The Who2 Blog

J.D. Salinger, War Hero

Something I didn’t know about J.D. Salinger:

It’s hard to think of an American writer who had more combat
experience. He landed on Utah Beach on D-Day. Slawenski reports that of
the 3,080 members of Salinger’s regiment who landed with him on June 6,
1944, only 1,130 survived three weeks later.

Then, when the 12th
Infantry Regiment tried to take the swampy, labyrinthine Hürtgen Forest,
in what proved to be a huge military blunder, the statistics were even
more horrific. After reinforcement, “of the original 3,080 regimental
soldiers who went into Hürtgen, only 563 were left.”

Salinger escaped
the deadly quagmire of Hürtgen just in time to fight in the Battle of
the Bulge, and shortly thereafter, in 1945, participated in the
liberation of Dachau. “You could live a lifetime,” he later told his
daughter, “and never really get the smell of burning flesh out of your

More at Jay McInerny’s review of Kenneth Slawenski’s new biography, J.D. Salinger: A Life. Slawenski speculates that Salinger suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

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