The Fighting Bunch: The Battle of Athens and How World War II Veterans Won the Only Successful Armed Rebellion Since the Revolution
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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.