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Untold war stories come to light in quick, quirky read

November 07, 2005

Just when we were certain that we knew everything about everything, Rick Beyer comes along and ruins it.

Beyer, a documentary producer for the History Channel and author of the entertaining The Greatest Stories Never Told, is back for another round of history we never learned in public school with The Greatest War Stories Never Told, set to hit bookshelves in November.

Before reading this book, we had no idea that a stripper saved the Roman Empire. That Daniel Boone was once court-martialed for treason (and cleared). That the poinsettias that we so love at Christmas were brought here from Mexico by former war secretary and amateur botanist Joel Poinsett. That the invention of chewing gum has ties to the Alamo.

The obscure secrets that Beyer reveals are fascinating in all the ways that history books generally aren't, quirky and entertaining, without being drawn out. Only 224 pages, the book is a quick read that you'll be working into conversation forever.

For instance, did you know that the youngest American believed to have served in World War II was Calvin Graham, who lied to the Navy and enlisted at the age of 12  "He was found out and placed in the brig, where his sister got him sprung by threatening to go to the papers" Beyer writes. Two days after his thirteenth birthday, he rejoined his Fort Worth classmates in the seventh grade.

Guess who he told his secret to, the mistake which led to his discharge? His gunnery officer, Sargent Shriver, who later married JFK's sister, Eunice Kennedy, headed the Peace Corps, and ran for president in 1976.

Small world, huh? After reading this book, you'll know just how small it really is.

by C. Mark Brinkley, Army Times

updated: 7 years ago