Recently I finished reading Dog Tags: Prisoners of War, a 192 page historical fiction book by C. Alexander London. In this book, 18 year old Miguel Rivera is a private and a medic in the U.S army during World War 2. This is C. Alexander London’s 4th book series, called Dog Tags. Prisoners of War is the third book in the Dog Tags series and is followed by 1 other book. It is considered one of London’s best young readers books. It has been nominated and received 3 Nevada’s Best New Book Award.
For his first battle, he is placed in the middle of the Ardennes forest in Belgium. He is with the 99th infantry division, or the “battle babies” (as known by other U.S soldiers). He is put into a foxhole with Albert Goldsmith, another private and a rifle man. During the night, Miguel learns some Yiddish (an old Jewish language) from Goldsmith and in turn teaches him some Spanish. (pg 22) As they teach each other languages and joke around, the Germans attack them. Soon the air if filled with bullets, splintering wood and men screaming for the medic to help them. Miguel rushes to other foxholes, fixing everything from bullets to the stomach to blown off legs. After he sees one of his company’s Lieutenants get shot, he pulls him into a nearby foxhole to try to save him. He was too late. The Lieutenant dies in his arms that cold chilly night and Miguel can’t do anything about it. As he starts to get up, a sargent pushes him back in and says “you stay down and try not to get hit.” (pg 46) He sits and tries not to look at the dead Lieutenant, and after about 5 minutes, an enemy rocket comes and hits a tree right over Miguel’s head and knocks him out. The boom continues with Miguel waking up and finding himself alone in the forest. He climbs out of the foxhole and walks around, only to find that he isn’t alone. A German dog who he nicknames Yutz (Yiddish word for fool) leads him throughout Belgium to rescue the U.S. prisoners who were taken the previous night by Germans. (Goldsmith included)
I was surprised when, on page 85, Miguel is denied help from an entire platoon of retreating U.S soldiers because they had given up hope in the war. No matter what he does to rally the troops, they just keep walking and ignore him until finally one soldier gives him his gun and says “Good luck, you’ll need it.” I never knew if he was talking about the gun or the luck but I have to assume that it was a reference to both. He took the gun and followed Yutz to a train yard where Goldsmith and the others were being loaded onto a freight train. He then discovered that the gun only had one bullet. He fired the first and only shot of his war time into a padlock that was keeping the prisoners inside the train. He managed to rescue all the prisoners and get them to safety with the help of some American planes. (pg 188)
In this book I noticed many signposts. I most frequently saw Cause and Effect. One example was when, on page 136, Yutz lead Miguel to the French Resistance Fighters. This was an Effect of something that had happened earlier in the book. Right after he woke up, Miguel and Yutz found the prisoners being yelled at by a German commander. The commander almost saw Miguel but the leader of one of the Resistance branches, Michel, saved them. Miguel then said how he owed Michel one. Michel said that he could repay him by defeating the Germans (cause). After receiving the rifle from the U.S soldier, Miguel’s first stop was the French Resistance Base.
I was interested in the passage: “Under International Warfare Laws, all prisoners here will be treated accord-…”
“Shut up Major, This is Germany and those rules don’t apply here. Get back in line.”
This was a conversation between a U.S. Major who was captured in the same assault as Goldsmith, and German Major Schultz. He had just captured them and was speaking in how they would be treated when the Major spoke out. I was interested in this passage because, in official documents signed by all world leaders 4 years prior to WWII, rules were laid out that said that all prisoners must be treated fair and given 3 full meals per day. I was also confused because Schultz said that “This is Germany and rules don’t apply here” but they were actually they were in Belgium. Maybe he meant that they were taken prisoner by German forces and were being taken by German soldiers to Germany, but for the time being they were in Belgium so I’m not sure.
I’m glad I read this book and I would recommend it for anyone who likes historical fiction or historical novels.
I give this a 9/10