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Company Commander: The Classic Infantry Memoir of World War II Paperback – 8 Feb 2002


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Product details

  • Paperback: 278 pages
  • Publisher: Burford Books,U.S.; New Ed edition (8 Feb 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1580800386
  • ISBN-13: 978-1580800389
  • Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 1.5 x 23.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 384,938 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Synopsis

As a newly commissioned Captain of a veteran Army regiment, MacDonald's first combat was war at its most hellish -- the Battle of the Bulge. In this plain-spoken but eloquent narrative we live each minute at MacDonald's side, sharing in all of combat's misery, terror and drama. How this green commander gained his men's loyalty in the snows of war-torn Europe is one of the great, true, unforgettable war stories.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Kjeld Frimuth Hansen on 2 May 2009
Format: Paperback
This book is excellent. Its really good because the captains thoughts and feelings are described through the entire book.
It should be read by all young officers and especially those who are going to Afhganistan or other war zones.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 28 Nov 2010
Format: Paperback
The edition of "Company Commander" that I got does not have any pictures or maps. I would have been interested in photos of the key players. I think pictures would have added some life to what is a rather dry book. All books about the military need maps. Period. End of story. The author goes in to great detail about landscape but after a while it just doesn't seem worth the effort to try to figure it all out. Also. the author does give the home town of every name given in the book. After a while, it's just page filler.

On the positive side, the book is less about the "daring do" than the management of the front at the company level. If that's what you want to know about this books fills the bill.

I won't give up of this book, but I don't think I'd recommend it either.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Andre Hein on 6 Jun 2012
Format: Paperback
This review is from: Company Commander: The Classic Infantry Memoir of World War II (Paperback)
Such a pity. A book written by a former company commander about his World War II experiences should have all the prerequisites for becoming a breathtaking read, but instead it is a 278-pages long account without a single map or illustration. Highly disappointing and unbelievable for an otherwise interesting book on a military topic such as command in the field, full of place names but without the slightest graphical reference to assist the reader.

