Cover image for The Bedford boys : one American town's ultimate D-Day sacrifice
The Bedford boys : one American town's ultimate D-Day sacrifice
Kershaw, Alex.
Personal Author:
[Large print edition].
Publication Information:
Waterville, Me. : Thorndike Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
517 pages : illustrations, maps ; 23 cm
Geographic Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
D756.5.N6 K47 2003B Adult Large Print - Floating collection Floating Collection - Large Print

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On June 6, 1944, nineteen boys from Bedford, Virginia -- population 3,000 -- died in the first bloody minutes of D-Day, part of the first wave of American soldiers to hit the sands of Normandy. Later in the campaign, three more soldiers from the same town died of gunshot wounds. No other town in America suffered a greater one-day loss. Here is the intimate story of these young men and their friends and families in Bedford, portraying a neighborhood of soldiers before and during the war. Using extensive interviews with survivors and relatives as well as letters and diaries, Alex Kershaw focuses on several remarkable individuals and families to tell one of the most poignant stories of World War II. Book jacket.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

On June 6, 1944, Allied armies launched their massive invasion of Europe--D-Day, in other words. Among the thousands of soldiers headed for France were 34 men from the town of Bedford, Virginia, aboard Empire Javelin, a British troopship. Nineteen of them were killed in the first minutes of combat, when their landing craft dropped them into the water off Normandy. Two more were killed later in the day from gunshot wounds. No other town in the U.S. endured a greater one-day loss. Kershaw's book is more than just another war story; here is an in-depth account of this blue-collar town and its 3,000 people. The soldiers included three sets of brothers, a pool-hall hustler, husbands, farmers, and a couple of "highly successful Lotharios." Kershaw describes in painful detail how the next of kin were notified of the soldiers' deaths via Western Union telegrams and how the news devastated their lives. Drawing on interviews with survivors and relatives, newspaper clippings, letters, and diaries, Kershaw has chronicled one community's great sacrifice. --George Cohen

Publisher's Weekly Review

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. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

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 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. 9
The Bedford Boysp. 12
Mapsp. 14
1 D-Day, H-360p. 17
2 Going to Warp. 26
3 Moving Outp. 55
4 Cruel Seasp. 85
5 England's Ownp. 105
6 "29, Let's Go!"p. 131
7 Slapton Sandsp. 157
8 The Sausagesp. 178
9 The Empire Javelinp. 212
10 The First Wavep. 230
11 Dog Beachp. 275
12 "Medic!"p. 291
13 Every Man Was a Herop. 308
14 Bedford's Longest Dayp. 337
15 Bocagep. 352
16 The Longest Waitp. 380
17 His Deep Regretp. 393
18 Coming Homep. 414
19 Memorialp. 442
The Bedford Boys and D-Dayp. 468
Bibliographyp. 471
Notesp. 475