Commandos: Set Europe Ablaze

Written by Dick Camp
Review by Valerie Adolph

1942. The Second World War is not going well for the Allies. Two experienced American Marines, friends Captain Jim Cain and Gunnery Sergeant Leland Montgomery, are sent across the Atlantic to train alongside British Marines in Scotland.

Despite a welcome from the officer in charge of the training facility, they find the seven weeks of daily training exercises more difficult physically and mentally than any they had faced before. The dangers are illustrated by the gravestones for previous trainees who lacked competence. But during one exercise approaching steep cliffs from small navy boats, the group of trainees is recalled and ordered to use their new skills by attacking a Nazi radar facility on Alderney Island in the English Channel. With support from the English Navy, the attack is successful despite heavy losses. A naval battle ensues as the remainder of the group tries to make their way back to safety.

Making all of this interesting to a reader who is not intrinsically interested in battle training or strategy is a significant undertaking. It is masterfully handled by the author, a Bronze Star and Purple Heart recipient who served for 26 years in the U.S. Marines. He has written fifteen books and over 100 magazine articles. All of this shows in his meticulous attention to relevant detail that brings the action to life with immediacy, emotion, and humour. And humour is necessary to relieve the tension of ongoing, heavy, military and naval action. The light touch of romance for Jim Cain is welcome, as is the nod to the women who served in wartime.

I found this book not just readable but hard to put down despite my complete lack of military knowledge. It is an exciting tale, masterfully told.