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35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb First Hand WWII Combat Account
One of the very best first hand accounts of WWII combat from the point of view of a young, green, American infanty officer who quickly becomes a veteran combat commander.
Truly superb insight into life in the front line from the St Lo Breakout, through the forgotten hell of Hurtgen, the Ardennes and twice through the Siegfried line.
The best I have yet read for...
Published on 22 May 2005 by Mr David Austin

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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Very Good Read, but!!
This is a very good read and I am in awe of all the people who have fought for our freedom over the years.

I have to disagree with some of the comments regarding Lt Wilson. Reading his account I wonder why he didn't end up with 5 medals of honor or be a general at the end as he seems to have single handedly been at the forefront of all the big battles and made...
Published on 22 Jun 2011 by Will


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard to put this book down!, 14 Mar 1999
By A Customer
This book was so engrossing--it was very hard to put down. There is not one slow part in this book. I was in awe of George Wilson and was impressed with how well he faced each challenge that confronted him, particularly the challenge of working with fresh recruits. You will also be amazed and saddened by the the number of friendly-fire casualties written about here--many done by jittery new recruits not yet battle-hardened and others caused my unfortunate misunderstandings. The whole book is very well-written and includes so much detail about each battle and patrol. I'm thankful Mr. Wilson took the time to write about his experiences in WWII. Think I'll have to read the book again--I miss it already!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing strategic and personal detail of a soldier's life, 20 Sep 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: If You Survive (Paperback)
Mr. Wilson's account of WWII from his landing at Normandy to the doors of Berlin is a completely engrossing tale. He presents vivid details of the environment, the action , the pain, and the suffering of fighting in the European theater as a foot soldier.
The reader learns how fast these young men grew up and became tactical experts on fighting the enemy and fighting to survive. At times when Mr. Wilson describes a battle he was involved in, you start to formulate what he would have done and race to the next page to learn the outcome.
Chilling accounts of what it meant to survive in WWII and just how grueling and inhospitable it was being a soldier.
An excellent read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From Normandy to Berlin in the boots of an infantryman, 1 May 1998
By A Customer
George Wilson was one of the fellows that waded ashore at Normandy and fought his way up the slopes into France. Of his company, he was the only survivor that made it all the way to Berlin. As he fights his way across Europe, you'll witness heroism, cowardice, stupidity, and brilliance in the face of battle. This is singularly THE best infantry-level book I've ever read, and I don't normally read this subject area (I prefer air combat). Overall, a good book for reading on vacation, at home, or anytime when you have a moment to spare. But be warned - once you start you won't want to put it down.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, emotive read, let down by a few flaws, 8 Mar 2012
First Published in 1987, If You Survive is an autobiographical account of one American Soldier's experiences during the last year of the Second World War, thrown into the frontlines in Late June 1944 Second Lieutenant George Wilson (22nd Infantry Regiment, US 4TH Infantry Division) survived 8 months of near continuous combat, through a combination of skill, common sense, and (the book gives the impression at least) sheer luck.

It makes an interesting change to read a book about a line company, whilst the airborne troops, marines and Air Force are subject to countless biographies' and documentaries, there is rarely any insight into the ordinary soldiers, who saw the most combat and took the largest casualties. Wilson's story may be lacking in prestige, but it certainly isn't short of action.

His men were, by and large young, barely trained draftees, thrown together randomly and taking horrendous casualties, they often proved as dangerous to each other as the enemy. Despite this and the decades that had passed since the war, Wilson clearly still had a great admiration for many of the men he served with. In contrast his memories of combat are brutal, reluctant and unnerving, driven by this contradiction If You Survive is an honest, riveting combat biography that is very convincing, and stays in the memory long after the book has been read, but there are a few flaws which Wilson isn't completely successful at hiding.

The book is printed on good quality paper, and is binded well but there are no photographs and only two maps (which admittedly are annotated), this is a book that relies entirely on Wilsons's writing to get the story across, luckily he largely succeeds.

Only in his early twenties he was burdened with the fates of hundreds of men, often struggling with his own conscience as much as the fighting. Wilson fought through some of the toughest battles of the war; he was wounded three times, and came very close to snapping under the strain. By the end of the War Wilson was left the lone exhausted survivor out of the company of 162 Soldiers he had first joined (Wilson himself was a replacement, arriving a month after the company's entry into combat).

