No Surrender

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 08 Oct 2019

Member Reviews

When I started this book I was not sure that I wanted to finish it. The book begins with the writer's discovery of his father's service in WWII. The writer went into detail about how he found out about his father's war experiences. Like most WWII veterans, his father never spoke of his time in the war. However, once the book moved into a detailed account of his father, Roddie's, time in service, I was not able to put it down.
The book is a good example of a collection of personal narratives of those who served with Roddie. The writer spent months tracking down those who knew Roddie and preserving their stories. To a man, they remembered him as a great leader. One who had courage born of a deep faith. 
On three occasions during Roddie's time a POW, his faith strengthened him and those who served under his command. He serves as a great example of a common man who acted in an extraordinary way when confronted with a desperate situation.
The authors last paragraphs sum up the book: "I guess that's what's most remarkable about my journey to discover what my father did in the Second World War--the realization that any one of us has the untapped potential to do something incredibly courageous. Not a day passes for me now when I don't marvel at this epiphany: we all have the potential to change the world simply by standing up for what's right."
Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing an advance reader copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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A testament of faith

I loved the passages from the word of God that Chris used throughout his book.  

The story of his father Roddie Edmonds and his father's fellow soldiers was an inspirational story.  It was a story of survival and a story of faith.  A story of a soldier that put his own life on the line to save the lives of others.

It was a story of life as a soldier at the front and life in POW camps. It told the story of the savagery of the Nazi Army and the faith and determination of the capture U.S. Forces. How he was responsible for saving over 200 American Jewish soldiers and later 1200 American servicemen from the death march as the war was ending.

It is a testimony to all the POWs he served with that they kept their dignity and helped each other, the strong helping the week. One of my favorite parts was the Christmas in the boxcar.  They were locked in a small boxcar, cold, hungry, thirsty and tired, but somehow they still were able to celebrate Christmas by praying and singing Hymns.  

I was impressed that after the war they went on with their lives and lived good lives preferring to put the war behind them and go on with life. It did give them a new appreciation of everything we all take for granted. Little things like a cup of coffee, a good meal, and big things like freedom and a loving family. Their faith was tested and they never lost their faith.

I enjoyed reading this book and the information it contained. Books are often written about the war and the concentration camps, however, fewer are written about the U.S. Soldier serving in German POW camps.  I would definitely recommend this book.
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This war story is among the best I’ve read for its sincerity, graphic descriptions, and lessons as remembered by its aged survivors.  Chris Edmonds, a Tennessee pastor, prompted by a daughter who wanted to write a school paper about her paternal grandfather, realized he knew very little about his own World War II veteran father.  It started a frenzied search through his father’s journals, hunting down living buddies of his father’s from the war, traveling many miles to interview them, and putting it all together into a tribute to his father, Roddie Edmonds.

The author perused brief journal notes in his father’s own handwriting.  There were bare facts, terse descriptions, and fragmented sentences, written in personal shorthand and scribbled in haste.  He knew his father was captured by the Nazis and sent to brutal POW camps, but it was the stories he was told by living survivors that really brought home the fact that his father was a revered hero, all because of two episodes.  In both, he had defied brutal camp supervisors, his bold defiance saving the lives of his fellow prisoners while almost certainly inviting his own death.

Refusing to follow orders in a prison camp run by maniacal Nazi thugs was a sure way to get executed.  Two times Roddie, the leader of the prisoner group based on his rank and seniority, stood firmly in front a an infuriated Nazi madman and refused to follow his orders, once with the officer’s Luger pistol aimed at his forehead.  His men stood defiantly behind him while secretly fearing what would happen to him.  As it turns out, nothing happened, either to him or his men.

The biggest part of the book tells the frightening story of war, the fighting, bombing, shelling, and hand-to-hand combat and overwhelming terror of facing death at every turn.  The stench, hunger, and debilitating cold are constant companions.  The GIs are finally overrun and thousands of prisoners are force-marched to inhospitable prison camps that are hellholes with no comfort or food, and brutal assaults are constantly rained upon the hapless men.  Through it all, Edmonds discovers that his father, Roddie, is an inspiration to all and a spiritual leader that the men are devoted to.

