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In the Company of Soldiers: A Chronicle of Combat [Kindle Edition]

Rick Atkinson
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (126 customer reviews)

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Book Description

From Pulitzer Prize winner and bestselling author Rick Atkinson comes an eyewitness account of the war against Iraq and a vivid portrait of a remarkable group of soldiers

For soldiers in the 101st Airborne Division, the road to Baghdad began with a midnight flight out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, in late February 2003. For Rick Atkinson, who would spend nearly two months covering the division for The Washington Post, the war in Iraq provided a unique opportunity to observe today's U.S. Army in combat. Now, in this extraordinary account of his odyssey with the 101st, Atkinson presents an intimate and revealing portrait of the soldiers who fight the expeditionary wars that have become the hallmark of our age.

At the center of Atkinson's drama stands the compelling figure of Major General David H. Petraeus, described by one comrade as "the most competitive man on the planet." Atkinson spent virtually all day every day at Petraeus's elbow in Iraq, where he had an unobstructed view of the stresses, anxieties, and large joys of commanding 17,000 soldiers in combat. Atkinson watches Petraeus wrestle with innumerable tactical conundrums and direct several intense firefights; he watches him teach, goad, and lead his troops and his subordinate commanders. And all around Petraeus, we see the men and women of a storied division grapple with the challenges of waging war in an unspeakably harsh environment.

With the eye of a master storyteller, the premier military historian of his generation puts us right on the battlefield. In the Company of Soldiers is a compelling, utterly fresh view of the modern American soldier in action.

Editorial Reviews Review

The advent of embedded reporters in the opening days of the 2003 US war on Iraq meant a more direct and personal point of view than battlefield coverage has historically offered. Rick Atkinson, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for An Army at Dawn, an account of combat in North Africa during World War II, traveled with the 101st Airborne Division of the US Army from its deployment out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky through its entry into Baghdad. The result, In the Company of Soldiers, is a thoroughly engrossing look at the strategies, personalities, and struggles of waging modern warfare. Much of Atkinson's focus falls on the division's leader, the hugely competitive and charismatic Major General David Petraeus, who seems to guide his troops through Iraq by sheer force of will. Atkinson devotes most of his time to the senior commanders, but the loss of the G.I. perspective, while disappointing, is outweighed by Atkinson's access to the minds of the brass who must navigate an Iraq whose citizens were not nearly as happy as military planners had hoped and who offered resistance in ways other than what the Americans had prepared for. While plenty has been written about the American military effort in Iraq, Atkinson's perspective, combined with a direct, economical writing style, allows him to present sides to the war not often seen or considered: long periods of waiting punctuated with mad scrambles to apply gas masks, fretting over how to pack all necessary supplies into tiny kits, dealing with dust storms that can ground state of the art attack helicopters, and reading the irreverent yet shrewdly observant graffiti left by American soldiers. In the Company of Soldiers lionizes the American military officers but it neither condemns nor offers unqualified praise to the US effort in Iraq. Indeed, the disturbing omens of chaos hinted at soon after the invasion began in the spring of 2003 would come into sharper relief when the book was published a year later. --John Moe

