“The war has changed me in ways that will take the better part of my life to understand, let alone make peace with. Don’t ask me how. If you have to ask,
you’ve never been to war.”
Thus begins Roger Boas’s candid and introspective memoir of World War II, Battle Rattle: A Last Memoir of World War II, written with seventy years of hindsight. “I’m a dinosaur,” he continues, “one of the last men left standing in the last war we had any business fighting.”
A field artillery forward observer in the Fourth Armored Division of Patton’s Third U.S. Army, Boas found himself at the spearhead of the Allied thrust into France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, and Czechoslovakia, earning both a Silver Star and a Bronze Star for his bravery in combat. He also became one of the first American soldiers to find and enter a Nazi concentration camp. What made the harrowing moment particularly poignant was that Boas was Jewish, and here he was seeing crimes no man should ever have to see.
Returning home to life in San Francisco, Boas struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder, known during the period of WWII as “battle rattle.” They called it “shell-shock” in World War I, explains Boas. “Whatever they called it, getting rid of it was not an easy job.”
A thoughtful, compelling narrative about the idealism of youth colliding with the inevitable loss of innocence that comes with taking lives, Battle Rattle offers a new and vivid perspective on the forgotten history of our last world war. Boas not only re-creates the tension of the battlefield but also depicts the friendships and camaraderie behind the front line. This is a story about people as well as combat.