Where the Birds Never Sing: The True Story of the 92nd Signal Battalion and the Liberation of Dachau

Where the Birds Never Sing: The True Story of the 92nd Signal Battalion and the Liberation of Dachau

by Jack Sacco

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A Son's tribute to the courage of his father and to all the heroes of World War II

In his riveting debut, Where the Birds Never Sing, Jack Sacco tells the realistic, harrowing, at times horrifying, and ultimately triumphant tale of an American GI in World War II. As seen through the eyes of his father, Joe Sacco — a farm boy from Alabama who was flung into the chaos of Normandy and survived the terrors of the Bulge — this is the heroic story of the young men who changed the course of history.

As part of the 92nd Signal Battalion and Patton's famed Third Army, Joe and his buddies found themselves at the forefront of the Allied push through France and Germany. After more than a year of fighting, but still only twenty years old, Joe was a hardened veteran. However, nothing could have prepared him and his unit for the horrors behind the walls of Germany's infamous Dachau concentration camp. They were among the first 250 American troops into the camp, and it was there that they finally grasped the significance of the Allied mission. Surrounded by death and destruction, they not only found the courage and the will to fight, they discovered the meaning of friendship and came to understand the value and fragility of life.

Told from the perspective of an ordinary soldier, Where the Birds Never Sing contains firsthand accounts and never-before-published photographs documenting one man's transformation from farm boy to soldier to liberator.

About the Author

Jack Sacco is a director, writer, and composer living in Los Angeles. His writing and directing credits include the documentaries Beyond the Fields andThe Shroud, and he has composed the soundtracks for such works as TR: The Heroic Life of Theodore Roosevelt and Once Upon a Starlit Night.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060096663
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 11/02/2004
Edition description: First Paperback Edition
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 163,023
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.84(d)

About the Author

Jack Sacco is a director, writer, and composer living in Los Angeles. His writing and directing credits include the documentaries Beyond the Fields and The Shroud, and he has composed the soundtracks for such works as TR: The Heroic Life of Theodore Roosevelt and Once Upon a Starlit Night.

Read an Excerpt

Where the Birds Never Sing
The True Story of the 92nd Signal Battalion and the Liberation of Dachau

Chapter One

The Journey Begins

Birmingham, Alabama
October 1942

In all my memories of the farm, there is one day I remember the most. I suppose it's because I learned more about myself in the time it took me to read a simple letter that day than I had in the previous eighteen years of my life. When I looked up from that page, I realized that life is not a given, it's a gift, and that a man's destiny can lead him far from the home and the family he loves into places he never knew existed. Perhaps in all my years there, this was the first time I actually made an effort to remember the many people and things that had surrounded me for so long. Perhaps it was the first time I really took stock of what I had and realized its truest value. For whatever reason, it was the memory of that day -- and the thousands exactly like it that I had allowed to go unnoticed -- that would carry me through the years and the journey ahead. And for that I have been grateful every day since.

It was the afternoon of Friday, October 16, 1942, and the heat and humidity of a prolonged Southern summer was finally giving way to the welcome freshness of autumn. The nearby hills, covered with trees and just beginning to sparkle with the colors of fall, draped themselves down until they blended softly into the fields of the farm.

Along the western edge of our land -- and occupying the flattest portion of the valley -- was the small airport serving the town of Birmingham, Alabama. In earlier years, when we were kids, my cousins and I used to stand at the fence for hours watching the planes take off and land. They seemed magical to us, so big yet somehow able to fly, their noisy engines announcing their arrival, their wheels kicking up smoke as they touched the runway. Sometimes we'd even try to throw rocks at them as they came in for a landing, not out of malice but because kids on a farm try to throw rocks at most everything, and a low-flying plane was just too hard to resist.

Now, years later, as we went along with our duties in the fields, we barely seemed to notice the buzz of the machines flying overhead and landing nearby. For the most part, the soothing sounds of nature abounded here -- the mooing of a cow, the occasional bark of a dog, the gentle breezes rustling through the trees as an old tractor hummed its way through the neatly groomed rows of corn, squash, tomatoes, cabbage, and other crops.