Edmonds tells a heartwarming story amid the horrors of war and imprisonment. He goes on to give updates of their life after they are freed and return home.  I found the book to be inspirational and heartwarming.  Real heroes are those who are behind the spotlight as they perform their heroic acts.  So it was with Roddie Edmonds.
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I received an advance reading copy of this book from NetGalley in return for a fair review.  When I started reading this book, I wasn't sure I was going to like it, but it turned out to be one of the finest books that I have read so far this year.  As soon as I realized that Chris Edmonds was writing an extraordinary tribute to his father, I was all in.  Roddie Edmonds was the kind of man you would be privileged to have known--a good father, a good provider and a man of faith.  It was that faith that saw him through his darkest hour when he was a POW at a German  prison camp during World War II.  He never really talked about his experiences, but after his death, when Chris decided to research what happened, the amazing events unfolded.  Roddie Edmonds was a hero in every sense of the word and his story needed to be told.  He not only stood up to the sadistic officers that ran the POW camp, but put his men first and did what he could to save each and every one of them.  He was only 25 years old with more than 1,000 men looking up to him for leadership and he did not disappoint.  He prayed with them, inspired them to hang on and led by example.  I would like to personally thank Chris Edmonds for introducing me to his father.  I will never forget the bravery of this real-life hero.  I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in WWII, The Greatest Generation and/or the human spirit.  Thank you, Roddie Edmonds, for your service and for the lives you saved. It is men like you who still give us hope.
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No Surrender – by Chris Edmonds and Douglas Century – HarperCollins Publisher 2019 

Most of us never really know our parents’ true characters because they are the center of our world from the moment we enter it, dazzling us with their love.  They introduce us to life itself, fulfill our needs and teach us how to navigate in the world.  Recognizing them as individual human beings is rare because we simply do not get the opportunity to observe them in the moments that shaped them.  No Surrender is the story of how Chris Edmonds discovered his father Rodney Edmonds’ uncommonly sterling character.

As a very young man, Rodney, aka “Roddie” enlisted in the US Army nine months before the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941.  By January 1943, he has been promoted four times and is master sergeant communications chief.  Two months later he is training some of the men he will later serve with at the Battle of the Bulge and during their containment in POW camps in Germany.  

Chris Edmonds’ journey to his father’s past started with discovering a cigar box containing Roddie’s diary from the war years, prompted by his daughter Lauren’s desire to write about her grandfather for a  school project.  Like millions of others who fought in that war, Roddie had put away reminders of that experience and determined to live in the present.  Combat had taught them there is no promise of tomorrow and your next breath could be your last, so appreciate NOW. 

While Googling his father’s rank and name, expecting to be taken to a national war archive of some kind, Pastor Edmonds found instead a story about Richard Nixon.  The former president was being shunned from buying an apartment in NYC and an attorney named Lester Tanner stepped in and sold his 12-room town house to Mr. Nixon, despite sharp political differences between the two men.  In the article about his actions, Mr. Tanner mentioned that he was inspired by a brave officer, Roddie Edmonds, whose defiance of a POW camp commandant saved the lives of many men.  

Despite this bombshell revelation, it was a few years before Chris actually focused on discovering his father’s wartime experience – life was busy!  In the mid 1980s, he met with Lester Tanner in New York.  Chris was stunned to hear Mr. Tanner declare that in his opinion Roddie Edmonds should get the Congressional Medal of Honor.   What follows is a fascinating story of the teenaged and very young adult men who placed their lives in jeopardy during the Second World War.  

No Surrender covers not only Roddie Edmonds’ story but those of the men he served with.  This book should not be dismissed as just another WWII story because it is much more than that.  It goes into depth about the men’s six-month experience in Europe – which seems much longer, given everything they endured – and gives more details than I have read elsewhere about the horrifying atrocities committed by German soldiers against the Allies, especially American GIs.  It also extensively covers their recovery after their camp was liberated by Patton’s Third Army, the first POW camp liberated by the Allied Forces.  The authors detail the refeeding of men who were 60 or more pounds underweight.  Well-meaning people allowing them to gorge themselves on goodies learned that too much of a good thing could prove deadly.  In subsequent POW and concentration camp liberations, they knew to limit food intake initially and concentrate on physical examinations and documenting experience, in preparation for war crime charges.  No more platters of doughnuts served to starved men. 

