Blood on German Snow: An African American Artilleryman in World War II and Beyond

Article excerpt

Blood on German Snow: An African American Artilleryman in World War II and Beyond by Emiel W. Owens. Texas A&M University Press (http://, John H. Lindsey Building, Lewis Street, 4354 TAMU, College Station, Texas 77843-4354, 2006, 160 pages, $24.95 (hardcover).

I'm continually drawn to memoirs of men who fought in World War II. To me, reading about their experiences and recollections is infinitely more interesting than the cold facts and bland rehashing of unit movements and battle progressions. When authors can tie such an important part of their lives to a historical event, it makes that situation much more memorable. In other words, I love reading memoirs. Let me rephrase that: I love reading "most" memoirs.

In Blood on German Snow, the author gives us insight into the life of a black soldier fighting against the forces of Nazism in Europe during a time in our history marked with decidedly dark undercurrents. Emiel W. Owens is an interesting man whose life shines with the academic achievements that most people can only dream about. Holding a PhD in economics from Ohio State University, he has taught and lectured around the world, including Europe and Africa. His life after the war makes for a compelling study in itself.

Born in the small town of Smithville, Texas, in 1922, Owens grew up in the usual, repressive Jim Crow environment found throughout the South. Due to the influence of his family, however, he obtained an excellent education. His love of learning and academic achievement stayed with him his entire life. In 1943 Owens was drafted into the Army, where he became part of the segregated 777th Field Artillery Battalion, in which he served throughout the European conflict.

Regarding Blood on German Snow as a memoir, I have to say that in some ways it disappointed me. One would expect much more discussion of the author's contributions and experiences in combat. This book reveals that he had many of them. That is not to say he doesn't relate any of these stories, but only 57 pages cover the actual fighting in Europe. This includes his initial arrival on the continent through the German surrender. Although the author's unit took part in the deadly fighting inside the Hurtgen Forest in November 1944, for example, one finds surprisingly little detail about the fighting. …