Extraordinary Men

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Like many veterans, Chris Edmonds’ father, Roddie, shuttered memories from the war deep within himself. He never spoke to anyone about what he saw or did as a POW in two different German Stalags. The son would have never learned of his father’s incredible acts of courage if his daughter hadn’t decided to write a history paper about her grandfather. They dug out his long-buried war diary and were taken aback by what they found.

No Surrender, by Chris Edmonds, is like two books wrapped in one. In the first part, we learn about the writer, a preacher, and his journey to untangle his father’s larger-than-life tale. Chris writes that Roddie’s entries were clear and descriptive prior to his capture but turned short and cryptic during his internment. He hungered to know what caused the change in his father. Without much to go on, he took to the internet, where a chance exchange in the comments section of a New York Times article revealed a prominent attorney who owed his life to Roddie, currently a candidate for the Congressional Medal of Honor. This piqued his interest more. Chris’ efforts to unearth his father’s history serve as an interesting prelude to the second part of the book, which covers the inspiring tale of Roddie’s actions in the camps and the people he influenced.

Tales of individual heroism require two elements—circumstances and a person prepared to rise to the occasion. Rarely do these come together more than once in a lifetime. Roddie’s mantra of “Always do the right thing” was put to the test not once but twice in those Stalags, and he never wavered. Reading about Roddie brings tears to one’s eyes. It reminds us that while none of us can change the entire world, we can change the world around us. 

 

Eric Lichtblau’s Return to the Reich is the story of how one man engineered the surrender of the entire Tyrol region of Austria to the Allies five days before Germany’s capitulation. What does it take to become one of the Allies’ most important spies in WWII? How does one man succeed when so many others have failed and paid for it with their lives? The man, Freddy Mayer, possessed an amazing combination of brilliance, courage, suavity and chutzpah. Mayer and his German-Jewish family were forced out of Germany in 1938 and came to America with almost nothing. Seven years later, he was back in Germany helping sow the seeds of Hitler’s destruction. He was on the ground, in Austria, less than two months and managed to have as great an impact as any spy in WWII. This is another case where truth is stranger than fiction.

You will shake your head, roll your eyes, chuckle and stare in amazement as you read about the exploits of one of the most amazing characters you’ll ever hear about in your life. The book is well-written and entertaining all the way across, but it’s the main character who really carries the story. Freddy was recommended for the Congressional Medal of Honor shortly after the war and was denied by the army—even though he risked his life every day—because he was never in combat. He is currently up for it again, and hopefully will receive it.

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