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    What is the face of combat like? A Day with the Old Folks shows what it was like to fight in the longest battle of World War 1: Verdun for just one 24 hour period. The Old Folks is a group of four German soldiers who have been together for nearly a year and have managed to survive longer than any squad in their company. The replacements that filled out their squad of eight have come and gone at an alarming rate yet these four have dodged death, wounds or capture. The rest of company is certain that they drain the luck from anyone who serves with them. There are even stories that the four were former patients in asylums for the criminally insane. The Old Folks come from diverse backgrounds. Kluggmann is a professional soldier called back from retirement who revels in killing. He is an adrenal junkie. Taken from the coal mines and forced to enlist in the Kaiser's army or spend time in prison for a near fatal assault on a store keeper, he found a calling in being a soldier. He engaged in pacifying the native population in German Southwest Africa, training Boers for their war against the British, and rampaging through the Chinese countryside during the Boxer Rebellion. Retired to being a postal worker after many long years on the frontiers of European civilization, Kluggmann was called back to train the volunteers and conscripts who replaced the many thousands killed in the first months of the Great War. Kowalski is the pseudo-intellectual of the company who reasons out his existence as a conscripted soldier and expounds those views to anyone who will listen. For him war is a return to a primal state of human creation; the very state which will reveal the supreme being's universal plan for mankind. Yet he is a socialist who longs for the demise of the class structure which denied him a higher education. Liebermann is a survivor from the streets of Berlin, a one-time thief and gigolo. His claim to fame is that he can find food in a famine and water in a desert. And Lange is a volunteer student who has become disillusioned about the war's purpose. Like so many young men he saw himself as a modern medieval knight fighting to save his homeland; after one year he sees himself as powerless in the face of technical and mechanical weapons that do not allow heroism. This book chronicles one day in their lives in the meat grinder of Verdun, a battle that took the lives of over a million soldiers. It shows their dreams, their realizations, and their triumphs in survival. But most of all it shows that the face of combat is a complicated enigma, as complicated as each of them.