I do not blame the author, as I can not possibly visualise a professional officer intentionally permitting such a blunder. But I do wonder why the publisher did not have the imagination to add even the simplest of maps?
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 48 reviews
71 of 76 people found the following review helpful
This is a riveting account of my Father's WW2 experience . 21 Feb 1999
By E. S. Compton III - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
On the day of my Father's funeral last month , a long-time friend of his gave me this book and explained that it was about my Father's WW2 experience .My Dad was a very gentle man , and a pillar of our community . He never mentioned the awful details of what he had gone through . When he spoke of the war , he would recall certain events that were not too awful . My siblings and I grew up with a healthy respect for the truth he spoke , that "WAR is Hell " , that it was "Tough" . I can see his contorted expression as he emphasised these words . Now I know the "real" story . My Dad was the First Lieutenant directing 81MM mortar fire , as described on page 301 . His real name was Ernest S. Compton Jr. of Greenwood , SC . As a 1942 graduate of Clemson Military College , he was also a "green" Officer in The 23rd Infantry . After VE Day , he was an Assistant to The Train Commander , Captain Macdonald , that brought the men home . This book is extremely accurate and matches my Father's records and photographs . My everlasting gratitude and respect go to these Combat Infantry-men that answered the call . I highly reccomend this book to children of WW2 Veterans or anyone else interested in the day-to-day activities of "The Footsloggers"
37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
One of the best 1st person descriptions of the Bulge 19 Jan 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Charles MacDonald's "Company Commander" is one of the classic books of WW2. MacDonald's wartime memoirs were originally published in 1949, so his recollections were still fresh, and it does read better than most of the WW2 vet's stories written 30, 40 or more years after the fact.
MacDonald was a 19 year old OCS graduate Captain when he took over a Infantry company in the 2nd Infantry Division. This was a veteran formation in Sept '44, it's not hard to imagine the difficulties faced by a green 19 or 20 year-old CO. MacDonald doesn't cut himself or those he leads slack, however and he honestly describes his accomplishments and screw-ups. By October his unit is poised on the Seigfried line and participates in the attempts to seize the Roer river damns. This is where he is when Hitler's Ardennes offensive breaks out, for me this was the heart of the book. You read in crushing detail as his command is smashed, steamrolled by German Panthers and panzergrenadiers outside Krinkelt-Rocherath. (Go to those towns in Belgium today and you will find a sad line of foxholes where MacDonald describes them-made all the more sad by knowing what took place there.) MacDonald describes the fighting retreats and pitched battles well-a WW2 company commander was never far from the front.
He was eventually wounded, and after recovery commanded a different company in the 2nd ID. The 2nd half of the book details the Spring offensives and eventual destruction of the Reich. There are some great combat descriptions there also such as when his company takes a battery of German quad 20mm guns.
This book is often described as a company commander's textbook, it may be that, but don't run away because you aren't a CO or planning on being one, this is, primarily in my book, excelent 1st person history. I can't believe this is out of print, don't know how much longer my Bantam "Combat Series" paperback will hold up...
77 of 85 people found the following review helpful
A Classic War Memoir 15 Sep 2001
By R. A Forczyk - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Captain Charles B. MacDonald first commanded I Company, 3-23rd IN, 2nd ID from October 1944 to January 1945 and later G Company, 2-23rd IN from March to May 1945. This memoir was written a few years after the war when recollections were still sharp and resulted in a very detailed account of what it was like to take command of a line infantry company and lead it into battle. This book is a must-read for all army officers who seek to command at company-level and it is also informative for military historians as well.
In comparison to the more recent Band of Brothers, ostensibly a company-level account of E Company, 506th PIR's actions during the same period, Charles MacDonald's book is clearly superior. In fact, Company Commander is everything Band of Brothers is not: accurate, objective and informative. Unlike BOB, MacDonald does not claim that the companies he commanded were anything special or that he demonstrated heroic leadership (he did win the silver star in the Battle of the Bulge). Instead, the author is very honest, admitting his apprehension and anxiety about commanding infantry on the front line. Although there is some tension with battalion and regimental headquarters, mostly about ill-considered orders and creature comforts, there is not the character assassination that is so prevalent in BOB; Macdonald was career army and he wasn't going to make points by ridiculing superiors.
MacDonald arrived as a replacement and took command of I Company just as the unit was conducting a relief-in-place of another US unit in some captured positions in the Siegfried Line in the Ardennes. While civilian readers may find the first 100 pages devoted to this "quiet time" to be dull, military readers will not. MacDonald does a superb job describing the nuts-and-bolts of a relief-in-place in a difficult position that is under enemy observation and then the daily grind to improve the position. Readers who believe that US units in the Ardennes in the fall of 1944 had it easy should reconsider. MacDonald's unit was under constant mortar and sniper fire, poor weather caused much sickness among the troops and supplies were limited. On 17 December 1944, MacDonald's battalion was hastily shifted to blunt the massive German Ardennes offensive but the 12th SS Panzer Division overran his company. Fortunately, losses in MacDonald's company were relatively light and when the unit was reformed it helped to stop the northern German pincer on the Elsenborn Ridge. In January 1945, the author was wounded while participating in the counterattack to retake St. Vith and spent two months recovering.
Returning to the 23rd Infantry in March 1945, MacDonald was given G Company and he led this unit in the final dash across Germany to Leipzig. MacDonald ended the war in Czechoslovakia. The final three weeks of the war seem a bit blurry here, compared to the earlier slow pace in the defense, and this is the only aspect of the author's narrative which is a bit choppy. There is a tremendous amount of combat wisdom in this account, although the author admits mistakes. During the first day of the Bulge, MacDonald's unit - which had very little ammunition, limited fire support and no information on the friendly or enemy situation - was ordered to launch a hasty attack to relieve a trapped US unit. MacDonald's account of his briefing to his lieutenants in the dark with a wet map is striking: "I wondered if I could have drawn any worse conditions under which to issue my first attack order." The attack was cancelled, but then MacDonald's company was ordered to hold off the advance guard of the 12th SS Panzer with only 3 bazooka rounds and no mines. The result was inevitable.
This account offers some tactical points about US ground operations in 1944-5 of interest to historians. First, US units often seemed to move to contact the enemy with minimal regard for reconnaissance and US commanders seemed to prefer hasty over deliberate assaults. Many US losses seemed directly attributable to this tendency to launch hasty, poorly coordinated attacks with inadequate forces. Second, US units often did not make good use of terrain. In the defense, MacDonald's company often had to occupy non-key terrain that lacked cover and concealment. Occupying such exposed positions merely to maintain contact with the enemy resulted in unnecessary casualties. US units would have been better off to occupy key terrain further back from the line of contact and leave only small covering units in direct contact. Interestingly, MacDonald's unit did not use LP/OPs at night. Finally, the decimation of US infantry units in the Second World War as portrayed by modern author's such as Stephen Ambrose is demonstrably false. Although MacDonald's company suffered many wounded and sick during the fall of 1944, he did not have one soldier killed in action in his first two months on the front line. Even in the Battle of the Bulge, the number of infantrymen actually killed in combat was relatively small. Soldiers were far more likely to be wounded or evacuated for pneumonia than to be killed outright, and those men usually returned in weeks or months. American infantry units were never "bled white" by combat losses as some accounts imply by exaggerating the body count. Overall, Company Commander is a class of its own as a memoir, since a capable historian who actually experienced the events described wrote it.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
C'mon Yall...Its a Classic! 27 Feb 2001
By Chad R. Reihm - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Before I even start with my opinion...if you don't have this book and you have even the smallest WW2 library than stop right here and pick it up. It is the WW2 Infantry memoir Classic written by a guy who was destined to become the Official Historian of the Army. Macdonald doesn't say anything about his career after the war in this book, nor does he spend half the book talking about his training. He dives right into the War and spends every drop of ink trying to describe what the experience was like. His account of the outpost over the Siegfried and his companies' part in the Bulge are terrifying and ferocious. His position at the head of a company afforded him with the luxury of realizing the big picture while still having contact with the front lines. In fact he had such close contact that he was awarded the Purple Heart for a bullet in the leg during a patrol in the Bulge. There are many interesting stories and a lot of action, my personal favorite part of war memoirs. Get familiar with the part of the 2nd Division though for there are no maps:(... But despite that it is an excellent book...and a requirement for every WW2 library!
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Charles B. MacDonald 6 Nov 2005
By William C. C. Cavanagh - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Charles B. MacDonald wrote what it was like for a 21year old to command two infantry companies in WW2. He took notes along the way (I have a page of his notes that survived). They cover the capture of Hombressen in Germany. I also have the original typewriter on which he typed the manuscript of his book. I have trvelled the route he took in 1944/45 and found his descriptions of the various lovcations to be exceedingly accurate in every detail.

Will Cavanagh
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