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KOMET

KOMET

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REDISCOVERING A LONG LOST STORY CONTRASTING WAR & THE UGLINESS OF RACIAL PREJUDICE

Not Only War: A Story of Two Great Conflicts - Victor Daly, David Davis

This book is composed of a novella set during the First World War ("NOT ONLY WAR" - originally published in 1932), 3 short stories, and an interview that the author Victor Daly had given in 1985, 1 year before his death at age 90.

The greatest value of "NOT ONLY WAR" is that it is the only published story written by an African American First World War combat veteran that dealt specifically with the service of African American soldiers in France in 1918. The main character is Montgomery Jason, an African American college graduate (a rarity for that era), who, full of patriotic fervor, joins the Army in hopes of gaining admittance to the only officers' training school at Fort Des Moines set up for African Americans and earning his commission. Sadly, Jason is left disillusioned by a number of experiences during his Army service. For instance, he is denied the opportunity to attend Fort Des Moines, and while on a short leave from frontline duty, he is sharply upbraided by a white racist officer (a Southerner) who chanced upon him with his French girlfriend in the house she shared with her grandmother. Jason, until then a sergeant, is reduced in rank and soon sent back to the Front. "NOT ONLY WAR" reads as a cautionary tale on the viciousness of Jim Crow segregation --- both in the U.S. and in wartime France --- and the brutal dehumanization African Americans had to endure from an overtly racist America 100 years ago.

As for the 3 short stories, one is set in the Civil War, and the remaining 2 during the First World War. I didn't find them to be particularly compelling works. Notwithstanding that, I was glad to read this book which serves as a reminder of the African American combat experience in the First World War, which remains largely unknown today. Therein lies the singular value of "NOT ONLY WAR".