The novel is a war story and a very good one. It has all the action, movement, and planning of other great war novels. One big exception is the fact that it is a true incident occurring in the month prior to the cessation of hostilities with Germany.
General George Patton commanding the troops in the area described makes a determination that his army is within striking distance of a POW internment camp. For reasons known only to him, Patton sends a small armored force to take the camp, free the prisoners and bring them back to the American side. The general is under the impression that the camp is a relatively small one holding about 300 prisoners and they can be liberated by sending a force of about 500 men with several tanks to work their way about 50 miles into German-held territory and accomplish the mission.
The captain commanding the force, Abraham Baum, tries to argue that it would be easier and faster to send a division size force with accompanying tanks to make the raid. General Patton disagrees, stating that he has intelligence that the camp is held by only a few troops and sends off the raiding party as originally planned. Baum’s group immediately runs into trouble when the German force turns out to be much larger and better equipped than thought.
Shipman paints a well thought out and researched story of the actual fighting around the expedition and the German troops both stationed in the area as well as those guarding the camp. There is bravery and a willingness to sacrifice on both sides. Soldiers are killed and wounded. There is a maniacal sargeant involved in guarding the prisoners. The anguish felt by men that cannot leave the front to return home to face an emergency there is well described. And, of course, the constant fear of death or devastating wounds is always with the soldiers on both sides.
The question of what Patton had in mind when he ordered an undersized force into a situation that becomes almost impossible is brought out as well as the reactions of the Americans when they realize that they are in over their heads, but cannot give up and turn back. There are no heroes but certainly many people just willing to do their duty. Task Force Baum is a novel that you cannot leave until finished, and certainly the work of an author whose books should be sought out as he writes them.
11/19 Paul Lane
TASK FORCE BAUM by James D. Shipman. Kensington (November 26, 2019). ISBN 978-1496723864. 304p.