“Articles of War,”
by Nick Arvin
What’s it like to be in a foxhole when the enemy starts firing into your position?
What’s a like to be a scared 18-year-old private from Iowa in a shallow, mud-sloppy hole in eastern France protected by a couple of tree trunks over your head when the German Army begins its famous “bulge” during World War II’s Allied push toward the Rhine?
What thoughts go through your head when around you other soldiers are dying, when their bodies are blasted apart by explosions and their blood and pieces of flesh spatter your face?
Nick Arvin’s writing makes you duck your head when you read that the shelling is starting again. Along with the soldiers you pray for the booms and the shrapnel to stop. It’s writing so vivid you want to curl into the fetal position for cover.
“Now I want to take a poll,” a battle-hardened soldier calls out to his comrades in neighboring foxholes when the shelling finally subsides. “How many of you are still atheists?”
Frozen or driven by fear
“Hero” isn’t quite the right description for the protagonist in “Articles of War” because George Tilson, nicknamed Heck by fellow soldiers because he refuses to curse, is a coward.
Injured slightly in a non-combat accident, Heck is in no hurry to return to the front. Lessons in maturity happen while he’s recuperating, a love interest of course, and more realization of the horrors of war that may await him when he returns to the fighting.
All of which adds to the fear that at times paralyzes him, at other times pushes him to act less than heroically, and leads to being forced to do one of the most distasteful acts any soldier is ever ordered to do.
First published five years ago, “Articles of War” is a slim 178 pages packed with nerve-testing scenes. Arvin takes his readers not only into battle but into the mind of someone who might just be a lot like you and I in terrifying, irrational situations. The Doubleday hardcover is now out as an Anchor paperback.
Read it and you won’t help but think about what American soldiers must be going through in Afghanistan and Iraq today, and wish they were all home. — bz