For his uncommon bravery in defying the German camp commandant not once but twice, Roddie Edmonds was eventually honored by Israel as Righteous Among the Nations, being the first American nominated for saving American Jews.  Righteous are non-Jews who risk themselves in order to help a Jew.  I don’t want to say in this review what Roddie did – it would ruin it for future readers of this book.  Even without his WWII heroism, Roddie’s story is a great read – one of the millions of his generation who just got on with life despite the horrors he encountered in his young life and always chose to do what he saw as the right thing based on his faith in God.

I gave this book five stars because it is extremely well written and reads more like a thriller than a biography.  Despite all the books I have read about World War II, I learned much in No Surrender.  The authors’ detailed accounts of daily life for the American POWs in Germany were startling to me.  A little more than half the book is dedicated to that.  It is stunning to me that they could survive that, but then they came back home and readjusted to “normal” life.  They did not seek nor expect high praise for their service, just did what they saw as their duty.
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No Surrender by Christopher Edmonds is a loving tribute, by a son, for his father. Edmonds tells the story of his father, Roddy's life during WW2 as a POW in Germany. Lots of research went into this book. At times the story read a bit like a history book. Other moments were heartfelt, especially during the retelling of Roddy's horrific trials. Loved the way Roddy's faith played such an integral part in his life story. Thank you NetGalley for the advance copy in exchange for my review.
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There are many World War II memoirs listed on Amazon and Goodreads- and a Google search will have you scrambling through 112 million results. There probably aren’t millions of memoirs, but I am thankful that there are many, because each person who served on the Allied side has an amazing story to tell. And these stories must be told soon, while we still have the veterans or their families to tell them. Christopher Edmond’s search for the details of his father’s World War II service is a uniquely positive and uplifting read, even though the details are harsh and horrifying. The book is written in a clear and friendly style and is a pleasure to read.

The author recalls that his Dad Roddie was scrupulously fair and was known as a “square shooter”. But his Dad also had a fun side and would light up a room and warm everyone’s heart with fun and laughter. Roddie was a sincere Christian and ended family prayers by saying, “Lord, help us help others who can’t help themselves.” He loved to sing hymns in church and coach his son’s little league team. 

Growing up, the author had no clue about his Dad’s service during World War II. Like many men who returned from the war, Roddie wanted to get on with his life and have a home and family. The author did know that his Dad had served as a Master Sergeant in the US Army, 422nd Regiment of the 106th Infantry Division- the Golden Lions. It wasn’t until his daughter had to do a school project, that he and his family began to look closely through his Dad’s war memorabilia and study his Dad’s diaries from 1944-45. 

The author felt a strong pull to search for the men who had served with his father, or their remaining families, to learn more about his Dad’s experiences during the Battle of the Bulge and subsequent capture by the Germans and imprisonment in a POW camp. Fortunately, some of Roddie’s Army buddies were still alive and the author met with them and finally heard the grim details and bravery of his father.

Roddie’s service to the Army and duty to his men of all faiths teach us that one person can always make a difference. And that’s why the author is sharing the story of his father’s message around the world, a message of the transformative power of love, selfless sacrifice and moral courage. Roddie was a secure, grounded and prepared young man, and he was able with God’s help to do the impossible. The story of Roddie’s months overseas and his son’s search to learn about it 75 years later is incredible. 

Master Sergeant Roddie Waring Edmonds of Knoxville, Tennessee would be posthumously highly honored for his World War II heroism, in 2015. He saved 1500 of his men, men who were in their early twenties at the time and who would go home to live long lives filled with careers, marriage, children, grand-children and great-grandchildren. I thank all of the men and women who have served in the Armed Forces and I salute the “Greatest Generation.” I highly recommend this book.

Thanks to NetGalley and Harper Collins Publishers Harper One for a digital advanced review copy. This is my honest review.
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