This rustic scene was, of course, musically enhanced by the everpresent sound of my uncles singing Italian songs. Each one apparently considered himself to be a great opera singer, each constantly trying to outdo the others in pitch and volume. Fortunately, they all seemed to be able to carry a tune, so on the rare occasions when they would harmonize instead of compete, it gave the farm the feel of a movie-sort of an Italian farming movie.

Papa and Mama had come from Sicily in the early 1920s. They sailed into New York Harbor before moving on to Chicago, where Papa began working at a factory. Before long he was offered a job by a childhood friend from Sicily named John Costa, aka John Scalice. Costa wanted Papa to drive a car for another Sicilian: a man named Al Capone. Papa refused. Capone was said to have felt disrespected, so he sent Costa to try once again to convince Papa to accept. Costa, by the way, was rumored to have been one of the hit men in the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. But Papa, being a decorated veteran of World War I in the Italian army and a man of considerable bravado, told Costa to tell Capone to shove it. It was just in keeping with Papa's personality to piss off the most powerful Mafia chieftain of the twentieth century. Which, is exactly what he did. Which is exactly why we moved. Papa had heard talk of jobs and land in Alabama, where the weather closely resembled that of Sicily and the Mafia didn't exactly have a stronghold. And so to Dixie we came.

Upon our arrival Papa immediately learned one fact of life in the South -- Italians were not welcome there. Alabama didn't have a Mafia, but they did have rednecks and the KKK. Neither liked anyone who wasn't a hick. So they designated certain areas of town -- the rundown areas -- as the places where blacks, Jews, Italians, Catholics, and anybody non-WASP had to live. Papa therefore bought a farm on the eastern edge of Birmingham, adjacent to the airport and near the farms of fellow Sicilians John Musso, Joe DiGratta, Tony Sciatta, and Mike Renda.

Now, along with an extended family that eventually included grandparents and a large assortment of aunts, uncles, and cousins, we worked the land until it yielded a rich harvest. We had settled in the South, but our language and customs were Italian. Thus, we held paramount in our hearts the two traditional sources from which we drew our daily strength: faith in God and love of family. These values, along with a willingness to work long and hard, saw us through the difficult times of the Great Depression and brought us even closer together.

Now, just four days after my eighteenth birthday, this Friday afternoon seemed entirely typical. We had worked in the fields all day and had just finished loading the truck with vegetables for the next morning's delivery to the farmers' market downtown. The sun was completing its long journey toward the distant clouds in the west, and a cool, refreshing breeze silently swept through the valley The smells of supper cooking began to rise from the house, calling us home for the quiet of evening ...

Where the Birds Never Sing
The True Story of the 92nd Signal Battalion and the Liberation of Dachau
. Copyright © by Jack Sacco. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Table of Contents

I.From Farm Boys to Soldiers
1The Journey Begins7
2Basic Training21
3War Maneuvers39
4Communications Training63
5Shipping Out89
II.Staging for War
6The Voyage Beyond97
7Tales of the Emerald Isle111
9Countdown to History147
III.Days of Battle
11Breaking Through171
12East Through France183
13Paris and Beyond199
14Nights in Castles209
15When Hell Freezes Over219
17Like Crap Through a Goose253
18Where the Birds Never Sing275
IV.The Long Journey Home
21Many Battles Ago307

What People are Saying About This

James Bradley

“If you are looking for a great book about heroes in a dark place, read Where the Birds Never Sing.”

