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Unsung Heroes
By Eric Durschmied

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Unsung Heroes
The Twentieth Century's Forgotten History-Makers

By Eric Durschmied
Charnwood Large Print, (2004)
ISBN: 1-84395-215-7
Genre: History, Biography

Reviewed by Herbert White - July 19, 2004

Within the pages of Unsung Heroes: The Twentieth Century's Forgotten History-Makers, Eric Durschmied has gathered together a series of unforgettable stories about individuals who are truly heroes. Some of the people that you will meet within this book may have names that sound familiar. Most, however, will probably be names that you have never heard of before. Although all the people mentioned in this book performed some act of heroism that has gone unreported, or which were overshadowed by 'larger' events. Nonetheless, their deeds are just as heroic, and just as worthy of song, as the better-known members of the brave band of heroes who have helped to shape the twentieth century. Heroes who range from a German sergeant, who accidently took a fortress single-handedly during World War I, to Colonel Pal Maleter who lead the Hungarian rebellion against the Soviets in 1956.

Some of the heroes in this book are mentioned by name, others merely by deed, for their names have been lost to history. For instance, Durschmied recounts how numerous Danish Jews were ferried to Sweden during World War II, by fisherman who risked their boats, their livelihoods, and their lives to help more than 7,000 Jews escape the clutches of the Nazis. Others in this book performed deeds that could not be spoken about, when they performed, due to secrecy or political expediency. A case that illustrates this point is the story of Dr. Louis Slotin. Slotin was a nuclear physicist who worked in Los Alamos on the development of the atomic bomb. He died in 1946 after receiving a fatal dose of radiation, when an experiment went tragically wrong.

Others had their stories overlooked by world events. For examples, Genevieve de Galard was a French nurse who traveled to French Indochina to minister to the wounded French soldiers who were battling the Ho Chi Minh Communist insurgents. In 1954, as she was about to leave the region on a red cross plane ferrying out wounded, her plane was shot down. de Galard survived the crash, and stayed on with the military, the only women amongst 12,000 men. In a short time, she became 'their' angel. Helping to save many lives, and to ease the passing of those whose bodies could not be mended. de Galard stayed with the troops in Dien Bien Phu (near Hanoi), until the very end. When the outpost fell to the Vietminh troops, she continued to minister to her charges, who were now POWs. She stayed with the men until she was forced to abandon them. The events that de Galard witness where but a foreshadow of the Vietnam War to come.

All the stories in this book are riveting. The narratives are based on case histories, personal interviews that were conducted by the author, and historical documents. Each story offers a concise account of the actions that made each person a 'hero'. These concise biographies are detailed, and provide historical information that explains not only the event covered, but also the state of world affairs at the time. Detailing heros from World War I through the Hungarian Rebellion against the Soviets in 1956, this book offers a unique look at some of the most important military events to have taken place during the twentieth century, as well as the men and women who helped to make these events so momentous.

Unsung Heroes can be purchased directly from Ulverscroft, the parent company of Charnwood Large Print.

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