Saving my enemy

Author: Bob Welch

Erik Jendersen, lead writer on HBOs Band of Brothers called this book “a quintessential tale. Once read, never to be forgotten”. He was not wrong.

I love Band of Brothers, that’s the worlds worst kept secret to my friends and family. I’ve seen the show (mmm..a few times!). I’ve written articles about it. I’ve reviewed the TV show and even interviewed actors and veterans families. I have read many books but this was one that had slipped through the gaps, until now.

Saving my Enemy takes the spoils of war and  changes your outlook. This book introduces to  us Don Malarkey, the scrappy kid from Oregon, who of course we know from Band of Brothers.  This book also hands us Fritz Engelbert, a young German indoctrinated by Hitler youth. These men were from the stereotypical ‘opposite ends of the world’, widely different in their origins & lifestyles.

What brought them together was the act of war.There was a mutual understanding of what they had been through. They both had  the underlying guilt and emotions over what they had both witnessed, what they had been party to.

These two men, both fought in the Battle of the Bulge. It’s well known that Malarkey served a continuous stretch on the front line , longer than any other man in Easy Company.   Fritz however, had never killed an enemy, but suffered badly due to his participation in the nazi war effort.

When these two extraordinary gentleman met, it was the 60th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge. It was a time when the name Malarkey was well known, having been featured in the HBO series Band of Brothers. But it was a time when Engelbert was unknown. He had lived his life in obscurity since the war. Just a man living in a German village. However, these men had that commonality that brought them together. Nightmares  of war.

Don and Scott Grimes, the actor who was responsible for bringing Don Malarkey to life on the screen.
Screenshot from one of the many interviews that Don has done over the years.

If you pick up this book expecting a war story along the lines of Band of Brothers, then put it back on your bookshelf. If you pick up this book, wanting to see how too men dealt with the ghosts of war and what it can do to a soul, then keep reading. Saving my enemy looks at life lived.  While one of those lives became a celebrity, that life was also fighting a constant battle of memories. The other life had to live with the constant guilt of having following Hitler

This book is many things. It is history told. It’s a memoir unfolding. It’s a friendship that developed  between two of the most unlikely of comrades. Soldiers from opposing sides of the war. It’s an insightful and yet scarring journey of two men who fought demons of their past. When these two lives collided sixty years after the war, a friendship developed. Not just soldier to soldier, but also family to family. That friendship enabled the burdens of war to be lifted and a forgiveness that they never saw coming.

This book is stunningly written. It does not sugar coat anything and that is vital in a memoir like this. War memoirs, in whatever way they are presented should always tell it like it is. This book does just that. It doesn’t hide from a dad who rarely said “I love you”. It doesn’t hide from alcohol dependancy. It doesn’t hide from another Easy Company soldier finding it hard to comprehend that a German soldier is at a reunion. It tells it like it is. To Bob Welch, thank you for that 

The memories and stories from Fritz and Don are interwoven so that they compliment each other beautifully. Neither one outweighs the other. The inclusion of moments from friends and family punctuate the memoir to show that while these men were veterans of war, they were also flawed men. This book shows that war is a horrific event that leaves scars, scars that can shockwave through a family. This book also shows that you can come out of the other side with a new friendship.

Don and Fritz in later years.
Don and Fritz during the war.