unit of African American soldiers, landed on the beaches of France. Their orders were to man a curtain of armed balloons meant to deter enemy aircraft. One member of the 320th would be nominated for the Medal of Honor, an award he would never receive because the nation’s highest decoration was not given to black soldiers in World War II.

Drawing on newly uncovered military records and dozens of original interviews with surviving members of the 320th and their families, Linda Hervieux tells the story of these heroic men charged with an extraordinary mission, whose contributions to one of the most celebrated events in modern history have been overlooked.

Thousands of African Americans were sent abroad to fight for liberties denied them at home, including these members of the 320th: Wilson Monk, a jack-of-all-trades from Atlantic City; Henry Parham, the son of sharecroppers from rural Virginia; William Dabney, an eager seventeen-year-old from Roanoke, Virginia; and Samuel Mattison, a charming romantic from Columbus, Ohio. In Europe, these soldiers discovered freedom they had not known in a homeland that treated them as second-class citizens—experiences they carried back to America, fueling the budding civil-rights movement.

In telling the story of the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion, Hervieux offers a vivid account of the tension between racial politics and national service in wartime America and a moving narrative of human bravery and perseverance in the face of injustice.

Editorial Reviews

Editorial Reviews

“An utterly compelling account of the African Americans who played a crucial and dangerous role in the invasion of Europe. The story of their heroic duty is long overdue.” Tom Brokaw, #1 New York Times bestselling author
Forgotten is essential, fiercely dramatic, and ultimately inspiring. All Americans should read this World War II history, which doubles as a civil-rights primer, to learn the true cost of freedom.” Douglas Brinkley, New York Times bestselling author
“Compelling a welcome addition to our understanding of the war and the American military.” Washington Post
“Thrilling…Forgotten manages to weave the intricate complexities of history into a clear, convincing text that is accessible to both the lay person and the history buff. Here is a stunning achievement that will add much to the historical scholarship of our country.” Root magazine
“Hervieux…powerfully gives voice to the African Americans who were also on those beaches in northern France on that fateful day in June 1944…She also effectively depicts how these soldiers encountered Jim Crow stateside and within the army…[in a] highly readable account.” Library Journal (starred review)
“A long-overdue, sympathetic treatment of the barrage balloon operators who fought valiantly on the beaches of France…A useful history of an important, fairly unknown part of the American contribution to the Allied victory.” Kirkus Reviews
“In this mesmerizing book Hervieux relates how those GIs abruptly converted from civilians into soldiers and remained focused on their military tasks for years despite oppressive discrimination and apathy on the home front. Forgotten will surely appeal to both general readers and those with an abiding interest in World War II history.” Joseph Balkoski, author of Omaha Beach: D-Day, June 6, 1944
“Ron Butler respectfully narrates a remarkable story that most of us have never heard featuring the brave African American soldiers…Butler’s clear delivery is unpretentious, even elegant, as he describes the courage of these young Americans thrust onto the front lines of battle. Describing the shocking disparity between American prejudice and European attitudes of acceptance toward the black soldiers, Butler maintains a dignified objectivity. His rich voice warms in the personal stories of these young men from Virginia, New Jersey, and Ohio.” AudioFile

Reviews

Reviews

by Rogue Writer 9/13/2017
Overall Performance
Narration
Story

Loses Focus

This audiobook highlights things not yet brought to the forefront of WWII history. I knew the US had a deeply entrenched system of racism (Jim Crow), but I didn’t know how many African Americans had served in WWII. More fascinating to me is the use of barrage balloons. Why are images of blimps not prevalent in imagery of D-Day or WWII when they were so heavily used? The same goes for photos of black troops.

This book does an excellent job detailing the inexcusable ways that blacks were treated both in the US military and at home. However, the bulk of this book is filled with history that felt more like filler and didn’t actually relate to the topic. I wanted to hear more stories of the black heroes, but got only the occasional peppering of their experiences. Overall, the book lacks focus as regards the subject matter. That doesn’t mean it’s uninteresting, just unfocused. I can’t help but wonder if the author didn’t have enough material to fill the book, so she beefed it up with the additional history.

Author

Author Bio: Linda Hervieux

Linda Hervieux is a freelance journalist and photographer based in Paris since 2004. Before that, she was a senior editor at the Daily News in New York. Her writing and photos have appeared in the Daily News, New York Times, International Herald Tribune, and Fodor’s Paris guide, among other publications.

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Details

Details

Available Formats : Digital Download, Digital Rental, CD, MP3 CD
Category: Nonfiction/History
Runtime: 9.55
Audience: Adult
Language: English