The 712th Tank Battalion landed in Normandy three weeks after D-Day and spent eleven months in combat. The men had to adapt quickly to their new role on the frontline of the army of liberation: they dug up potatoes with their tanks and roasted them on the exhausts; they ‘freed’ plentiful crates of Calvados; they drank copious amounts of wine and champagne; they collected Lugers, banners and other trophies; and they fought and died together in some of the most dramatic battles of the Second World War.
This is not a story of tanks, guns, strategy and statistics; this is the human story of the characters that operated the tanks –the ordinary men who found themselves at the forefront of the war. Men like the young Billy Wolfe, who wrote in a high school essay, ‘I may get specialized training from Uncle Sam that might be my life’s work.’ Tragically, it was his life’s work; eighteen-year-old Billy was burned to death in his tank just two weeks after joining the battalion. Others include Ed Forrest, whose grave in the American cemetery at Margraten was adopted by a middle school whose students place flowers on it and say a prayer during field trips, and Jim Flowers who remarkably survived the horrors on Hill 122.
The Armored Fist exposes the peculiar caprice of war, when men’s emotions are pushed to uncharted extremities. From balking horrors to careless delights, from cheerful camaraderie to bitter sadness: this is the story of everyman’s war.
Aaron Elson has written four books of oral history and has a substantial presence on the internet. His work has been used as source material in many books and documentaries. The Armored Fist: The 712th Tank Battalion in the Second World War is his first book for Fonthill Media.
Dimensions: 234 x 156 mm
Illustrations: 30 b/w photographs