The American soldier on the front line
2nd April 1943: Reflections on the attitude of front line troops from a journalist turned soldier
Ralph Ingersoll had been a journalist and editor at the New Yorker magazine and then Time Life. Before the war, he had argued for US intervention in Europe. When the US came into the war, Ingersoll, as a man of principle, volunteered. At the age of 41, he found himself as a Captain in one of the first US Divisions to land in North Africa. He was to write more than one memoir of his experiences.
‘The Battle is the Pay-Off’1 is an extended account of his first experience of combat in March of 1943 - but also includes much context on life in an American Army unit at this time:
Like everyone else in the American Army in the theatre of war, they lived only to get home. To get home - 'to get back to tell my lies’ - that was their war aim. Next to getting home, again like every American soldier in every theatre of war, they wanted to be some other place than where they were, any other place. When they were in England they wanted to get to Africa. As soon as they were in Africa they wanted to see Iceland, or, ‘ Gee, I’d kinda like to know what it’s like in the Pacific.’
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