Left for Dead at Nijmegen recalls the larger-than-life experiences of an American paratrooper, Gene Metcalfe, who served in the 82nd Airborne during WWII. From his recruitment into the military at Camp Grant to his training with the 501st Paratroop Infantry Regiment at Camp Toccoa, it wasn’t until D-Day itself that he first arrived in England to join the 508th PIR.
When Metcalfe boarded the C-47 which would drop him at Groesbeek Heights, just outside of Nijmegen, Holland, he was handed a box of twelve dozen condoms by an over-confident British lieutenant. He was to be among the first to jump into what should have been a picture-book meadow, free of German troops. Instead, it was defended by three German anti-aircraft cannon emplacements.
As he jumped into a hail of bullets and exploding shells he watched his plane roll over and plummet into the ground. It was at that moment he realized the condoms had either been a bad joke or the planners of Operation Market Garden had seriously underestimated German resistance. Gene was listed as KIA and left for dead by his patrol, who presumed the worst when they saw his injuries from a shell explosion.
The rest of his story is equally gripping, as he became a POW held outside Munich, being moved between various camps ridden with disease and a severely undernourished population. Eventually, after making an escape attempt and being captured within sight of the snow-capped Swiss mountains, his camp was liberated by American troops in April 1945.
Gene’s story is both remarkable for his highly unusual encounter, and his subsequent experiences.
Reviews for the Book
Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite Left for Dead at Nijmegen: The True Story of an American Paratrooper is a nonfiction biography written by Marcus A. Nannini, who spent several years interviewing Gene Metcalfe, who was determined to become a paratrooper, enlisted and was part of Operation Market Garden, a paratrooper landing in Nijmegen, Holland. It was his first foray into the field of battle, the culmination of years of training in every aspect of the paratrooper's skills in war-craft. Operation Market Garden was, from the outset, a poorly timed and executed operation, one for which the Germans almost seemed to have advance notice. For Metcalf, his inability to hear the order to retreat resulted in an injury that led one of his comrades to believe he was dead. While he was stunned and rendered unconscious for a while, Metcalf was indeed not dead. Over the next 24 hours, he would be imprisoned in a strange castle-like building and interviewed by Heinrich Himmler himself. Thereafter, until the war ended, he would languish in a series of gulags wherein Allied soldiers were deprived of food, forced into hard labor and doomed to die slow and agonizing deaths. Left for Dead at Nijmegen is a stunning and beautifully written recounting of Gene Metcalfe's experiences beginning with his life-changing decision to quit school and enlist to become a paratrooper. While the story is written by Nannini, I consistently felt Metcalfe's presence within the telling, and the photographs included in the book increase the impact and credibility of Metcalfe's story. I enjoyed seeing the young soldier through the author's eyes, especially his artistic and humorous side, and I loved the stories of how he would get in trouble in school and boot camp for his cartoons. I was thrilled to see a few of his drawings were included in the back of the book and couldn't help but chuckle at the one entitled "das brot." What struck me most vividly, however, was the brutal truth behind the treatment of those prisoners of war in the German gulags. While most of us think the Geneva Convention ensured that somewhat tolerable conditions for prisoners was the rule, this book shows how soldiers held by the Germans were often literally starved and worked to death. As I read, I couldn't help but remember the photographs I've seen showing the condition of surviving prisoners of war taken when US troops entered the gulags and death camps of Germany. Those images and Metcalfe's story paint an unforgettable picture of the suffering and privation inflicted in those camps. Left for Dead at Nijmegen: The True Story of an American Paratrooper is an important work, one that exemplifies the sacrifices made by our military and reveals the reality of the POWs' struggle to survive under the harshest of situations. It's most highly recommended.
About the Author: Marcus Nannini
Marcus A. Nannini
In the sixth grade, Mr. Nannini began his writing career publishing a newspaper. His parents did not have a copier, so he charged 25 cents per school quarter for the privilege of reading the only hand-written copy of each edition. The newspaper was a modest success and planted the seed he might one day make a living through writing.
He was a paid newspaper reporter during his undergraduate years and worked three semesters as the Research Assistant to journalism professor Richard Stocks Carlson, Ph.D. Carlson advised him to write as if his readers have an 8th-grade education or less because he had failed to do so in his only published book, The Benign Humorists, resulting in disappointing sales.
Nannini is a life-long history buff with a particular interest in World War II and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He once discovered an error in his fifth-grade history book concerning the attack, which the publisher subsequently corrected. His first novel, Chameleons, An Untold World War II Story, was well received and awarded “Best Thriller” by International Thriller Writers.
Nannini’s second work, Left for Dead at Nijmegen, the True Story of an American Paratrooper (Casemate Publishers, Oxford, UK, and Philadelphia, PA), received plaudits from around the world, has been placed in the United States National Archives, and was named 2019 Nonfiction Book of the Year. 2020 IAN Best Nonfiction Book of the Year-History Category. Sir Charles, Prince of Wales, owns a copy.
Nannini’s third work, Midnight Flight to Nuremberg, the Capture of the Nazi who put Adolph Hitler into Power, was released in the UK and EU on September 17, 2021, by Pen & Sword Books (Yorkshire, United Kingdom, and Philadelphia, PA) and the USA and Canada in November 2021. On March 7, 2022, Midnight Flight was awarded the Overall Grand Prize for Nonfiction, 2021-2022.
Mr. Nannini also authors stories for Military History Now online magazine, History Magazine, World War II History Magazine, and others. You may contact him here: MarcusNannini@aol.com.
July 2017, Best Thriller Award from ITW, International Thrillers Writers for Chameleons, an untold World War II Story, from ITW.
2017 Winner, Military Book Category, International Book Excellence Awards. Chameleons, an untold World War II Story.
2017, Second Place, Pencraft Awards for Literary Excellence in Fiction.
2019 Nonfiction Book of the Year award from Pencraft Awards for Literary Excellence, Left for Dead at Nijmegen.
2020 Nonfiction Book of the Year-History, from IAN, Independent Authors Association, Left for Dead at Nijmegen.
2021-2022 Overall Grand Prize Winner, nonfiction, from Reader Views Midnight Flight to Nuremberg.
Finalist, The Hearten Book Awards, a genre division of Chanticleer International Book Awards and Novel Competitions (CIBAs). Winner to be announced at the annual convention in late June 2022.
Silver Medalist, 2022 IPPY Book Awards.
Finalist, 2022 Eric Hoffer Book Awards.
Finalist, 2022 American BookFest Awards.
The Arizona Authors Association; The Nonfiction Authors Association; Colorado Independent Publishers Association; The Independent Author Network; Poets & Writers; Southern California Writers Association-SCWA; IMDbPro; The Independent Author Network, International Thriller Writers, Inc., the Society of Southwestern Authors, and the National Italian American Foundation.
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