Shortly after the first Allied troops stormed across the beaches of Normandy, they required supplies. Ammo, food, fuel, medical supplies, uniforms, and hundreds of other essentials poured off supply ships onto the beaches. Before the age of the helicopter, the only way to keep the troops supplied was by truck. Thousands of them were needed as the ground pounders broke out of the hedgerows and raced across France. The vast majority of these trucks were driven by minorities, still segregated from the front line units. These drivers and their trucks became known as the Red Ball Express.
As he always does, Robbins tells the tale of a vast battle through the eyes of a few soldiers. This time they include a Red Ball Express driver and an infantry veteran of WWI who has returned to front-line duty as an Army chaplain. The driver is an educated black enlisted man who chafes at the racial taunts directed at him by the men he risks his life to supply. The chaplain is a rabbi who’s searching for his son, a bomber pilot shot down over France and listed as missing in action.
This is Robbins doing what he does better than almost anyone else: bringing the reader right down into the mud and blood and horror of war. But there’s a deeper moral lesson at work in this story as well. The men who risked their lives to deliver the lifeblood of an army to the frontline troops received bigotry and hatred for their efforts. They were assigned to drive trucks because of racial ignorance. They were denied their rightful glory because of racial ignorance. And their story has been rarely told because of racial ignorance. One hopes this book opens some long- closed eyes to the heroism and sacrifice of those drivers.