A Book Review of “First Over There” by Matthew J. Davenport
First Over There: The Attack on Cantigny, America’s First Battle of World War I, by Matthew J. Davenport. St. Martin’s Press: New York, 2015 (360pp.) Read 10-02-16 to 12-04-16. Outstanding! This is how military history should be written! This is one of the all-time Best military histories I have ever read! Why this book did not win a Pulitzer I don’t know. The author, Davenport, says this is his first book; I certainly hope it is not his last. This is an exquisitely detailed book about the 1st Infantry Division, 28th Regiment in its preparation for, conduct of, and what happened after the Battle of Cantigny, France, May 28-30, 1917. The author covers the big picture of what was going on during the war, the politics, and command level. Then he works himself down to the 1st Division, then the 28th Regiment, and into the individual Rifle Companies, Platoons and Squads. The amount of detail he provides on so many individual soldiers is simply amazing. He writes of this battle at the individual level without leaving out the bigger picture. He does not spare the reader the gory details of battle as he gives graphic accounts of deaths and wounds. He brings you into the suffering of the soldier. Why read this book? We are in the one-hundredth anniversary of World War I and today’s generation knows nothing about this war. We live in a post-American, post-patriotic era. This book may stir the cooling embers of genuine patriotism and love of country. This book should be a movie. The only criticism of the book I could give is that with all of his extensive research, he should have perhaps included more on the German side and he had almost nothing on the French citizens of the town of Cantigny. I highly recommend this book! If you can read only one book on the Great War, read this book during 2017.