The Deserters-A hidden History of World War II by Charles Glass final review and given back
James E. Sullivan (Writing Creative Non-Fiction) 02/11/2015
Everyone likes to read about dirty little secrets. I am sure that you are also interested to find out
about any kind of naughty laundry. This one might shock you; in fact, it should shock you. Out
of 150,000 known deserters from both the British and American armies during World War II,
only one man was ever executed for that crime. His name might or might not be familiar to you,
Private Eddie Slovik. Private Eddie Slovik was executed in Europe on January 31, 1945. He
was the only man ever tried, convicted and charged for his military crime. This book deals with
Mr. Slovik as well as several “regular men” who had the vision to see that
war was not for them. Mr. Glass offers a conversational tone for the book and tries to explain
their backgrounds, home upbringing and schooling. Few deserters were cowards; many just
broke under the constant strain of warfare.
The book flows smoothly, containing story after story on how the author came in contact with
these deserters and what made them leave their armies. In one story, he describes one soldier of
Italian descent named Genovese, who learned his smuggling and extortion trade by running the
Naples, Italy, black market ring of stolen US military supplies of gas, oil, cigarettes and other
black market goods and taking those skills back to America and forming what was to become the
Genovese Crime Family. The deserters described in the book, simply walked away from the war;
some found lovers, bore children and basically lived off the local community, doing odd jobs,
and staying out of the way of the police or the Military Police, whose real job during the war was
finding and capturing deserters.
The book tells the tales of Private John Vernon Bain, who deserted from the British Army, as
well as Private Alfred Whitehead who became a...