January 21, 2021
By David Codrea
“For ten long years, the citizens of McMinn County, Tennessee, lived under a regime as dictatorial as Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan because wealthy industrialist Paul Cantrell stole every election that decade through ballot box seizures and secret vote counts to ensure his victory,” a book review solicitation from St. Martin’s Press notes. “To free their friends and family from authoritarian rule, approximately 3,500 WWII soldiers who fought fascist tyranny abroad returned home and formed the nonpartisan GI ticket to oppose Cantrell’s machine in the next election.”
The book is The Fighting Bunch: The Battle of Athens and How World War II Veterans Won the Only Successful Armed Rebellion Since the Revolution, by New York Times bestselling author Chris DeRose.
“It really could not be coming at a better time as our country discusses possible electoral fraud in the … presidential election,” the publicist writes. “It's highly relevant to today's conversation surrounding the importance of protecting the Second Amendment.”
That stirring intro is professionally crafted to whet your interest and convince you to buy the book. Here is what I think of it, as an impartial reviewer not particularly impressed by NYT popularity, one who has written about the Battle of Athens and how it might play out today with the militarization of law enforcement, and who, before I read it, was completely unfamiliar with DeRose and his work:
This is the best book I have read in years.
Like many Second Amendment advocates, I have been familiar with the basics of the story. DeRose, through exhaustive digging has managed to give us what late radio commentator Paul Harvey called “the rest of the story.” He did that by interviewing remaining witnesses, through painstaking historical research and through evident hard work and persistence. He tells the story though a narrative that appeals because it fleshes out the characters and shows the scope and pervasiveness of brutal corruption that could only be overcome through heroic acts by men who dared to risk all.
We see that corruption through an established Democrat political machine with reach far beyond local politics, one that had grown increasingly brazen in its confidence that it could get away with anything. That included stuffing ballot boxes with fraudulent votes, altering counts, intimidating, threatening, and assaulting opposition candidates and voters, and doing the same to poll watchers who tried to do their job. It was all enforced by armed, badged, and brutal thugs, quick with a fist, a blackjack, or a gun to use against anyone who did not show “proper” submission to their “authority.” And they had the judges in their back pockets, ready to ignore charges or issue in-your-face rulings that only encouraged more misdeeds.
Bullied and cowed for years, the citizens had been conditioned to accept that state of things as their lot until a monumental event happened: The GIs returned home from the war after having been battle-forged in hell and emerging victorious.
DeRose profiles the horrors the prominent figures behind “The Battle of Ballets and Bullets” endured and survived. These were not men who would allow themselves to be tyrannized by badged sadists and authoritarian punks. They had fought beyond most human limits to free the world from tyranny and were not about to submit to it at home.
In many ways, The Fighting Bunch reminds me of a real-life actualization of my favorite chapter, “The Scouring of the Shire,” from The Return of the King, the third book of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It is a story element bafflingly left out of the movie version. The hobbits, having prevailed though the horrors, sacrifices and losses to defeat the most powerful evil force on Middle Earth, returned home to find it ruled by arrogant and brutal scoundrels backed by corrupt “Shiriff” enforcers. As with Athens, the ruffians tried to tyrannize battle-hardened warriors at their peril and to their downfall.
The free and fair election that was the reason behind forming the nonpartisan “GI ticket” was won only though armed resistance and capturing the ballots that had been impounded at the jail. One of the reasons much of the story DeRose uncovered has heretofore been unknown is that in the aftermath, many of the principal GIs involved clammed up about it.
That was partly due to legal considerations and, because once they had secured their victory and defeated the machine, the patriotic victors, unlike those who steal elections, made real “unity and healing” a top priority. That is the way of those who value freedom. And it is the way of those who do not value freedom to paint men who do as “rightwing extremists” and worse.
I cannot come up with enough superlatives to tell you why I believe all gun owners striving for a government that “secures the Blessings of Liberty” should read this insightful, informative and gripping book. You can get a copy for yourself at Amazon (Hardcover or Kindle), Barnes & Noble (Hardcover or Nook), Books-a-Million and the like, and find out more at St. Martin’s parent company’s website, MacMillan Publishers.