Against All Odds Audio Book Review

Against All Odds: A True Story of Ultimate Courage and Survival in World War II

By Alex Kershaw, Narrated by Mark Bramhall

Audiobook, 8 hours and 51 minutes

Published by Penguin Audio

Language: English


The U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry Division was the only U.S. Division to participate in all the major campaigns in the European Theater – North Africa, Sicily, Italy, Southern France, Germany, and Austria.  Their first amphibious landing was in North Africa on 08NOV42 as part of Operation Torch, and they were either in direct combat or training for the next landing for the remainder of the war.

As one result of their constant combat, the 3rd was the most decorated U.S. Division, and had the greatest number of Congressional Medal of Honor awardees at thirty-one.  While telling the combat history of the Division, author Alex Kershaw has focused on four of these men, who in addition to the MoH also earned every other award for valor.  Captain Maurice Britt was the first to win the Army’s top four combat decorations during WWII – the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, and Bronze Star.  A professional football player for the Detroit Lions before the war, he was also awarded four Purple Hearts, his last wound resulting in the loss of an arm.  Keith Ware was a draftee, who rose to command the 1st Division (“The Big Red One”) in Vietnam, where he was killed when his helicopter was shot down.  Ware was Audie Murphy’s Battalion commander, Murphy rose through the ranks to eventually command Company B, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment.  He was 21 years old when the war ended, and gained fame for his autobiography and acting career after the war.  Michael Daly landed at Omaha Beach on D-Day with the 1st Division.  After being wounded, he came to the 3rd Division as a replacement.  He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in Nuremburg during the last weeks of the war, where he was wounded again.

The exploits of these men are the threads which hold this book’s story together, but they are not the only tales of heroism told within.  While there was great propaganda value in keeping these stories in front of the Press, for the men themselves an award was often more valuable for the “points” towards a rotation home – each combat decoration was worth 5 points, and a total of 85 points earned in various ways was needed to go back to the States.

This is an unusual way to tell a combat history, but Kershaw makes it work.  Most readers will be familiar with Audie Murphy’s story, but the stories of the other soldiers featured here are just as inspiring and all are interwoven to varying degrees.  This is a good book, highly recommended.