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Five Lieutenants

The Heartbreaking Story of Five Harvard Men Who Led America to Victory in World War I

James Carl Nelson

St. Martin's Griffin

James Carl Nelson tells the dramatic true story of five brilliant young soldiers from Harvard, a thrilling tale of combat and heroism in the First World War.

Five Lieutenants tells the story of five young Harvard men who took up the call to arms in the spring of 1917 and met differing fates in the maelstrom of battle on the Western Front in 1918. Delving deep into the motivations, horrific experiences, and ultimate fates of this Harvard-educated quintet—and by extension of the brilliant young officer class that left its collegiate and post-collegiate pursuits to enlist in the Army and lead America’s rough-and-ready doughboys—Five Lieutenants presents a unique, timeless, and fascinating account of citizen soldiers at war, and of the price these extraordinary men paid while earnestly giving all they had in an effort to end “the war to end all wars.”

Drawing upon the subjects’ intimate, eloquent, and uncensored letters and memoirs, this is a fascinating microcosm of the American experience in the World War One, and of the horrific experiences and hardships of the educated class of young men who were relied upon to lead doughboys in the trenches and, ultimately, in open battle.

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1
 
A RENDEZVOUS
 
 
BRING OUT THE LIVER! the instructor shouts. Bring out the kidneys!
Parry, thrust, turn—it doesn’t matter that their enemy is made of cloth, the bayonets of wood.
Stick it in, turn it.
Kill.
Forty-six hundred young men work at the bayonet in the May sun, sweat darkening the unfamiliar khaki on their backs. Parry. Thrust. Turn. A cool breeze stirs occasionally from nearby Lake Champlain and then wafts away. A runty army regular screams commands and at times comes in close, so close they can smell the tobacco on his breath
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REVIEWS

Praise for Five Lieutenants

"Writing with great knowledge of and sensitivity for his subject, Nelson ensures that the experiences, thoughts and aspirations of the young Harvard men of 1918 are not lost to future generations." —Publishers Weekly
 
"This eloquent work of the toll of war builds moving stories through a wealth of personal detail." —Kirkus Reviews
 
"Using the letters and diaries of five Harvard-educated men, [Nelson] has constructed a riveting, often brutal, and moving chronicle of young men thrust into command positions . . . An outstanding but often disturbing examination of the process of turning young men into hardened instruments of warfare." —Booklist

In the Press

Kirkus | FIVE LIEUTENANTS by James Carl Nelson
An intimate tracking of officers' perspectives during World War I.
- Kirkus Reviews

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • James Carl Nelson

  • JAMES CARL NELSON is an active member of the Western Front Association, which is devoted to the study of the Great War. The author of The Remains of Company D: A Story of the Great War, Nelson lives in Eden Prairie, Minnesota.
  • James Carl Nelson © Ethan Nelson
    James Carl Nelson
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    Five Lieutenants

    The Heartbreaking Story of Five Harvard Men Who Led America to Victory in World War I

    James Carl Nelson

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    St. Martin's Griffin

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