Colley, David P.
COLLEY, David P.
PERSONAL: Male. Education: Kenyon College, graduated, 1964.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, St. Martin's Press, 175 5th Ave., New York, NY 10010.
CAREER: Freelance writer. Formerly worked for Baltimore Evening Sun, Baltimore, MD.
Sound Waves, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1985.
The Road to Victory: The Untold Story of World War II's Red Ball Express, Brassey's (Washington, DC), 2000.
Blood for Dignity: The Story of the First Integrated Combat Unit in the U.S. Army, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2003.
Safely Rest, Berkley Caliber (New York, NY), 2004.
Contributor to periodicals, including New York Times, Popular Mechanics, Army, Mechanical Engineering, World War II, and Current Biography. Contributor to programming for History Channel.
SIDELIGHTS: David P. Colley is a journalist who has written extensively about U.S. military affairs and history, including two volumes about the contributions of black soldiers during World War II. In The Road to Victory: The Untold Story of World War II's Red Ball Express, he documents the impact of the swift truck convoys that brought supplies and ammunition to the troops at the front during the European war, and that became the major means of transport after most of the railroads were destroyed by the Germans. While these operations were primarily carried out by black soldiers, the accomplishments of white units were often blown out of proportion, while those of blacks went unreported. Stephen L. Sewell noted in Armor that, "while the African-American troops felt insulted at the treatment that they received and the comments about not being fit combat troops, many of them took pride in this job, and found out very quickly that 'noncombat' was a relative term. Many times they had to fight it out with bypassed pockets of Germans or German fighters trying to strafe the convoys. Eventually 4,560 volunteered for service in infantry units, and over 2,200 were trained, assigned, and served with distinction." Sewell noted that the history of the Red Ball Express has not been accurately portrayed, nor has the participation of black soldiers been properly represented, by Hollywood and television. "They deserve better," he said, "and Mr. Colley has provided an excellent and highly entertaining read on their achievements." Kliatt contributor John E. Boyd commented that The Road to Victory is one of the few books "that deals with prejudice within the ranks."
Black soldiers were not assigned to combat duty in World War II until troop shortages, caused primarily by losses at the Battle of the Bulge, forced a change of policy in 1945. Considered unfit for battle, they had first been placed in support positions. Eleanor Roosevelt supported their cause, and President Dwight Eisenhower compromised by allowing black volunteers to join all-black platoons led by white officers. In fact, black soldiers welcomed the opportunity to fight, and in Blood for Dignity: The Story of the First Integrated Combat Unit in the U.S. Army Colley focuses on the black soldiers of the 5th Platoon of K Company, 394th Regiment, 99th Infantry Division, or the "5th of K" as it was known, showing how they demonstrated remarkable courage and effectiveness. A Kirkus Reviews critic wrote that "the reader will doubtless guess there would be no book if the 5th had not acquitted itself with honor; one officer reported its ranks showed 'courage to the point of foolishness.'" When the war was over, these black soldiers were shipped back to their old units, and their platoons once again became all-white. They were not honored, nor were they included in victory parades. Ann Banks noted in the New York Times Book Review that "they are scarcely mentioned in the popular chronicles we take as true. David P. Colley deserves all credit for writing the first book to tell the story of these neglected trailblazers." Library Journal reviewer Charles M. Minyard wrote that "Colley does an excellent job of portraying the dual war these men were fighting, on the one hand against the Germans and the other against racism."
In Safely Rest Colley documents the government's six-year effort to repatriate the bodies of 233,181 American soldiers who died overseas during World War II, he focuses on one soldier, Jesse D. "Red" Franks, Jr. and the attempts by Franks' missionary father to recover his son's remains. "Engagingly written and soundly researched," John Carver Edwards stated in Library Journal, "this landmark contribution deserves a place in every military and World War II collection."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Armor, May-June, 2004, Stephen L. Sewell, review of The Road to Victory: The Untold Story of World War II's Red Ball Express, p. 51.
Booklist, December 1, 1985, Leon Wagner, review of Sound Waves, p. 517; February 15, 2003, Vernon Ford, review of Blood for Dignity: The Story of the First Integrated Combat Unit in the U.S. Army, p. 1037.
Choice, July-August, 2000, R. E. Marcello, review of The Road to Victory, p. 2036.
Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 2003, review of Blood for Dignity, p. 1746.
Kliatt, January, 2002, John E. Boyd, review of The Road to Victory, p. 30.
Library Journal, March 1, 2003, Charles M. Minyard, review of Blood for Dignity, p. 102; November 15, 2004, John Carver Edwards, review of Safely Rest, p. 69.
National Defense, June, 2001, David L. L. Silbergeld, review of The Road to Victory, p. 41.
New York Times Book Review, February 16, 2003, Ann Banks, review of Blood for Dignity, p. 6.
Publishers Weekly, February 14, 2000, review of The Road to Victory, p. 185; December 9, 2002, review of Blood for Dignity, p. 72; November 1, 2004, review of Safely Rest, p. 55.
Washington Post, February 20, 2003, Jonathan Yardley, review of Blood for Dignity, p. C4.
JerryJazzMusician.com, http://www.jerryjazzmusician.com/ (March 30, 2003), interview with Colley.