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Powerful account by a true survivor
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.