A Story of American Heroism and Sacrifice in Southern France
About the Author:
Jeff Danby was born in 1963 in Pontiac, Michigan. As the son of a high school history teacher, Jeff grew up in a house full of books—which he read voraciously. He went on to get a B.A. Degree in History (with Honors) from DePaul University with a concentration in 20th Century America. He also attended DePaul’s School of Law for one year before leaving in good standing. While at DePaul, Jeff was an illustrator and cartoonist for the school newspaper, The DePaulia.
After college, Jeff honed his investigative and analytical skills as a health and life underwriter for eight years at various insurance companies. After marrying and starting a family, Jeff became a stay-at-home father and a freelance artist creating commissioned portraits and greeting cards. His portrait of Abraham Lincoln won “Best in Show” in a 1995 Springfield, Illinois area-wide art show. His works have also appeared on Upper Deck Hockey cards.
In August 2000, Jeff set out to uncover and preserve a few details of the war service of his late grandfather, 1st Lt. Edgar R. Danby. Through the website for the Society of the Third Infantry Division, Jeff was put in touch with Dave Redle, his grandfather’ s wartime captain and the former commander to B Company of the 756th Tank Battalion. Redle told Jeff about a hard-fought battle involving L Company of the 15th Infantry Regiment and his grandfather’s tanks at the town of Allan in southern France on August 27th, 1944. Intrigued, Jeff contacted Michel Seigle, a citizen of Allan. Michel helped Jeff find local documents and living eyewitnesses to the battle. The framework to a fascinating small unit action emerged and Jeff began seeking additional documents, witnesses and participants.
In August 2001, Jeff and his father, Russ, were invited to visit Allan France. While there, the town held a reception in their honor and Jeff was able to walk the battlefield and interview several other witnesses—including the wartime mayor of Allan, Georges Almoric.
Over the next three years, Jeff fully immersed himself into this research, making visits to the Armor School Library at Fort Knox, Kentucky; the U.S. Military History Institute at Carlisle, Pennsylvania; and several trips to the National Archives in College Park, Maryland; in search of all pertinent After Action Reports, Unit Journals, Maps, and Photos. By meticulously studying and cross referencing Morning Reports, Jeff was able to reconstruct the complete southern France rosters of several Third Division units including Company L of the 15th Infantry Regiment and Company B of the 756th Tank Battalion. Through that effort, he was able to locate and interview over thirty living L Company veterans of the Southern France Campaign and the families of many others who had since passed away. Veterans of the supporting tanks and other attached units at the time were also interviewed extensively. Seeking every last detail, Jeff attended many veterans’ reunions, including those held annually by the Society of the Third Infantry Division, The 15th Infantry Regiment Association, and the 756th Tank Battalion Association. To insure the accuracy of the expanding story, Jeff had his outlines and manuscripts regularly proofread and reviewed by many of the key veterans and participants of the action.
In May 2004, Jeff began writing the first draft to the book. That same month, he was invited to speak before the Society of the Third Infantry Division and witness the dedication of the National World War II Memorial. In August, Jeff and his wife, Melinda, traveled again to southern France—this time to participate in several 60th Anniversary celebrations and to rendezvous with veterans of the Third Infantry Division on a battlefield tour. Jeff arranged for the group to stop at Allan, where the veterans were honored by the mayor and townspeople.
By May of 2006, Jeff’s final book draft was finished—complete with original maps, drawings and graphics. All the veterans to whom he sent copies have enthusiastically endorsed his work. Rudy Jantz, a radioman in L Company at the time, commented that it “reads like you were there.” Others have praised the writing style for flowing “like a novel,” with descriptions as vivid as “a movie,” and a storyline every bit as gripping as Ambrose’s WWII classic “Band of Brothers.” Ed Dojutrek (now deceased), the former historian for the Society of the Third Infantry Division, glowingly observed: “I have never come across a military history book so highly detailed.”
In September 2006, Casemate Publishing LLC, a world renowned publisher of military books, accepted Jeff’s work. Casemate was only the second publisher that Jeff approached and the first to actually review his manuscript.
Jeff currently lives in Ohio with his family. He has done several local lectures about the book and the Southern France Campaign. Jeff is an avid recreational hockey player and youth hockey coach with a Level 4 USA Hockey certification. He is an active member of the 756th Tank Battalion Association and maintains the organization’s website (www.756tank.com). He also maintains memberships in the Society of Third Infantry Division, and the 15th Infantry Regiment Association.