From Publishers Weekly

A Pulitzer-winning Washington Post correspondent and military historian gives the best account yet to come out of the Iraq War, chronicling the unit in which the author was embedded, the 101st Airborne, or Screaming Eagles, and particularly its headquarters. This inevitably puts much emphasis on the division commander, the intense, competitive and thoroughly professional Maj. Gen. David Petraeus. But no one is left out, from General Wallace, the gifted corps commander, to a Muslim convert and the victims of his ghastly but little publicized fragging incident at the opening of the war. The narrative covers this large cast from the division's being called up for the war at Fort Campbell, Ky., through to the author's departure from the unit after the fall of Baghdad. Through the eyes of the men he associated with, we see excess loads of personal gear being lugged into Iraq and insufficient supplies of essentials like ammunition and water (the reason for the infamous "pause"). We see sandstorms and the limitations of the Apache attack helicopter, and understand the legal framework for avoiding civilian casualties and "collateral damage," and much else that went right or wrong—in a manner that is antitriumphalist, but not antimilitary. The son of an army officer and thoroughly up to date on the modern American army, the author pays an eloquent and incisive tribute to how the men and women of the 101st won their part of the war in Iraq, in a manner that bears comparison to his Pulitzer-winning WWII volume, An Army at Dawn. Superb writing and balance make this the account to beat.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars In the Company of . . . Generals April 21, 2004
The title of the book fooled me, instead of the grunts on the ground and in the tanks, this book follows the commander of the 101st airborne, General Petraeus. Of course, generals are "soldiers" too, but the title is deceiving. The few comments from the common soldier are overheard in the chow hall or in the toilet line.
Atkinson is a great writer and was given unprecedented access to key leaders. He's in the command tent, flying around in the command helicopter, and sleeping in tents with other generals on the staff. The access did not taint Atkinson's coverage, as he doesn't pull any punches in his critique of the generals.
The book has 3 basic phases:
1. The build-up. The 101st airborne had to move from base to an airbase and across to Kuwait, and then had the agonizing wait for their equipment to arrive by sea. At times, despite Atkinson's great storytelling ability, this section drags, as he likely had lots of time to write but little of interest to write about. In every chapter, Atkinson weaves in his political perspective, which can get annoying.
2. The early drive/fly in. The 101st moves quickly to its bases deep inside Iraq, and everything goes well for a while. Unfortunately, at least for the story, the 101st is left out of most of the action, due to weather/wind and a setback by another helicopter unit that gets badly shot-up. However, the book picks up the pace, as Atkinson drops the political commentary and tells it like it was, with no hindsight. The generals are concerned that the war could last for months and question the usefulness of attack helicopters.
3. The attack towards Baghdad.
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52 of 59 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The story of a division at war March 14, 2004
No matter what your feelings are about the Iraq war, there's no doubt that the men who were on the ground (and still are, for the most part) conducted themselves with great elan. Rick Atkinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of AN ARMY AT DAWN, took a break from writing the second book of the series to spend time with the 101st Airborne Division in Iraq, embedded for the Washington Post. His new book, IN THE COMPANY OF SOLDIERS, chronicles his time with the division. While I found it an interesting book, I feel that it doesn't give what is promised. Along with that, Atkinson periodically throws out some personal opinions in the middle of his reporting that I thought didn't go with the aim of the book (the story of a division in combat).
Atkinson has shown that he is a great writer who can really put the reader at the center of the action. He doesn't pull any punches in this book either, vividly describing the dust and the blowing sand that literally covers everything. You can almost feel your own voice get raspy along with the soldiers as if you also suffer from the "Kuwait crud." Atkinson spent most of his time with General Patraeus, commander of the division, which allows him to show us all of the briefings and strategy sessions each day. He gives us a great picture of Patraeus, who is facing his first combat command, showing us his uncertainty and determination. When the first problems hit (mainly the weather, but also unforeseen Iraqi resistance, he begins to wonder at the estimate that this will be a quick war. We also see his exhilaration when Iraqi resistance collapses after a couple of weeks of hard fighting.
As good a job as Atkinson does in his portrait of Patraeus, it brings up the main problem with IN THE COMPANY OF SOLDIERS.
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93 of 112 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An extraordinary account of the Iraqi war February 27, 2004
If you are a military history buff, you will love this book. If not, it might be the right time to take a plunge into the subject. This account of military history is about Operation Iraqi Freedom. While justifications for the recent war between the American-British coalition forces and Saddam Hussein's Iraqi regime are still being debated among politicos and the general public, the facts are that it did occur, American and British soldiers died and were wounded, a brutal dictator was toppled, and we watched the whole event play itself out on live television. Now the Iraqi people have been given the opportunity to rebuild a country in their own image and likeness.
Rick Atkinson, a former staff writer and senior editor at The Washington Post and a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author, has written a journal of his experiences in the Iraqi conflict, beginning on the morning of February 26, 2003 at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, home of the famous "Screaming Eagles," the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army. After a couple of days of orientation, Atkinson and dozens of other journalists were flown to the Middle East. Thereafter, he lived with the 101st Airborne Division from their preparations in Kuwait to the occupation of Baghdad -- a period of almost two months -- and was granted complete access to the commanders and troops.
"In the Company of Soldiers" is Atkinson's very up-close and personal story of the war, in which he details every aspect of the conflict from planning and debriefings with the commanders, to his accounts of the battles the soldiers fought, to his sometimes intimate stories about the soldiers involved. It is an eyewitness account, occasionally laced with sadness and disappointment, occasionally with joy and pride.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read
good read by a talented writer
Published 1 month ago by Mike Murray
4.0 out of 5 stars It's a very good and readable book and I would recommend it to ...
It's a very good and readable book and I would recommend it to others, but it's not up to the superb work that he did with the WW-II trilogy. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Ken Thomas
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Published 2 months ago by Doug Rose
5.0 out of 5 stars Great shape
Great story book was in good shape
Published 3 months ago by Gary Kees
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
It was interesting to hear the account of Desert Storm from the perspective of a media person.
Published 4 months ago by Emanuel Williams
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books around on the army and the middle east
One of the best books around on the army and the middle east. Rick Atkinson knows the military and is an excellent historian.
Published 4 months ago by Mark L. Powell
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Another fine effort from Atkinson.
Published 4 months ago by Richard W. Cooley
5.0 out of 5 stars Rick rocks
More like a New Yorker essay, than a historical document that he wrote in the Liberation Trilogy. Interesting view of Patreaus, who was unknown to the public at the time.
Published 6 months ago by Dianne L. Kern
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 6 months ago by Russ Sutton
3.0 out of 5 stars Boring. Not up to the quality of his WWII
Boring. Not up to the quality of his WWII books
Published 6 months ago by R. Peter Gisselbeck
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More About the Author

Rick Atkinson is the bestselling author of six works of narrative military history, including The Guns at Last Light, The Day of Battle, An Army at Dawn, The Long Gray Line, In the Company of Soldiers, and Crusade. He also was the lead essayist in Where Valor Rests: Arlington National Cemetery, published by National Geographic. He was a reporter, foreign correspondent, war correspondent, and senior editor at The Washington Post for more than twenty years. His many awards include Pulitzer Prizes for journalism and history, the George Polk Award, and the Pritzker Military Library Literature Award for Lifetime Achievement in Military Writing. He lives in Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit

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#52 in Books > History
#52 in Books > History


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