On July 7, 1941, a young Colgate University football player named Andy Rooney reported for U.S. Army training. He was, Rooney allows, not prime military material. He had a knack for enraging the drill instructors with his wisecracks, and for pulling harsh assignments as a result, and his shenanigans got him disqualified from officer candidacy. Still, Rooney survived boot camp and served for a time as an artilleryman until being reassigned to the daily newspaper Stars and Stripes. Lucky for him, too: in 1942 his old outfit ran into trouble in North Africa, fighting against Erwin Rommel, and although few of them were killed, Rooney writes, "there's a good possibility I would have spent all of 1943, 1944, and six months of 1945 in a German prison camp."
In My War, a fine and wholeheartedly irreverent memoir, Rooney--later to gain fame as a 60 Minutes commentator--recounts what happened instead. As a correspondent, he saw combat up-close while honing his craft alongside such fellow chroniclers as Ernie Pyle and Bill Mauldin. What he witnessed will perhaps not please some survivors and students of the war, especially those who revere Gen. George S. Patton--whom Rooney charges with having committed improprieties, injustices, and even war crimes in the quest to secure personal fame.
Though the book is a personal memoir, Rooney has taken pains to square his anecdotes with the historical record. However, he writes, "It is distressing for me to note how infrequently the facts concur with my memory of what happened." (In such cases, he adds, he assumes that the facts are wrong.) Affecting, occasionally disturbing, and thoroughly well-written, Rooney's memoir is a welcome addition to the literature of "the good war." --Gregory McNamee [via]