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White Buses by Jack DuArte

During World War II, Sweden was sandwiched between Finland and its ongoing war with the Soviet Union and Norway, which fell to the Nazis in the earliest days of the war in Europe. Somehow, throughout the war, it managed to maintain its neutrality – but that doesn’t mean the country or its diplomats did nothing during that time. 

The Lifeline in the Final Days of WWII

A Swedish noble, Count Folke Bernadotte, was among the most active. He managed to negotiate a prisoner exchange, getting 11,000 POWs home through Sweden between 1942 and 1943. He also attempted to negotiate a peace deal between the Western Allies and Nazi Germany in 1945. His most lasting contribution, however, came toward the end of the war. The White Buses, as the operation has come to be called, saw 300 volunteer Swedes move an estimated 15,345 prisoners from German concentration camps to hospitals in Sweden. 

Jack DuArte is a former Air Force officer who received the Bronze Star during his service in the Vietnam War. He has had a lifelong fascination with writing, joining the staff of the New Orleans Times-Picayune at just 14 years old. After graduating from the University of Kentucky and later the University of Evansville, he joined the Air Force, did his duty, and returned home in 1971. He went into the wine industry (where he would eventually own several Napa Valley wineries) but continued writing a regular column for the Times-Picayune

The White Buses: Controversy and Heroism

He has since returned to Kentucky, where he continued to write. Now, he writes books, mostly centered around the forgotten stories of World War II. His latest book, the tenth in a series about World War II, is “The White Buses,” the story of how Bernadotte managed to negotiate with Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler to rescue more than 15,000 concentration camp inmates to neutral Sweden as Nazi Germany was crumbling. 

The operation wasn’t without its problems – or its criticisms. The buses were painted white and bore the symbol of the International Red Cross on their roofs. It was hoped the Allied air forces would not strike the buses as military targets. The Swedes brave the most notorious camps, like Dachau and Ravensbrück, to retrieve their precious cargo and ferry them to ships anchored in the Bay of Lübeck. But British intelligence receives information that former SS officers are among those in the buses, attempting to escape their crimes – should they attack the buses? 

The White Buses story is widely known in history, so one could easily search the Internet for the answer, but DuArte’s retelling of the operation is filled with nuance, and his writing is interesting and engaging. “White Buses” is an eminently readable masterwork of historical nonfiction. 

After the war, Bernadotte and the entire White Buses operation were lauded with praise for their rescue of so many victims of Nazi cruelty. But they were also criticized for focusing on inmates of Scandinavian descent to the detriment of other, more needy prisoners (although roughly half of the prisoners were from other nationalities). Also, since the focus of the rescue was on nationality, it’s unknown how many (if any) Jews were saved from the Holocaust. The aftermath was controversial, but the story is riveting. 

“The White Buses” is available now in paperback on Amazon for less than two dollars, or $6.99 for Amazon Kindle readers. Amazon customers with a Kindle Unlimited subscription can read this book and Jack DuArte’s books for free. 

Read About Other Book Reviews

If you enjoyed reading the review of ‘White Buses’ by Jack DuArte, we invite you to read about other military book reviews on our blog. You will also find profiles in courage, veterans’ service reflections, famous military units and more on the TogetherWeServed.com blog.  If you are a veteran, find your military buddies, view historic boot camp photos, build a printable military service plaque, and more on TogetherWeServed.com today.


Tags: Air Force, Amazon, Bronze Star, Count Folke Bernadotte, Holocaust, International Red Cross, Nazi Germany, Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler, Times-Picayune, Vietnam War, World War II


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