Released April 27, 2021

Saving My Enemy

How Two WWII Soldiers Fought Against Each Other and Later Forged a Friendship That Saved Their Lives

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DON MALARKEY grew up scrappy and happy in Astoria, Oregon—jumping off roofs, playing pranks, a free-range American.

Fritz Engelbert’s German boyhood couldn’t have been more different. Regimented and indoctrinated by the Hitler Youth, he was introspective and a loner.

Both men fought in the Battle of the Bulge, the horrific climax of World War II in Europe. A paratrooper in the U.S. Army, Malarkey served a longer continuous stretch on the bloody front lines than any man in Easy Company. Engelbert, though he never killed an enemy soldier, spent decades wracked by guilt over his participation in the Nazi war effort.

On the sixtieth anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Bulge, these two survivors met. Malarkey was a celebrity, having been featured in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers, while Engelbert had passed the years in the obscurity of a remote German village.

But both men were still scarred— haunted—by nightmares of war. And finally, after they met, they were able to save each other’s lives.

Saving My Enemy is the unforgettable true story of two soldiers on opposing sides who became brothers in arms.

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Fritz Engelbert, as a teenager, running through the streets of Hilchenbach, Germany during a school-boy race, circa 1939.

TELLING THE STORY of an American soldier, Don Malarkey, and a German soldier, Fritz Engelbert, becoming close friends 60 years after the two fought within five miles of each other at the Battle of the Bulge, has been an utter privilege.

At first, I admit, I wondered if I could learn enough about Fritz to give him an equal pairing with Malarkey, whose memoir, Easy Company Soldier, I wrote in 2008 and who had become something of a celebrity after Tom Hanks' and Steven Spielberg's Band of Brothers premiered in 2001. Thanks to Fritz's sons Volker and Matthias (photos below), I soon had access to dozens of letters Fritz had written home during the war, hundreds of photos and decades of "eyewitness" anecdotes on their father.

The result is the rare war book with a happy ending, a story that Don's daughter, Marianne McNally, was passionate about telling. And whose passion soon became my own.

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Don Malarkey in a skiff by the Columbia River in Astoria at eighteen, 1939.

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Don Malarkey (yellow jacket, center) and "Wild Bill" Guarnere pay their respects at the American Cemetery and Memorial at Hamm, Luxembourg, December 16, 2004. Fritz, right, stayed back, his eyes wet with tears. 

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Don Malarkey in a skiff by the Columbia River in Astoria at eighteen, 1939.

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In August 2019, three families gathered for a salmon dinner after a long day of interviewing: Don's daughter, Marianne McNally (taking photo); my wife Sally (in front of me); my mother, Marolyn Welch Tarrant (turquoise top; and our visitors from Germany, left to right, Matthias Engelbert, Volker Engelbert, Matthias's wife, Beate; and Marianne's husband, Dan. 

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My mother, Marolyn, was enthralled by our German guests. Here she is with Matthias.