Under False Flags
Under False Flags is a gritty, hard look through the eyes of an American and a German soldier near the end of WWII in Belgium. After nearly his entire platoon is lost in battle, shell-shocked William Lett is reassigned as part of a secret operation to collect intel deep in enemy territory by donning a German uniform over his US one. He had learned German his whole life growing up in a Mennonite orphanage in Ohio. Between missions he meets and falls in love with Heloise, a widow involved in the Belgian resistance. Meanwhile, Holger Frings, a German sailor, has been reassigned on land to a secret operation, impersonating an American, his team riding in a captured US jeep wearing GI uniforms. With his history as a merchant seaman, Holger speaks English well, thus enabling him to be believable in his mission. The novel follows each soldier through his journey until their paths cross and then join, after a jeep collision, where they find that they have much in common.
The decision to betray your comrades and your country is not an easy one to make. The war is drawing to a close, and both men are contemplating desertion. The author clearly brings forth the thoughts, fears, and hopes that run through a soldier’s mind. The dangers and horrors of being a soldier, a civilian living under occupation, or a resistance fighter are well-defined in this book. Each chapter in written in the voice of William or Holger, and I liked how the GI narrative voice was full of soldier slang, opinions about the war, and new recruits; all of this kept the realism alive.