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If You Survive: From Normandy to the Battle of the Bulge to the End of World War II, One American Officer's Riveting True Story Mass Market Paperback – May 12, 1987


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If You Survive: From Normandy to the Battle of the Bulge to the End of World War II, One American Officer's Riveting True Story + The Forgotten 500: The Untold Story of the Men Who Risked All for the Greatest Rescue Mission of World War II + Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
Price for all three: $26.02

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Product Details

  • Series: Ivy Books World War II/Nonfiction
  • Mass Market Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reissue edition (May 12, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804100039
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804100038
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 4 x 6.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (338 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,195 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

"If you survive your first day, I'll promote you."

So promised George Wilson's World War II commanding officer in the hedgerows of Normandy -- and it was to be a promise dramatically fulfilled. From July, 1944, to the closing days of the war, from the first penetration of the Siegfried Line to the Nazis' last desperate charge in the Battle of the Bulge, Wilson fought in the thickest of the action, helping take the small towns of northern France and Belgium building by building.

Of all the men and officers who started out in Company F of the 4th Infantry Division with him, Wilson was the only one who finished. In the end, he felt not like a conqueror or a victor, but an exhausted survivor, left with nothing but his life -- and his emotions.

If You Survive

One of the great first-person accounts of the making of a combat veteran, in the last, most violent months of World War II.

More About the Author

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Customer Reviews

It's easy to read, well written and very descriptive.
Toe Tag
He and so many others in his book are true American heroes and I am missing more and more the Greatest Generation.
His servant
Very well written and the author makes you feel like you're going along for the ride.
porkrind276

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

177 of 180 people found the following review helpful By John T. Starr on February 20, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is the only book about WWII ground soldiers I've yet read. Suffice it to say, it was a good start.
Three things really struck me about this book; 1. The author's uncanny memory of events, 2. The events themselves - offering glimpses into every aspect of being a ground soldier, including bravery, strategy, stupidity, cowardice and tragedy. 3. The shocking carnage.
The book's title is derived from a comment a superior officer made to the author before sending him off to battle shortly after the Normandy D-day invasion; "As officers, I expect you to lead your men. Men will follow leaders and I expect my platoon leaders to be right up front. Losses could be very high. Use every skill you possess. If you survive your first battle, I'll promote you. Good luck." With that mortifying send-off, author George Wilson and his fellow officers were sent into battle. Out of all the officers and men starting out in his company, only Wilson finished.
The book presents the author's brave, bloody journey in a straight-forward linear fashion. It is very well written, yet not burdened by attempts at literary greatness. The author, though clearly licensed to preach, spares us the sermon and simply tells it like it was.
Not until the very end of the book does he tell you "Out of all this damned useless war I hope I am entitled to a few simple observations". What follows is a decidedly brief statement that may at first seem to be too brief. Only after reading the last line do you realize that you've already read the most important anti-war statement the author could make; his recollections in the previous 267 pages.
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95 of 97 people found the following review helpful By Chad R. Reihm on January 31, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
If you are looking for an action packed, non-fiction story of front line combat during WWII then look no further. I have read quite a few personal histories written by former GI's describing their experience in Europe, but very few have been as explosive and action packed as this one. Wilson fought from the St.Lo breakout in July, through France to the Hurtgen, Held the edge of the Bulge in the Ardennes and fought his way across the Rhine into Germany. He was mainly a platoon leader and was therefore, out of necessity, on the front line most of the time. He doesn't write about his home life or even much about camp life seeming to stick to his experience of confronting the enemy and teaching his men to do the same. This book is very cheap and a very easy read so it would be a shame not to pick it up. You won't regret it!
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75 of 77 people found the following review helpful By George G. Kiefer on February 10, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Author George Wilson was a replacement assigned to F Company of the 22nd Infantry Regiment of the 4th Infantry Division on 7/12/44. Joining the only 5 men left of the original 40 of the 2nd platoon, he was soon caught up in the breakout at St. Lo. The action quickly moves beyond Paris to the heartbreak of the Hurtgen Forest. This is the finest telling of that engagement this reviewer has read. No winter wear, nearly constant and merciless artillery and mortar fire, murderous tree bursts and epidemic trench foot were only part of their suffering. On the morning of 11/30, his company started out with 140 riflemen, two medics, 3 noncoms, and 5 officers. At day's end, they had lost the medics, all noncoms, 4 officers and 90 riflemen. By the next day, there were only a total of 12 men left to the company after reaching their objective, the Cologne Plains. Thoroughly decimated and only partially reinforced, and in a near final irony, they were relieved and given R and R in the Ardennes only days before the start of the Bulge. Unbelievably, the battle weary men of the 4th Div. stopped the Germans cold in their section and managed to set the southern boundary to the 75-mile breakthrough.
George Wilson was never given the decorations or the field promotion he had been promised.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Stamper VINE VOICE on October 14, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Wilson doesn't spend two paragraphs explaining how the snow clung to the trees. He tells you about how the bombs sounded as they landed near him and how he saw his friends get cut down in the prime of life. You get a pretty good feeling for what it must have been like to dig a foxhole and wait for the mortar fire. It's scary the way he relates having come upon on a bunch of lost Germans who could have killed him had he paused a few seconds. When he describes the onset of winter and his men without the proper protective gear losing digits to frostbite, you can just imagine some bureaucrat sitting by a toasty fire promising to get on that tomorrow.

It's amazing that Wilson could write such a detailed history forty years after the events occurred, but maybe even more amazing that he doesn't embellish the situations. There is little reflection on an event because he's off describing the next firefight or lost buddy.

The most frustrating parts of the book were seeing raw officers replacing fallen soldiers rather than promoting the battle proven officers in the field. It was not only unfair, but unsafe and yet the bigwigs away from the fighting didn't know the difference.

The title refers to a commander who told Wilson before he went into battle that he'd be promoted if he survived. The promotions were slower coming than his successes and yet the war is such a long way away from this retired insurance salesman that he doesn't seem that upset about his treatment. It turned out to be the experience of his life.
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