In honor of the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day, I am deeply honored to have worked with WWII Army Staff Sergeant Ray Lambert, a highly decorated combat medic working at the front lines, who risked his own life to save the heroes of Omaha Beach. His first-hand account is called EVERY MAN A HERO, from HarperCollins, which just made the New York Times Bestseller List. His story was briefly narrated by actor Sam Elliot at the PBS special airing of the 30th Annual Memorial Day Concert in Washington, DC. and he was honored by President Trump at the Commemoration speech on D-Day in Normandy. Ray's dedication to saving and tending the wounded and dying throughout his Army career is a story that affected me deeply, and which Americans will be very proud to read.
Here's an excerpt:
A five A.M. on June 6, 1944, U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Ray Lambert worked his way through a throng of nervous soldiers to the windswept deck of a troopship off the coast of Normandy, France. A familiar voice cut through the wind and rumble of the ships engines. "Ray!" called his brother Bill. Ray, head of a medical team for the First Division's famed 16th Infantry Regiment, had already won a Silver Star in 1943 for running through German lines to save trapped men, one of countless rescues he'd made in North Africa and Sicily.
"This is going to be the worst yet," Ray told his brother, who served alongside him throughout the war.
"If I don't make it," said Bill, "take care of my family."
"I will," said Ray. He thought about his wife and son-- a boy he had yet to see. "Same for me." The words were barely out of Ray's mouth when a shout came from below.
To the landing craft!
The brother's parted. Their destinies lay ten miles away, on the bloodiest shore of Normandy, a plot of Omaha Beach ironically code-named "Easy Red."
I've written two other books about World War II heroes that I greatly admired: US RANGERS AT DIEPPE and OMAR BRADLEY:GENERAL AT WAR. This book was new for me, because I learned so much about medics, their training, new advances in medicine that came from Army experience on and off the battle fields. Most remarkably were the stories of the dedicated medics themselves, whose resolve to remain visible always to their troops to reassure them that help would be nearby made them prime targets of the Nazi enemy. Their selflessness, their compassion, and their cool heads in the chaos of war are exemplified by Ray Lambert's memoir, which gives voice to those who were lost to war on that horrific, yet successful day.
A master storyteller, NY Times Bestselling author Jim DeFelice (American Sniper) is known for his vivid, raw, and powerful portrayals of modern American military heroes.
Now he resurrects the heroes of the Old West in WEST LIKE LIGHTNING: THE BRIEF, LEGENDARY RIDE OF THE PONY EXPRESS, to convey the sweeping drama of the American frontier's most audacious enterprise.
"Fans of frontier history and lore will relish the incomparable stories [DeFelice] relates." —Mark Knoblauch, Kirkus Reviews
A meticulous researcher, DeFelice drove the entire, nearly two thousand mile stretch of the original Pony Express trail from Sacramento, California to St. Joseph, Missouri in 2016. Along the way, he talked with museum curators, local historians, and historical reenactors of the Pony Express Association, and tracked down original documents to convey the full scope of the historic enterprise against the wider background of the U.S. Postal Service, American finance, the Gold Rush, and the impending Civil War.
"DeFelice frames his story with the six-day November 1860 trip that brought news of Abraham Lincoln’s presidential victory from St. Joseph, Mo., to Sacramento, Calif., the Pony’s main route. The ride, including employees’ encounters with feuding settlers in Kansas, bison stampedes, and hostile Native Americans, is rendered in fine, thrilling detail." – Publishers Weekly.
"... reads like a wild ride through our western imaginations." - Erik J. Wright, Tombstone Epitaph.
Excerpt from West Like Lightning:
"In the summer of 2016, I took a trip across the Pony Express trail, walking and driving – far more the latter – the path the service took. At one point in Nevada, or maybe Utah, I detoured slightly and got lost. I was alone, it was the middle of a warm day, and I didn’t know where I was or, for a short while, where the car was either.
Eventually, I found my way to the car. I had no cell service and the GPS in the car also didn’t work for some odd reason. But I knew if I drove in one direction – west in this case, or what I thought was west – eventually I would find something like a road, and from that find another road, and eventually find my way to something I could either recognize or pretend I recognized, and get reoriented. Which is what happened.
Not long after I got back, I told that story to a friend. “Now you know how the riders felt, all alone on the desert,” he told me.
But I didn’t. Not at all. What I felt was barely worse than coming out of the mall and not knowing where your car is. . . I knew people would be waiting for me, and contact authorities if I didn’t turn up. I knew that in the worst case scenario, whatever that might be, I could find help, either by someone passing or a cell signal.
Pony riders had none of that. And they lived with the reality that at any moment they might be completely on their own, without any hope of help.
That was a reality not just for the riders, but for everyone involved in the service, and pretty much everyone on the frontier at one time or another. Living with that reality – embracing it – made them who they were.
It didn’t make them better than us, of course; we live in different times, with different challenges. But it does make their lives worthy of study and, at their best, emulation. The Pony flashed briefly across the American landscape, a strike of lightning in a sky often dark with danger and ambiguity. In its history, real and sometimes imagined, we see ourselves as we’d like to be: brave, resourceful, racing against nature and all manner of dangers, with determination in our hearts and a smile on our faces."
—West Like Lightning by Jim DeFelice
Delving deeply into the human experience of war, history, geopolitics, and cutting edge technology, DeFelice has written on a wide range of subject matter. His spy novels run the historical gamut, from the American Revolution (The Silver Bullet), to futuristic techno-thrillers (Dreamland and Puppetmaster series co‒written with Dale Brown). His military histories capture the WWII-era in Rangers At Dieppe, and the current Iraqi and Afghanistan wars in two memoirs Code Name: Johnny Walker and Fighting Blind, along with the critically acclaimed novel, Leopards Kill.
American Wife (which DeFelice wrote with Chris Kyle's widow Taya after he was tragically murdered) is slated to be made into an upcoming television miniseries for ABC. DeFelice also helped create and wrote the storylines for several video games, most notably Ace Combat: Assault Horizon, and Afro Samurai. Born in New York City, Jim DeFelice lives in the Hudson Valley region. Learn more at his websites at jimdefelice.com and westlikelightning.com.