Five Lieutenants: The Heartbreaking Story of Five Harvard Men Who Led America to Victory in World War I

St. Martin's. Nov. 2012. c.384p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780312604233. $26.99. HIST
Nelson (The Remains of Company D: A Story of the Great War) makes extensive use of primary sources to tell the story of five men from different backgrounds, all Harvard educated, who served as officers in the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I France. He draws on their "voluminous" and, more important, uncensored letters and diaries to paint a larger picture of the experience of war. The soldiers describe the misery of life in the trenches in vivid detail, but there are also notes of humor and depictions of strong friendships. The officers' roles in the Battle of Cantigny, the first American offensive of the war, are prominently featured.
VERDICT Nelson's habit of putting thoughts in his subjects' heads (e.g., "He…detect[ed] no sound but his own heartbeat") may not be for every reader, and more traditional endnotes would have been welcome, but this is a well-researched and touching work that should please World War I history buffs.
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