In December 1942, 21-year-old Eugenio Corti, an officer in the Italian army, found himself, along with 30,000 Italians and 6,000 Germans, surrounded by Russians on Russian soil. To save themselves, they set out on a terrifying march through the desolate environment, where temperatures constantly hovered between -30 and -40 degrees Fahrenheit. The Italian troops were ill equipped and ill prepared for the struggle that followed. "Few Returned" is Corti's diary of his experiences during the month it took the troops to break through the Russian line to freedom. Each day brought brutal engagements with the Russians, and there was little time to sleep or eat. Many wounded, starving, frostbitten and delirious men were left to die. Corti paints a deeply moving picture of each scene as he experienced it. Through this detailed and compassionate telling of these events, the reader becomes aware of Corti's heroic struggles to save the sick and wounded. Although he helps many, he soon realizes that he must save himself. His heart remains heavy for those left behind.
"This is one of the reasons I am writing today: so that everyone may know about your sacrifice, my brothers, my thousands of brothers, who perished in that terrifying misery. But what chance do I have of receiving a more than ephemeral hearing if my voice is parched, after such treatment, and within me there is a desert?" While Corti was recovering in an Italian hospital after the march, he began writing this diary. He was very careful not to include anything in it that he did not know for fact. After his convalescence, he rejoined the fighting forces. By this time there was among the Italians a realistic fear of house-searches by their former German allies; thus, Corti had his manuscript wrapped in a waterproof sheet and buried. After the war he recovered and transcribed the diary, which was first published in 1947 and has remained in print since then. Translated from Italian for publication in several other languages, "Few Returned" has until now been unavailable in English. This heart-wrenching account of the bitter fighting on the Russian front during World War II is certain to become a classic in America, as it already has become in Italy, Germany and Japan.