Merrill's Marauders: The Untold Story of Unit Galahad and the Toughest Special Forces Mission of World War II. By Gavin Mortimer. Minneapolis, Minn.: Zenith Press, 2013. Maps. Tables. Photographs. Notes. Bibliography. Index. Pp. ix, 240. $30.00. ISBN: 978-0-7603-4432-3
The first word that came to mind when I read this book was why? Why did the author feel compelled to write it? The subtitle calls it an untold story of the war's toughest special forces mission. It does tell Galahad's story (sort of), and this may in fact have been the toughest special forces mission of the war, but it certainly isn't an untold story. In his acknowledgments, Mortimer mentions two key texts: a memoir and a unit history written by members of the Marauders. He cites them extensively and even mentions the awful 1961 Hollywood telling of the tale. So, if the story has been told, one would expect Mortimer to present new information or a different perspective. Having read some of the other books cited in the bibliography (particularly Charlton Ogburn's excellent memoir The Marauders), I can say this book doesn't do either. Therefore, the only explanation for the subtitle is that it is publisher's hype designed to sell books.
To give Mortimer his due, this is a very readable book. It relies primarily on first-person accounts and interviews he conducted that give the narrative a sense of immediacy and personal flavor that makes for enjoyable reading. Mortimer is a good writer, and the story has great flow. The supporting material (outstanding maps, notes, a timeline, photographs) all add significantly to the story's presentation. But as a history claiming to tell an untold story, it falls far short of what one might hope for or expect.
That brings me to another word that came to mind: superficial. The dust jacket touts Mortimer as one of the foremost experts on World War II special operations; but this book contains no...