by Julie HaleNovember, 2004
The Bedford Boys
A New York Times bestseller, this thoroughly researched narrative is a gripping account of the historical events that inspired the movie Saving Private Ryan. Journalist Kershaw tells the poignant story of a group of soldiers from Bedford, Virginia, who were among the first men to die on the beaches of Normandy in World War II. When the National Guard was activated in 1940, 103 young men left Bedford to serve their country. On D-Day, 34 members of that group were with Company A of the 116th Infantry Regiment of the 29th Infantry Division when they hit the beach at Normandy. Nineteen of the men died there almost immediately. This courageous bunch of small-town boys represented a cross-section of the little Virginia community that is now home to the national D-Day Memorial. Captain Taylor N. Fellers came from an affluent Bedford family. Frank Draper Jr. was a star athlete from the less affluent part of town. John Wilkes was the company's leading sergeant. With the help of diaries, letters and interviews with family members, Kershaw, whose previous books include Jack London: A Life and Blood and Champagne: The Life and Times of Robert Capa, has produced a first-class historical narrative that history buffs will love.
A reading group guide is included in the book.