Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: 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
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on February 20, 2000
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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on January 31, 2001
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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on February 10, 2001
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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on May 1, 1998
George Wilson was one of the fellows that waded ashore at Normandy and fought his way up the slopes into France. Of his company, he was the only survivor that made it all the way to Berlin. As he fights his way across Europe, you'll witness heroism, cowardice, stupidity, and brilliance in the face of battle. This is singularly THE best infantry-level book I've ever read, and I don't normally read this subject area (I prefer air combat). Overall, a good book for reading on vacation, at home, or anytime when you have a moment to spare. But be warned - once you start you won't want to put it down.
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VINE VOICEon October 14, 2004
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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on April 22, 2014
Look, it's hard to ever criticize a veteran's memoir. That is especially true when you do so from the comfort of a home and country for which the veteran shed his blood, no matter how long ago. Nevertheless, and as I have said before, there are great warriors and there are great writers, but great writer-warriors are few and far between.

Lt. Wilson takes you on the D-Day walking tour of Europe. The battles are all there, along with the names of places we all know from WWII history. His service was exemplary - three Purple Hearts, two Bronze Stars, and a Silver Star. That, along with his service as a company commander, puts him in the category of bad a##.

But this book is missing something. Detail, for one. You learn virtually nothing about the men with whom he served. You learn virtually nothing about the places he goes. The hardships are described in perfunctory fashion. In short, there is little context to go with what would otherwise be an amazing journey. What we are left with is essentially a diary of where Wilson went and brief descriptions of what he did, and little else.

There is also little introspection. This cuts both ways. I've never been in combat but I've read enough books by people who have to understand that introspection is a luxury for which one does not have time on the front line. Indeed, it seems that introspection at the moment leads to nothing but badness. Rather, the combatant is most concerned with staying alive from one moment to the next, and that is all. But when you later write about your experiences, introspection is what makes a story good. And there just isn't enough here. By the time it does come at the very end, it just feels forced and contrived.

Again, I'm not criticizing the man; I'm critiquing a book. And as far as WWII memoirs go, there's just a lot better out there.
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on March 30, 2002
George Wilson was a replacement office assigned to the 4th infantry division who fought in Normandy, Northern France, the Hurtgen Forest and the Bulge before being wounded in the spring of '45. This book is highly descriptive of front line soldiering in the ETO with vivid battle scenes. There is a good balance of analysis with action. It is not as breezily written as Burgett's books but doesn't feel "literary" ala' Brothers Karamazov as Roll me Over by Ganttner tends to feel. I enjoyed every page and was sad to finish it. If you love reading 1st person narratives of combat in World War Two then buy this book.
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I did like this one. The writing was real and very well done. From the first page, I was hooked. This is one of the better first hand accounts of this war I have read. The author has wonderful recall of events and make them pop out and come alive with his narrative. I should think this would make a wonderful "how to" book for first person writers. The author is always quite realistic in his discriptions of events and places. Not only is his story inspiring, it is quite informative and I do recommend you add this one to your collection for a reread..I know I did. Highly recommend.
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on June 14, 1999
George Wilson tells a tale that many of us have wondered what it was like to have fought in the 2nd world war. He is vivid in every detail. He gives chilling accounts of front line life, the battles, the men who gave up their lives, the men who cracked under pressure. He also gave the Germans a look of humanity at times. The battle scarred Germans gave up pretty easy in some cases, and most of the times, they fought with such vigor and violence it blew me away. I cried at some points in the book. I felt sick in others. I could have sworn I hear mortar shells flying over my head, and men crying for help. He gave accounts of men doing the right thing and the wrong thing, and the wrong thing in war usually leads up to death ... and a lot of wrong stuff that was done caused some men their lives. George Wilson did a wonderful job as a solider, Lt., in the second world war, and a brilliant way of bringing the war to us. Thank you George for the book and the fighting you did.
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VINE VOICEon October 17, 2006
You've already read Band of Brothers, Seven Roads to Hell, and other accounts of our infantrymen in Europe during WWII and wonder why you should read another? Two reasons: First, George Wilson perfectly captures the intensity of battle and the struggle for survival from the beginning to the very end of his candid first-person perspective of the war. Second, Wilson embodies the citizen soldier of that era - wise beyond his years, amazingly resourceful, and quite frankly the main reason we won the war.

Like Winters and Burgett, Wilson is a true American hero, and not just because of his acts of bravery (of which there are many) but also for his honor and humanity while enduring the most extreme conditions imaginable. A rewarding read that stands out from the pack.
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