Tour of Duty is a work of historical fiction by William H. Coles and is set in France in the 1960s. Captain Miles Ballard graduated from Boston University and has just finished his medical training. Miles is sent to serve at the American military base in Chateauroux, France, as a doctor under the command of Colonel Springer. Miles struggles with the military protocol, his commitment to doing his best for his patients, and the military’s budgets and discipline. Miles and Springer are constantly in conflict, and Springer refuses to support Miles’s projects. Miles befriends a Jewish couple, Oliver and Ingrid, and they share their life stories while serving in the military in a foreign country. Together, they explore the attractions of France and Miles’s time there is life-changing.
Tour of Duty is well-researched and shows the reader the beauty of French culture and history. William H. Coles wove real-life feelings including happiness, hate, grief, and frustration into the story. Some of the scenes were horrific and traumatizing. Sensitive topics like the Holocaust, sexual harassment, and suicide were handled with great sensitivity. The author also noticed the contrast between the relaxed nature of Americans and the stubborn nature of the French. The characters were realistic and authentic. They came to life and shaped the story into something beautiful. Captain Miles Ballard is my favorite character. He wanted to change things, despite the situation, and always wanted to help. The story is well-written and made me feel part of it. It is a perfect mix of fiction and historical facts.