Unit Pride – A Novel – Book Review
Unit Pride: A Novel
John McAleer, Billy Dickson
Lyons Press 2005, 386 pages, Paperback
Unit Pride is the Korean War through the eyes of teenage soldier Billy Stacey. Billy is a street-smart youth from south Boston who convinced his mother to sign the age waiver so he could enlist in the Army. The story begins as his unit calmly ships into the harbor at Inchon. It rapidly evolves into a grueling pressure cooker, as one of the author’s describes in the epilogue “…of men in near primitive conditions, asserting in near primitive terms their right to survive, and turning their wrath on whatever jeopardized that right.” Unit Pride is a gritty and tough Korean War version of All Quiet On The Western Front.
While this story is categorized as fiction, the reader is immediately convinced that Billy Dickson is immersing you in his tour of duty. This first-person narrative may have been polished by co-author John McAleer into a Korean War novel, yet it powerfully pulls you into the foxhole with Billy and his mentor, Dewey. Infantry veterans are instantly familiar with Billy’s surroundings. If you’ve never been privileged to march in step, co-author McAleer ably puts an M-1 Rifle in your hands, and makes you a member of the Platoon. Either way, you’re caught up in the story immediately, and the pages fly by.
Unit Pride is definitely not politically correct. The swearing, slurring, and insulting banter between Billy and everyone in the platoon is slung about without apology. McAleer and Dickson pull it off handily as ethnic and regional differences are portrayed without malice. Without burdening the reader, lessons are given about courage, leadership, and moral crisis. The tone of this book is obvious from beginning to end – there are no gray areas on the front line. Courage and loyalty are the only virtues of worth; anyone not possessing them is as much an enemy as the Chinese and North Korean soldiers.
Interestingly, this story of combat succeeds on many levels. As with any tale of combat in Korea, waves of Chinese continuously attempt to overrun the line, and the reader can feel the desperate exertion required to beat back these attacks for the moment. Similarly, the depths of combat relationships are deeply examined in the older-brother type relationship that Billy has with Dewey. While it is not as technically descriptive as many of us Armchair Generals might like, at $14.95 (US), we can recommend Unit Pride: A Novel without hesitation to anyone not looking for strict historical accuracy.