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January 16, 2013

Book Review - The Brenner Assignment by Patrick K. O'Donnell

As stated in last week's book review post of O'Donnell's Dog Company, small war-time stories can be quite riveting, as we see what a few people are going through in their individual missions, the camaraderie that they have with their fellow soldiers (or whoever they're working with) and the potentially harsh circumstances that they're going through. Since many of these stories are done through interviews with the living, we get to see what those who didn't make it through the events of the book were like through the eyes of friends and colleagues.

It can be quite powerful.

Back in 2009, I read O'Donnell's The Brenner Assignment and was captivated. It's a true spy story that can have more impact than any fictionalized one. The Brenner Pass is a mountain pass through the Alps connecting Austria and Italy that the Germans were using to bring troops and supplies to their northern Italy war effort. The Allies wanted it closed to prevent this. This book is the story of the two missions that attempted to do this.

It has all the makings of a spy novel, but it has the benefit of actually having happened.

My review of the book is on Curled Up With a Good Book.

From the review:
"Modern spy novels don't really do much for me, though I do like those taking place during World War II for some reason. One thing I haven't read much about, however, is *real* World War II spy missions. That's why I was excited to pick up Patrick K. O'Donnell's new book, The Brenner Assignment, about a mission to close the Brenner Pass between Austria and Italy that allowed the Germans to bring their troops and supplies down into the Italian boot. Taking place in 1944-45, this mission has everything: derring-do, romance, battles against tough odds, and lots of intrigue. O'Donnell tells it in an interesting fashion, and it would look good on any World War II history fan's bookshelf.

O'Donnell uses a combination of sources, mostly interviews with the surviving participants in the mission. The main "character," Howard Chappell, was still alive but very reluctant to talk about what had happened. O'Donnell spends the Preface telling us how he came up with the idea to research this assignment and the difficulties he had in getting Chappell to speak. It took having a mutual friend, Albert Materazzi (who was the operations officer in charge of Chappell's mission and his best friend), to finally get him to open up."
It's understandable that Chappell would be reluctant to talk. It sounds like the mission was quite emotional for him. I'm glad that he finally relented and O'Donnell was able to complete this fabulous book.


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