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The Final Battle is a historical non-fiction book written to celebrate the brave men of the Rainbow Division who fought in World War II. People who enjoy reading novels, will also enjoy reading this book as the story follows a protagonist, Private William George Hansult Sr.
If you enjoyed books like: Flags of Our Fathers; Band of Brothers; The Liberator; The Fighting First; The Rock of Anzio; The Guns at Last Night; Shifty’s War; Citizen Soldiers or Visions from the Front, then I believe you will also enjoy The Final Battle.
Those of you with an interest in World War II history, will most assuredly enjoy this book. And all of you who have an interest in the Rainbow Division should love this book.
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All men keep secrets from their children. Some men even keep secrets from their wives. My father did both.
By the dawn of 1945, the War in Europe was at its zenith. Nazi Germany was like a dying star burning its brightest just before going extinct. Germans were on their own soil and those protecting "the Fatherland" were the true believers - the fanatics - who would, and did, fight to the last man standing.
The battles fought were mostly in cities, house to house and sometimes hand to hand. Many of these battles were fought by untested teenage American boys. All the time, Hitler was using his futuristic "wonder weapons" on this European front, while committing mass murder in concentration camps.
My father, William Hansult Sr., was one of these American boys. Eighteen years old, just graduated high school, joined the Army in 1944, wide eyed and fresh out of boot camp. He was one of those "replacements." Those men who replaced fallen comrades; and the ones battle hardened veterans didn’t want to get to know.
Although untested, and never fired a gun before boot camp, he and his comrades were thrown into one of the longest battles an American Army Division fought during World War II in Europe. For thirty days they did nothing but fight and march. There wasn’t much in terms of sleep or food. And those they fought were hardened SS and young boys of the Hitler Youth. It was the formula for vicious, personal fighting and for unthinkable atrocities committed by both sides.
“None of these men started out trying to be a hero, but sometimes it just turned out that way.”
My father fought with distinction in these last intense and non ending battles, all the while earning the respect of the veterans he served with. He ended up being awarded the Bronze Star for his actions. Then when he thought the fighting was over, his unit was ordered in for the liberation of one of Hitler’s most famous concentration camps, Dachau.
This untold and true story is both captivating, and one of tragedy; it is one which has been lost in time. It does not end with liberated peoples running to our GI’s with wine and kisses; but liberated these people did become.
But my father’s experience was a little different than most, because, as he discovered many years later, he was also fighting his own blood relatives. Family who had remained in Germany. Family who were in the German Army, the Hitler Youth, and one who was highly placed in the Nazi Party.
After the War, like so many veterans of the time who partook in these battles and saw such carnage, he never spoke of his experiences. But what he saw and did, stayed with him his whole life. These were the secrets he kept from not only his children and family, but from his own wife. As his son, I wanted to know the truth about his service.
I discovered the truth and of the men he served with at the time. The truth of what happened to my father and all of the men he served with needs to be told.
This is the story of not only my father’s experiences during World War II, but of the men he served with in the Forty-Second Rainbow Division of the United States Army.