Behind Friendly Lines: Tales from World War II


158 pages
ISBN 1-894263-48-0
DDC 940.54'8173




Reviewed by Dave Bennett

David Bennett is the national director of the Department of Workplace Health, Safety and Environment at the Canadian Labour Congress in Ottawa.


John Koneazny joined the U.S. Merchant Marine at age 18, went through
officer training, then accepted a commission in the U.S. Army
Transportation Corps. These army sailors and soldiers were responsible
for the logistical supply route to the U.S. armies fighting in
Northwestern Europe. Koneazny served in England, France, and Germany,
returning home a year after World War II ended. He was variously an
officer in a Harbor Craft Company and officer in charge of a Mobile
Packing Squad.

The story is told through four trips to Europe after his retirement
from the U.S. Army Reserves. There are no chapters, only a pastiche of
elements from his trips and his army service, most drawn from memory,
none in sequence, and rarely with any close connection between the
holidays and events during the war. This intriguing structure is
entirely successful.

There is a huge amount of social detail and commentary in the book:
race relations and the social life of training establishments on the
U.S. eastern seabord, the texture and sociology of liberated Europe, and
the contrasts there between the 1940s and the 1980s. Above all, the book
is a rare picture of the administrative “tail” of the U.S. 12th Army
Group, a misnomer since the logistical body of the beast was bigger than
its fighting head.

Regrettably, the book is marred by its style of writing. It is written
as if “the guys” were sitting around a sleazy bar in a Connecticut
port city, knocking back Bourbon by the bottle, exchanging crude jokes,
and, without realizing it, relating a parody of the Yanks who “do
Europe.” Some of the commentary on postwar politics is asinine. The
trouble is not merely that this style will grate on Canadian readers, it
serves to obscure what is in many ways a singular, shrewd, discerning,
and perceptive book.


Koneazny, John J., “Behind Friendly Lines: Tales from World War II,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed February 29, 2024,