If You Survive by George Wilson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Wilson served with F Company of the 22nd Infantry Regiment of the 4th Infantry Division, joining about a month after D-Day. His book is an excellent depiction of the Americans at war in the ETO. Wilson was present for the liberation of Paris. He was also on the front lines as a platoon commander for many historic encounters: St. Lo, the Siegfried Line, Hurtgen Forest, and the Battle of the Bulge.
Wilson's account doesn't sugar-coat anything. As you can expect from this sort of memoir, there's heroics in spades. But there's also cowardice, stupidity, greed, and rebelliousness. Common wisdom holds those characteristics better described the US Army of the Vietnam era. But no, it's all there on the page. Not everyone was a hero, and Wilson doesn't hide it. He recounts his own actions as matter-of-fact, and as nothing that others didn't or wouldn't do in the same situations. But I think he was brave man.
So you might have read enough WW2 memoirs to think you can skip this one. But you really should read this book, for its honesty and its perspective on the battles of the times.
I have one niggling complaint about the book: the cover. The typewriter print looks cheap, and the two figures look like they're fleeing. If you take anything from this book, it will be that Wilson and his platoon were always advancing! A book that deals largely in bravery should have a more heroic cover. It's a small point, but it has bothered me.
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