Band of Strangers

A WWII Memoir of the Fighting in Normandy and "the Bulge"

 

Book Description

In September of 2001, 78-year-old Jim Cullen watched reports of the passengers of United Airlines Flight 93 - strangers who decided to fight together in the face of death - and he knew his own story needed to be told. He began writing his memoirs of the situation he faced almost six decades before.

What sets Band of Strangers apart from other World War II stories is that it addresses the unrecognized, but vital, Army Combat Replacements. The author’s squad, 2nd squad, 1st Platoon of the 36th Armored Division were complete strangers who met for the first time on the battlefield. Like the passengers of Flight 93, these men had not trained together, never marched together in formation, never heard company reveille together, never drank together, never learned each other's strengths nor weaknesses. Despite the fact they were strangers, they knew what they had to do, and they pulled together to get it done.

The story Band of Strangers, a World War Two Memoir of the Battle of the Bulge, was inspired by the events on United Flight 93 on September 11, 2001. It is gripping in its honest depiction of war from the perspective of a young man dropped into the chaos of battle. Nothing was familiar, not even the men on either side of him.

Staff Sergeant Cullen’s story is rich in the details of everyday life as a combat infantryman. It is sometimes terrifying, other times poignant, and woven throughout with the humor that made survival possible. A must read for anyone who has an interest in history, and military history in particular, whether they have seen combat or not.

 

                                                     Excerpts from the Book

The Channel crossing was uneventful and quick. As we approached the Normandy shore, we were numbered with chalk on our helmets and told to go to designated boat stations where landing craft were waiting.


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I don’t know how far we were from the fighting, but we could hear shellfire, and while lying in our holes at night, we could feel the rumbling vibrations when the biggest shells hit the earth.

I was deep in my foxhole one night, staring up at the stars, when the thought came to my mind, “What the hell am I doing here?” 


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A close hit near my hole would cover me with dirt and leave my ears ringing. We, all of us there in the line, kept our eyes squeezed shut and begged the Good Lord to stop the awful rain of steel. At the end of each barrage, we were exhausted from the tension and tightness of our muscles as we crouched down in the hole.

 

Biography

Name:   James K. Cullen

Born:     Scotland 1923

Education:  BA Colgate University 1950

Occupation: National Sales Manager, Keuffel & Esser Co.

Status: Married with two children

U.S. Citizen      

U.S. Army 1943 Rank S/Sgt.

  1. Ft. McClellan, AL—Drill Sergeant

  2. Joined 3rd Armored Div., 36th Armored Infantry on Normandy. 

  3. Wounded September 13 in Germany

  4. Wounded January 18 in Belgium

Awarded four battle stars:

Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes, and Germany

Bronze Star Medal

Purple Heart Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster

Combat Infantryman Badge

Belgian Fourragère of 1940

French Legion of Honor 

 
 

We were ordinary American GIs, unexpectedly banded together.

             Stephen Ambrose and others have pictured us, the “dogfaces”, as a closely-knit group of men going arm-in-arm into the Battle. They call us, as Shakespeare wrote, “A Band of Brothers.” That’s not what I experienced during the fighting in the European Theatre of Operations, and in the book, you will see why I call this a “Band of Strangers.”

            Over the years since 1945 I have met in person or through e-mail, sons and daughters and grandchildren who were desperate to know where their parents and grandparents were in the War. They wanted to know where they fought, and how they died. As a result, I decided, after talking it over with my wife, Carol, to write about the War as I saw it and as I remember it.

James K Cullen

 
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