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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"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.
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of us passed and were promoted to corpora! and made eligible for OCS. At last we were sent across the state to the Infantry School at Fort Bennning. For the next three months the training was most concentrated and intense. We worked day and night in both classroom and field. It was a damn good, rough, tough, cram course on weapons, tactics, map reading, close order drill, field maneuvers, and basic infantry training. Some of the men could not take the rugged physical program or the mental
12–13, while I rested from the tense days on point, Colonel Lanham was busy planning to attack the Siegfried Line the next morning. He had maps, aerial photos, and the reports from his two point leaders on the positions of pillboxes, and he would assume the line was fully manned from the information he had received. Colonel Lanham also had an uncompromisingly aggressive nature. He believed the best way to end the war quickly and save lives was to attack and attack. He also believed
trench, which was originally about two feet deep. Some got it down to about five feet before they felt safe. At least the ground was soft and scooped out easily. I had reported by radio to Lieutenant Colonel Kenan and was told to hold where we were. No mention was made of sending up help. I still wonder why E Company wasn’t sent up immediately. We had started out that morning with about 140 riflemen, a couple medics, three noncoms, four company officers, one attached artillery officer, and one
tightened as though my hair was standing on end. After a second’s initial paralysis, I grabbed the radio and reported the attack to Colonel Kenan. I asked that he clear all radio channels to the artillery. He wished me luck and immediately ordered everyone else off the air. Next I sent the invaluable Lloyd, then my only officer, up front about fifty yards with a walkie-talkie to be our forward observer. Then I got out the map and radioed to artillery the numbers of the prearranged targets that
hand-to-hand combat was taking place in the darkness, with some Americans being killed by others. For a while our troops were afraid to move, but after a time the enemy was sorted out and driven back. Next day the First and Second battalions continued the attack eastward toward Sellericher-hohe. Soon we came to the edge of some woods and looked out on a valley and hillside that brought back a frightening recollection to a few of us. This was the place where the German artillery had massacred a