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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team. At one time during a lull I happened to be standing beside a TD, studying the enemy position through my field glasses. The TD captain was doing the same thing from his open turret above me. Suddenly he yelled, “Hit the dirt!” Instantly my men and I dove for the hedge; an 88 high explosive (HE) shell burst on the front of the TD, and its shrapnel flew everywhere. The captain had seen the quick flash of the German gun, and he reacted at once. His shout gave us a split second that probably
toward my position. The intersection of these two lines had to be my position on the map. Once I had my spot located, I could draw in all the fortifications. I stuffed the map back into my shirt, and then we very carefully crawled back to the woods, expecting machine gun bullets any second. When we reached the woods, we breathed a sigh of relief and made our way very quickly back to battalion headquarters. A World War II battalion headquarters in combat is difficult to describe because they
and insisted we dig in where he’d said at once. We had barely started our foxholes when, to my disgust, the enemy artillery plastered our gully, one terrible shell after another. I immediately stood and flattened myself against the thick trunk of a big beech tree and yelled at the men to get up and find trees. A few of them had time, but many were hit before they could move. Our new commander broke down in tears, blubbering about how it was all his fault. He kept at it, and when I realized he
heat began to defrost my poor feet, and the pain became so severe that I had to get out of my wonderful tub and change quickly into clean clothes. Then I shaved off three weeks’ growth and went down the stairs, where I was met with the nervous stares of men who wondered who this resplendent new officer might be. My feet were so swollen the next day that I couldn’t get my shoes on. They continued to hurt for an entire week. Colonel Kenan sent the battalion surgeon over to examine me. He rubbed my
next time the Krauts fired their rockets Lieutenant Lloyd timed them while I took a reading on the flash, using a couple of trees to line up the direction for my compass. The artillery commanding officer used the time we gave him, drew an arc on his map, and estimated the target in the vicinity of Echternach, about two miles distant. I then suggested he fire a few rounds of white phosphorus. I lined up my trees again to get the target, and while I could see the explosive flash from the Long