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Surviving the Oddsby Jack Capell
Synopses & Reviews
Surviving the Odds is a compelling first-hand account of the Jack Capell's experiences in WWII as a front line Combat Infantry Rifleman.
While a number of veterans have told their stories, this newly published book is unique because it tells one soldier's account of the War in Europe from D-Day to the fall of Hitler's Nazi Empire. Few such personal accounts of the war exist because most of the soldiers who fought on the front lines for any length of time did not survive.
By 1943, Adolf Hitler had turned the coast of Europe into a fortress — 3,000 miles of heavy gun emplacements, machine gun nests, mines and barbed wire — to protect his conquests. Hitler believed his Atlantic Wall was impenetrable. Capell was drafted at the age of 19 and sent to the U.S.'s 8th Infantry Regiment of the 4th Division. His first moment of combat was the morning of June 6th, 1944 — D-Day. In the chaos of the first waves of landings on Utah Beach, Capell and his jeep were dumped in deep water. Under heavy German fire, he spent most of D-Day rescuing men and equipment and bringing them to the beach.
Once inland, Capell's fractured regiment re-formed near Cherbourg, France. Most of those who landed with the author on D-Day had already been killed or wounded; replacements filled out the ranks. Now a combat-seasoned veteran, Capell's story continues on through some of the heaviest front line fighting in France, Belgium, Luxemburg and Germany. Under the order of "NO RETREAT AND FIGHT TO THE DEATH," the 4th Division suffered more casualties than any other U.S. division that fought in WWII. Capell's 8th Regiment was one of the first to breakthrough Hitler's Siegfried Line, fought through the deadly Hurtgen Forest, held the line in the Battle of the Bulge, cleared a path for Patton's tanks at St. Lo, and helped surviving prisoners as the gates were opened at the infamous Dachau Concentration Camp.
Capell tells his story from beginning to end with a compelling mix of history and the day-to-day experiences of a combat soldier. He tells of the absolute horror of the battlefield and the sickening smell of death that never went away. Surviving the Odds includes humorous episodes and the mistakes made by both the U.S. and German high commands. And through it all, Capell's story highlights the moments of humanity and heroism amidst the horror of war.
"Great chapter to our 4th Infantry Division history; Capell captured the essence of the life of the GI with the ranks of Private and Private First class in an excellent writing. For today's soldiers as well as the old timers, incoming and their families, it's a fresh look and is highly recommended." Robert Babcock, Historian — National 4th ID Assn. President, Americans Remembered
"On VE-Day, Capell was one of a handful of men on his division who had been on the line from the beginning to the end, (that) gives a special authority (to) his account, as a result, a story that is compelling, authentic and well merited." Jon Bridgman, Department of History, University of Washington
"I never thought we had the most comfortable living condition during the war until I read Capell's book." Jim Rubart, U.S. Navy Veteran
About the Author
Born in Canada, John C. (Jack) Capell came to Seattle with his parents before starting school. When the U.S. entered World War II, after the attacked on Pearl Harbor (Dec 7, 1941), Jack wanted to enlist in the U.S. Navy, but was denied because of his Canadian citizenship. The Marines and Coast Guard were also closed to him. However, despite his alien status, the U.S. Army drafted him and he was assigned to be a rifleman in the Infantry. His superiors recommended him for Officer Candidate School, but his citizenship papers came through too late; Private Capell was soon on his way to take part in the Invasion of Europe.
After the war ended, Jack obtained a bachelor of science degree in Meteorology at the University of Washington.
In 1951, he married Sylvia Wagner and moved to Portland, Oregon, to take a job with the National Weather Service. After a few years, he was hired by KGW Television in Portland. From the station's first news broadcast in 1956, he became a fixture on Portland TV and for 44 years broadcast "The Weather" regularly to loyal fans.
Along the way, Jack and Sylvia had two sons, John and Tom. Jack stayed active with his other passions as well, sailing and ice hockey. But "staying active" became increasingly challenging: For more than four decades now, Jack has dealt with the increasing paralysis caused by Primary Lateral Sclerosis, a disease similar to ALS, which is often called Lou Gehrig's disease. Today, Jack is almost completely paralyzed, yet is able to control his wheelchair with his chin and wrote this book with the aid of voice-recognition software.
Jack retired from KGW in 2000, and after 50 years in Portland, he and Sylvia moved back to Seattle. Today, Jack enjoys living on the shore of Puget Sound.
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