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We Die Alone (The Adventure Library) by…
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We Die Alone (The Adventure Library) (original 1955; edition 1996)

by David Howarth (Author)

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7313312,799 (4.01)56
Member:msmullins
Title:We Die Alone (The Adventure Library)
Authors:David Howarth (Author)
Info:Adventure Library (1996), Edition: First, 218 pages
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We Die Alone: A WWII Epic of Escape and Endurance by David Howarth (1955)

  1. 01
    Touching the Void by Joe Simpson (srdr)
    srdr: Although this book is about mountain climbing rather than WW II, it is an equally gripping survival story.
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Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
Written about ten years after the end of WWII, this is the story of the one man who escaped from a failed attempt to invade northern Norway. The Germans intercepted the disguised fishing boat before the men, eight crew and four trained commandos (who were Norwegian patriots), could find their way to the mainland to set up a sabotage operation behind enemy lines. This one man managed to elude the Germans with the help of many local Norwegian people and was eventually carried into Sweden. It's amazing to read about. ( )
  Pferdina | Jul 23, 2017 |
A quite incredible story of escape and survival – and one told extremely well by author David Howarth, who ran the wartime operation that send Jan Baalstrud into Nazi-occupied Norway in March 1943. Howarth provides good, clean, no-nonsense writing which is just what the story demands. It doesn't need superfluous detail or lyrical prosing: the tale is incredible enough on its own.

For Jan's story – first of escape from the Nazis after his clandestine mission goes wrong, leaving only himself of his team alive, and then of survival as he combats the elements of winter in inhospitable and inaccessible mountainous terrain – is truly incredible. I don't want to merely repeat in this review what Jan went through but the story – a true story, remember – gets more and more remarkable with every passing page. It is a mind-boggling feat of endurance, bravery and sheer bloody-mindedness that turns We Die Alone into a real page-turner. Jan knows the Germans' search for him "would gradually widen, like a ripple on a pond", and so, "at all costs, he must travel faster than the ripple" (pg. 52). Beyond the simply astonishing feats of mental strength and physical endurance, what was most impressed on me by Jan's plight was just how many variables can alter in a plan, and how many small, overlooked things can give you away in a hostile land: not only little tells that might alert the Germans but small mercies or aids that could be the difference between hope and despair, and indeed life and death, in the wilderness.

Aside from his own phenomenal strength of mind, Jan's successful escape was down in no small part to the ordinary Norwegians he encountered. From the simple "acts of shining charity" provided by ordinary fishermen and housewives he encounters – whether shelter, transport, a fire, a meal, or even just directions – to the more organized resistance movement which performs its own feats to haul Jan over mountains and through blizzards, everything that was done for Jan came at great personal risk. The Germans were, shall we say, not known for their clemency, and we develop through reading the book a real admiration for that quiet dignity and unassuming heroism that often ensures good wins out – in the long run – over evil.

At one point in the narrative (pg. 72), a 72-year-old fisherman rises in the dead of night to escort a stricken stranger – Jan – across a fjord in his rowboat. A storm is raging and the Germans are in pursuit. His wife is worried. "Now, don't worry," the old man replies calmly. "He must get across, you see. It's one of those things we mustn't talk about." If, as Howarth remarks of those few Norwegian quislings who were found wanting in the occupation, it is not for an Englishman to pass judgment on those who lived under the German yoke (pg. 71), it is certainly for us to express admiration for the vast majority who perform great deeds not because of profit or patriotism or even hot-blooded courage but simply because it is the decent thing to do, and the world would not be the same place if they didn't. Through the endurance of Jan and the sheer goodness of the people in the story, the author of We Die Alone proves that we do not die alone: we live, and it is because of the aid and kindness of others that we do so. ( )
  MikeFutcher | Dec 31, 2016 |
This true-life story of human endurance is genuinely gripping, a factual account which is as riveting as any fictionalised adventure tale. Every chapter rings with the echo of authenticity. It’s as grim and as gritty as any noir novel, but does ultimate justice to the inner strength of an indomitable human spirit.

