The Fighting Bunch (Hardcover)
The Battle of Athens and How World War II Veterans Won the Only Successful Armed Rebellion Since the Revolution
St. Martin's Press, 9781250266194, 352pp.
Publication Date: November 3, 2020
In The Fighting Bunch: The Battle of Athens and How World War II Veterans Won the Only Successful Armed Rebellion Since the Revolution, New York Times bestselling author Chris DeRose reveals the true, never-before-told story of the men who brought their overseas combat experience to wage war against a corrupt political machine in their Tennessee hometown.
For ten long years, the citizens of McMinn County, Tennessee lived under a regime as dictatorial as Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. First elected sheriff in 1936, wealthy industrialist Paul Cantrell rose to political prominence in the Democratic Party through fraudulent means, culminating in becoming a state senator in 1942. High taxes and racketeering funded his schemes. Deputies who served only themselves enforced his laws. Cantrell stole every election that decade through ballot box seizures and secret vote counts that ensured his victory. Anyone who questioned the results were threatened, arrested, and fined.
In September of 1945, Bill White returned home to Athens, Tennessee, “The Friendly City,” after more than two years in the Marine Corps, a soldier in the Guadalcanal Campaign that turned the tide of the war. He was one of 3500 men from McMinn County who served in Europe and in the Pacific theater fighting fascist tyranny only to discover their families and friends living under a similar authoritarian rule in the United States. To restore true democracy, McMinn’s veterans formed the nonpartisan GI ticket to oppose Cantrell’s machine in the next election.
But Cantrell wasn’t about to let a group of “kids” usurp his control. On Election Day, August 1, 1946, deputies took the ballot box to the jail in Athens, violently assaulting anyone who dared to stop them. White and his fellow GIs, men who fought and survived action in the Bulge and Normandy, armed themselves and laid siege to the prison, demanding the ballot box. For more than six hours, gunfire and dynamite blasts rocked the community until the deputies surrendered. With an official and legitimate vote count, the GIs won the election.
For the past seven decades, the participants of the “Battle of Ballots and Bullets” and their families kept silent about that conflict. Now in The Fighting Bunch, after years of research, including exclusive interviews with the remaining witnesses, archival radio broadcast and interview tapes, scrapbooks, letters, and diaries, Chris DeRose has reconstructed one of the seminal—yet untold—events in American election history.
About the Author
Praise For The Fighting Bunch: The Battle of Athens and How World War II Veterans Won the Only Successful Armed Rebellion Since the Revolution…
"This is an especially timely tale in a year of social and political turmoil. The pulse-pounding narrative of The Fighting Bunch takes us to a place in America where the struggle against evil did not end when the war did and once more people of good will had to take a courageous stand." —Tom Clavin, bestselling author of Tombstone and Wild Bill
"In a remarkable feat of dogged fresh reporting, historical research and narrative aplomb, DeRose breathes new life into the little-remembered saga of the 1946 Battle of Athens, Tennessee, when a force of angry men, led by recent World War II veterans with the 'stamp of combat in their eyes,' mounted a successful armed rebellion against entrenched municipal corruption and police brutality." —Joe Sharkey, author of Above Suspicion
"History's best lessons are sometimes forgotten, and it's up to authors like Chris DeRose to resurrect them. He does so elegantly in The Fighting Bunch, the astonishing story of how, in August 1946, a band of World War II veterans summoned all their courage and fighting skills to stand up to and destroy a corrupt political machine in McMinn County, Tennessee. It's likely you never knew about it before - but once you've read this book, their act will resonate in your mind forever." —Jeff Guinn, New York Times bestselling author of Manson and The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple
"Men who went overseas to defend the freedom for the world returned home to discover they had lost it here. How they fought to reclaim it is a riveting story that should remind every American of how precious and fragile are the freedoms we too often take for granted." —John Bicknell, author of Lincoln's Pathfinder: John C. Fremont and the Violent Election of 1856 and America 1844
“In ‘The Fighting Bunch,’ Chris DeRose unearths a fascinating and incredibly timely piece of American history. This lively and well-researched account of American GIs and their people-powered revolution, which restored democracy to McMinn County, Tennessee, soon after the war, is a lesson for us all – and a warning for those tempted by power or complacency not to forget the role that justice and fairness play in this country. Or to put it as one of the heroes might have (outside of polite company): Don’t screw with democracy, the ballot box, or angry GIs.
It’s another reminder that the men and women who endured World War II were in fact members of the Greatest Generation.” —Jim DeFelice, New York Times best-selling co-author of American Sniper, Every Man a Hero