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Where the Birds Never Sing: The True Story of the 92nd Signal Battalion and the Liberation of Dachau 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 34 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My uncles were vets, one with Patton's Army...it was like hearing my uncle tell stories about World War II again...he passed away a year ago In July 2016....I asked him several times about the camp liberation....he always acted as if he hadn't heard me...I think he may not of been able to speak about the unspeakable...
Jen_JenJL More than 1 year ago
I have this book in paperback, and will not hesitate to purchase it when it becomes available on my Nook. I have read it twice, and will probaby read it again. Jack Sacco's writing style draws you in as he talks of the life led by his father. He introduces you to a group of YOUNG men, as they become part of the fabric of his father's life. You follow these men into the some of the darkest days in our history. They behave just as what they were: boys. But, all too soon they are forced into manhood and beyond into a realm of evil so vile, no human eyes should have to behold it. I expected this to be a story of "military" history which gets too technical and boring to hold my interest. I was pleasantly surprised to find a human story that exhibits why they are referred to as the "Great Generation." These men were made of "sterner stuff." You find yourself so emotionally involved in the lives of these men, that you almost forget they are not mere characters. You will laugh with them, you will cry with them. These are the real men who fought (and some died) for our American freedoms. At the climax of the story, when they finally reach Dauchau concentration camp, the images are so vivid that they will haunt you. Any fan of WWII, holocaust memoribilia, etc. would be remiss in NOT reading this work.
Lisa Gaunt More than 1 year ago
I am an enthusiastic reader of WWII stories and this one did not disapoint. Jack Sacco makes this so personal and so difficult to put down. It is entertaining and gripping and moving and thought-provoking. It is also one of the best edited ebooks I've read. Can't wait for Sacco's next.
AndrewC7thperiod More than 1 year ago
In the beginning of the book, it talks about Joe Sacco's life on the farm, with his wonderful family, until he gets drafted into the army. He is very afraid and doesn't know what to expect from the army. He meets a lot of new friends during his training, and is making very strong bonds with them. When he finally makes it to Europe, his batallion has to spend a long while in Ireland, until they start taking over France. While in a town called Fénétrange, he meets a woman named Dominique who he really likes. Three months later, as his convoy leaves Fénétrange, he promises Dominique that he will see her again. Joe's batallion leads through France, and starts to make it to Germany's border. The Germans put up lots of resistance, and Joe even sees two of his great friends, Chandler and Silverman, die while in Germany. His batallion keeps pushing through Germany, until the war is finally over. They are stuck in Europe for a while before they can finally go home, but they are all very happy that the war is over. This is one of the best books I have ever read, I definately recommend it. I'm not normally the type of person who loves to read, but I couldn't put this book down. It starts Joe Sacco's story from the day he was drafted until the day he gets home from the war. The story is straight-forward and simple, it's an easy but very interesting book to read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The 92nd Signal Battalion was attached to the 45th Infantry on the morning of the liberation of Dachau and did, indeed, enter the main camp. They had also been attached to the 42nd Infantry (Rainbow Division) in the days prior to the liberation. 'Where the Birds Never Sing' perfectly and accurately captures the story and feelings of what it was like to enter the camp. As a Professor of History, I've read them all and this is definitely a great book and a must read. It's one of the few books about the experiences of the American GI in WWII that is actually well-written. Not only is it accurate and well-written, it's a powerful literary work that inspires and moves you in ways mere history books seldom if ever achieve. Great humor in the book. I found myself laughing out loud in some sections, but also tearing up in others, especially the ending. Very moving.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Great book! The story is emotional and superbly-written. I'm a history buff and have long known about the liberation of Dachau. It so happens that my father-in-law was part of the liberating force as part of the 92nd Signal Battalion. 'Where the Birds Never Sing' is a true story, is accurate and is excellent. The dialog is brilliantly written. Some of the best I've ever read in any book. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in knowing what it feels like to be a soldier in a war. My daughter, who is not a history buff, loved this book and even has her college friends reading it. Remarkable!!
Anonymous 4 months ago
Read it. History comes alive.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My dad, was a Pearl Harbor survivor. Wray Nansel, his service was in the Pacific. My uncle was in Europe, Duane Nansel, a paratrooper in France then to Germany to help liberate a concentration camp. They have both passed but they will never be forgotten as they helped keep America free. To all the American service members from WWII, Vietnam Nam and Korea...God bless you, and thank you for your service.
