Terrible times call for superhuman responses, and nowhere can we find better examples than war. Unfortunately, humans aren’t at their best unless challenged, deprived, threatened, or persecuted. An excellent example of this truth is this book set primarily in France In WW II. Based on notes, memories and interviews about Jean Claude Guiet, by his son Daniel Guiet and coauthor Timothy Smith, Guiet was a duel citizen. When time came for him to be drafted, Uncle Sam was smart enough for America’s sake to recruit him as a spy in occupied France.

He was the radio operator in one of a number of Allied underground teams parachuted into France, left to function independently, and survive if they were able. Blown away. Dumbstruck. Speechless. Lots of descriptors for a work that’s full of words, experiences and emotions about people in war. What sticks with me upon reading was not the thrill and chill episodes, but the sheer strength and courage of the team, one of whom was Violette Szabo, who eventually was captured, tortured and executed. Indeed, the life expectancy of any of the teams involved was estimated to be about two weeks. Jean Claude survived, playing his part not just in vital communications but also in assault and defense actions. All at the age of about 20. We also see the enthusiasms and energies of young adulthood. Incidents that would seem impossible for most people—climbing mountains, sneaking around forests, become challenges to be exuberantly overcome by Jean Claude.

This is a valuable work for anyone interested in military history or politics. More than that, it reminds us on every page that the words “Free World” came at an immense cost to humanity. Some things are more important than money, status, fame, even the law and rules. One of those is an individual’s personal code of ethics and honor. Regardless of nationality or religion, ultimately we each should strive to do what we think is right.

Scholars of Mayhem: My Father’s Secret War in Nazi-Occupied France, by Daniel C. Guiet  and Timothy K. Smith (Penguin Books, 2020)

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