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Surviving the Odds

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Surviving the Odds Cover

ISBN13: 9781930053496
ISBN10: 1930053495
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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.

Review:

"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

Review:

"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

Review:

"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.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

nbeeb, May 29, 2014 (view all comments by nbeeb)
I found this a very moving, understated account of very horrific events, from the perspective of a very ordinary young man. Because of the low emotional delivery, I never felt that anyone was trying to sell me anything, and it made the descriptions of horror much more believable. I was never aware of how utterly primitive the battle conditions were during WWII - Capells' descriptions of conditions on the battle field were more what I would have expected of a Civil War memoir. I was touched by the depth of the connections and friendships between the men. Capell shows pride and love for his own troops but also compassion for many of the other combatants and non-combatants - the run-of-the mill German and Italian soldier and the civilians who lived in the midst of it all. He captured the Holocaust primarily through a compelling and detailed anecdote in which he described the fate of a single young Jewish teenager and the horrors he endured during the Nazi reign. Capell also provides some interesting social commentary as he describes the complete segregation of Black troops during the war, and the social segregation of the "rebels" from the rest of the troops in the field. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to experience the quiet memoir of the loud events on the battlefield during WWII, and gain a better understand of the personal experience of war.
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bgelean, March 3, 2008 (view all comments by bgelean)
Being a Canadian, most WWII books I have read have been Canadian also. That said, this book is extremely well-written, is told truthfully and remarkably straight-forward. This is the story of the undecorated heroes as told by one person who was there. These are the true heroes who fought in the front without questioning their duty and with no intention of giving up what they were fighting for. The book takes us from Capell’s early history and his journey into front line combat. Due to a mixup in his citizenship (he was born in Canada but lived almost his entire life in the U.S.) he was placed in the lowest ranks. What is interesting in the early part of the book is the number of mistakes made while still in training in the U.S. and England. This is unconscionable. This followed by the infamous error incurred during the landings on the beaches of Normandy, including the one that caused his division being dropped in deep water in the wrong part of the beach, complete with the vehicle he was driving and managed through ingenuity to recover from the bottom. This is one of many instances throughout the book where soldier’s inventiveness saved their lives and others.
As has notably happened in both Canada and the United States, perhaps everywhere, after 40 to 50 years, many servicemen felt they were able to go back to that time in their recollections and hence we are able to benefit from the reliving of not only the hardships, horrors, chaos and deprivations suffered at these times, but also see the amazing strengths, faith, and indeed the humor which kept them going. So it goes in this book. It is strongly researched, but the memories come through as honest remembrances of actual acts, good or bad, no holds barred. That the author survived to tell his story is nothing short of a miracle, especially as a wireman, laying wire through enemy lines. In light of the “friendly fire” visited on his division so many times it’s remarkable that anyone survived the front lines. This story demonstrates humanity among inhumanity. The story is conversational in tone and very easy to read considering it’s content. I highly recommend this book for it’s integrity, it’s ability to bring the experiences to a new level of understanding, and it’s unfaltering faith. I firmly believe this book needed to be written, for what is the use of reading literature by the observers? This is literature by a full-time player.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9781930053496

Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Military » World War II » Europe » General

Surviving the Odds
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Product details pages - English 9781930053496 Reviews:
"Review" by , "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
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "I never thought we had the most comfortable living condition during the war until I read Capell's book."
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