We Die Alone is a detailed account of a military operation which went horribly wrong, back in WW2 when Norway was occupied by Nazi forces. A Norwegian resistance unit sneaks from the British Shetlands to the northern fjords, on a fishing boat stuffed to the gunwales with explosives and equipment. Yet before they can even land safely, everything goes horribly wrong.

And it’s here that the story really begins, with Jan, the surviving fighter, isolated in an utterly unfamiliar landscape, facing torture and execution if captured. He doesn’t know who he can trust; any locals he involves run the same risks as he does, and the weather, water and towering mountains stand between him and a possible safe haven in Sweden…

The writing is crisp, descriptive without being fussy, detailed enough to explain the situation without overwhelming the reader in acres of exposition. Half of the chapters end on a cliff-hanger – and that’s not simply through deft story-telling but because that’s how the actual events unravelled. Jan faced a seemingly insurmountable series of disasters – frostbite, septicaemia, starvation, avalanche, abandonment, being buried alive – yet somehow contrives not to die, not to sleep, not to be swallowed by the deep snowdrifts.

The story also reflects the bravery of the people who helped him, and of those who died during this operation. It’s a powerful reminder of the strength of the human spirit, told with subtlety and quite some style. How it hasn’t been made into a blockbuster movie is a total mystery.
9/10 ( )
  RowenaHoseason | Jun 22, 2016 |
After reading Two Eggs on my Plate, I found yet another book from my father-in-law's estate about Norwegian Resistance during WWII. We Die Alone is the tale of a failed resistance team insertion in northern Norway. The story's protagonist and lone survivor makes it a couple of weeks with assistance from locals as he heads toward the Swedish border. But when he gets caught in bad weather conditions and a slide, snow blindness and frostbite get the better of him. On his last leg, he makes contact with Norwegian family that helps him out. The remainder of the tale is about him trying to recover while locals feed and support him while the Germans are still looking for him. The locals ultimately come together to get him across the border to survival.

The interesting part of this story is how small town Norwegians bind together to conduct their resistance activities. Up to this point, they had few opportunities to 'resist'. The poor health condition of the protagonist brought them together to finally do something against the occupying German Army.

The last chapters in the book are largely written thru research of the author as the main character was almost oblivious to his conditions in those last weeks on Norwegian soil. Interesting reading. ( )
  usma83 | Jun 13, 2016 |
This book's title has always struck me as one of the most brutally honest ones around...the story is one of escape and survival in extreme weather (cold) during WW2. As I recall at one point he buries himself in the snow to keep warm... ( )
1 vote dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (24 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
David Howarthprimary authorall editionscalculated
Kontio, MattiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Odd Bang-HansenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ringnes, HaagenAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tossey, VerneCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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On mourra seul - Pascal, 1623-1662
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Even at the end of March, on the Arctic coast of northern Norway, there is no sign of spring.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
We die alone was later published as Escape alone.
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Jan Baalsrud's escape from Nazi-occupied arctic Norway is one of the most exciting escape narratives to emerge from the challenges and miseries of World War II chronicles . In March 1943, a team of expatriate Norwegian commandos sailed from northern England for Nazi-occupied arctic Norway to organize and supply the Norwegian resistance. But they were betrayed and the Nazis ambushed them. Only one man survived - Jan Baalsrud. This is the incredible and gripping story of his escape. Frostbitten and snowblind, pursued by the Nazis, he dragged himself on until he reached a small arctic village. He was near death, delirious, and a virtual cripple. But the villagers, at mortal risk to themselves, were determined to save him, and - through impossible feats - they did. We Die Alone is an astonishing true story of heroism and endurance. Like Salvomir Rawicz's, The Long Walk, it is also an unforgettable portrait of the determination of the human spirit.… (more)

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