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The Bedford Boys


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About the Author

Alex Kershaw has been a regular contributor to leading magazines and newspapers around the world since 1990, including The Sunday Times Magazine, The Guardian, The Observer, El Pais, Le Monde and many others. He has written several screenplays, co-produced two acclaimed documentaries and is also the author of the widely-acclaimed biography, Jack London, and more recently, Blood and Champagne: The Life and Times of Robert Capra. He has lived in the U.S. since 1994.


This accessible and moving group biography portrays the men of Company A, 116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division, who were part of the first wave at Omaha Beach in WWII. Initially, 103 of them left the small town of Bedford, Va.-now the site of the national D-Day memorial-when the local National Guard was called up in 1940; 34 were still with the company on D-Day. Of these, 19 died in a matter of minutes and three more perished in the Normandy campaign. Men lost ranged from the company commander, Captain Taylor N. Fellers, from a wealthy Bedford family, to Frank Draper Jr., a fine athlete and soldier from the wrong side of the tracks. Long-time National Guardsman John Wilkes died as the company's top sergeant, while Earl Parker left behind a daughter he never saw. Both Holback brothers and Ray Stevens died, while Ray's twin Roy Stevens was one of the handful of survivors. Kershaw (Jack London) includes combat sequences that give a vivid private's- eye view of the particular hell that was Omaha Beach, while one of the most moving portions of the book is the simultaneous arrival in Bedford of nine "We regret to inform you..." telegrams. A capsule history of Bedford before the war, its role as part of the home front during it and its current place as (controversial) memorial site are all covered, but the book's central focus is on the town where a good many survivors remain whose memories have not faded and whose emotional wounds have not healed. (May 26) Forecast: With a 75,000-copy first printing, along with author and radio tours, Da Capo is clearly looking for Memorial Day and D-Day (June 6) spikes in sales, but the book is good enough to have a life beyond that, especially with the 60th anniversary of D-Day approaching next year. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

"The Bedford Boys is written like Sebastian Junger's A Perfect Storm."

During World War II, the American 29th division went by several names, including "The Blues and the Grays" and "England's Own." In the companies of the 116th regiment, the men went by other names as well-brother, cousin, neighbor, and friend. Many of these men came from a National Guard company centered around Bedford, VA, and had joined during the Depression for the money and uniforms; friends and family members often joined together. The 116th was chosen to be the first ashore on Bloody Omaha beach on D-day, and their unit was devastated. Journalist and biographer Kershaw (Blood and Champagne: The Life and Times of Robert Capa) follows these young men from the time they joined the National Guard until they met their tragic end. Unlike the authors of other war books, he also highlights the families and hometown these young men left behind. Indeed, the powerful and heart-wrenching final chapters follow the families from D-day until they were given the awful news months later that 21 of their own had died, a loss the town continues to grieve almost 60 years later. Strongly recommended for all public libraries.-Brian K. DeLuca, Avon Lake P.L., OH Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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