SharynR More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed this book of history about another group of men fighting in WW2. I've read so much history about this war where my father and so many relatives fought. Each book gives a little more personal histories of our brave men-many of whom where still tenagers. A lot of the atrocities seen are hard to believe without pictures that where taken.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the few WWII books written about the ordinary foot soldier placed in extraordinary situations that holds your attention to the last page.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book kept my interest and was nicely written .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A wonderful story about some of our selfless and heroic soldiers who lived through and died in WWII. Beautifully written by the son of one of those soldiers. May we never forget their service and sacrifices.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very w lol,done . Great personal,story and story about the war in Europe . Thank you
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not an avid reader, but I couldn't put this book down. Well done Jack Sacco!
hingham26 More than 1 year ago
I love when an author can present a non-fictional work that is written as a novel. This book is completely engaging. The story is captivating, you can't help but come to care about all of the people, you know some of the outcome, since it is about World War II, but it is far beyond dates and places, you feel what the characters feel. If I taught history, I would make this required reading! I also agree that it is one of the best edited books I've read, lately it seems I find multiple typographical and grammatical error that are distracting. This book is well done in format, form, and content, but the story itself is riveting. God bless those who served our country in WWII, and God bless Jack Sacco for bringing their story to life for those of us born well after the war.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm not usually a fan of war stories, but this one got my attention and when I got it, I couldn't put it down. The writing is excellent and the story is very moving. I became very involved with all of the people this story is written about. Don't let the subject of 'war' keep you from reading this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It is hard for me to read war novels, but this one was written like a personal diary so moving and captivating. It's hard to believe he was only 20 years old. It talks more about personal relationships and experiences rather than the statistics of wars and battles. I guess that's why I enjoyed it so much. It is a book that could have been written by any soldier in any war. It deserves to go on the best seller list.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Where the Birds Never Sing is an excellent book in that it skillfully and accurately displays a part of war that is all too often forgotten by self-proclaimed 'military historians'. That is, the human and emotional side of war. This book came highly recommended and even surpassed its billing. An excellent read. By the way, only a cursory study of history reveals that the 92nd was, in fact, part of the initial liberating force into the main Dachau concentration camp. This is the RIGHT camp and a COMPELLING, POWERFUL BOOK. All my friends are reading it and loving it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've probably read hundreds of books about World War II. This is perhaps the finest of the lot. It's not about armaments and battles, it's about the inner journey of a soldier from farm boy to hero. These are the stories that make America great, and the stories that never seem to be told. Senator Bob Dole, who knows a good WWII book when he sees one, is right when he says this is a great book. It is powerful precisely because it is written in a highly literary style, not the boring, monotonous third-person that the Publisher's Weekly reviewer is accustomed to, that most historians seem to prefer and that most students abhor. Instead, this is a beautiful piece of American literature. By the way, I did some research with military historian colleagues and Holocaust museum executives and found out that the 92nd Signal Battalion was indeed at the main camp at Dachau. I'm Jewish and I know that some people want to smear the veracity of the liberations as part of another agenda. As the book so beautifully portrays, the 92nd was indeed attached to the infantry and was part of the liberating force of the main Dachau camp on the morning of April 29, 1945. I enjoy military history and I therefore loved this book. But what impressed me is that it brought my wife, who is not known to enjoy war books, to tears. Our family will cherish this book and we are thankful to Mr. Jack Sacco for writing it, especially in such a powerful and emotional style. I think it should be required reading in our schools.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was a member of the 42nd Rainbow Division and was at the liberation of the main camp at Dachau. The 92nd Signal Battalion WAS WITH US at the liberation of Dachau. The gentleman who claims they weren't there is sadly mistaken. They were most certainly there and this book is 100% true and excellent!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a true story, so if there isn't as much combat 'footage' as you'd like, so be it. Well-written even if some of the dialogue is made up.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A beautiful and moving story that I would recommend every one should read. There are many people today that have no knowledge of the horrors committed in this war or the great sacrifices made to end it. We must remember, or we will endlessly repeat our mistakes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hello? Kittyclaw?