Rejected by the Airborne Forces and US Marines Wilson (on account of his Glasses) Wilson eventually found himself drafted into the Regular Army aged just 21, much to his bewilderment he was chosen to become an officer, the opening chapter covers these first few months of his Military life.

The first chapter serves as an introduction to the `story' and Wilson's writing style. Wilson writes in a fast, relaxed first person manner making the book a largely accessible read for those who can accept the subject matter. This opening chapter is one of the shortest, fastest paced in the book, Wilson covers his whole training period, shipment to England and then his Journey to the front Lines of Normandy in 15 pages.

Though some readers may enjoy seeing the book reach the `action' so quickly, it can make the opening a confusing read for those who aren't familiar with World War 2 or the American Military, Wilson gives a bare outline of his background and training (some of these facts creep in later), giving little insight into his character or motivations (areas which, admittedly do improve later in the book) making it, at first, hard to relate to his story.

Despite the relatively fast moving nature of the book several of Wilson's early impressions make their mark, billeted outside the town of Sainte Lo, Normandy he paints a vivid picture of his feelings and memories waiting for his first battle: German Corpses rotting in the sunlight, ruined farmhouses, and the terror of his first enemy shelling. It's a clever decision by Wilson; he creates a genuine sense of dread as we wait for the battle to begin, the words almost mirroring the feelings he must have felt. The opening chapters are amongst the most vivid, even if they may appear clichéd to readers who have read other War Biographies, but that's the point War is a universal horror that never really changes.

Wilson's first experience of combat is just as vividly described, the guilt at killing the enemy, and loosing men under his command, at times it reads almost like a confession. After fighting through the Normandy campaign Wilson saw further action in the Siegfried Line, The Hurtgen Forest and the famous Battle of The Bulge, gradually becoming more experienced, and more embittered. His descriptions of combat are thoroughly convincing, detailing both the physical violence and the mental hardship that faced his company, but also the humour and absurd situation's that only war can bring out. Wilson's portrait of battle generally feels a great deal more real than many historians can manage, even if they lack the detail and clever language a professional historian could bring to the role of Author.

Though he doesn't include a great deal of analysis or statistics, both make a limited appearance, proving very effective when they do, for example, In just 18 days in the Hurtegen forest his company took more than 300 casualties (Wilson was the only original member of the company left at the end), though scarce the few statistic's included help break up the text, and give his opinions more weight.

Whilst Wilson's story is a strong one, and his writing style makes the book extremely accessible, it can't disguise some of the books problems. It is recalling events from a personal perspective; events more than 40 years old, so some of the facts are a little hazy. Wilson never shirks from giving his opinions, and does occasionally come across as biased, it may be a biography, but some of his rants make uncomfortable reading. There is little discussion of the historical backdrop or Politics of World War 2, Wilson largely focuses on his own experiences, so some readers may find it a confusing or annoying read.

The book moves swiftly from location to location, and battle to battle, there are a lot of names to remember, for its length there is far too much turning to the index. Much like its short introduction, the book ends rather suddenly, with a rather weak resolution.

Despite its short length (276 pages) and relatively fast pace, this is a book that can be repetitive; the battles though fought in different places feel, can read as quite similar, with little change for several chapters. Wilsons's inexperience as a writer shows at several points in the book, he frequently jumps forward in time to reference future events, and appears to forget he's writing for another person.

Names appear and disappear with annoying regularity, in addition to Wilson there are only two `main characters', both fellow officers, there is little insight into his personal relationship with his men-out of the hundreds he commanded less than 30 are named and few of them are mentioned more than once. Wilsons home life is rarely, and barely alluded to, references to his (unnamed) wife making some rather random appearances. Though it's not hard to relate to his story, he provides so little insight into himself that some readers may struggle to relate to him as a human being.

All these things result in the book never feeling quite as memorable as its story makes it out to be. Wilson thanks in his introduction `Howard Thurlow' (Another former soldier) for his support and encouragement, though there is no insight into his actual role in the book.

Reading this book brings to mind the Tagline for the 1980 War Film `The Big Red One'-`The real glory of war is surviving' much like this film, it's flawed, very violent, and can read as biased. But overall this book is worth reading for anyone interested in World War 2, one of the best combat Biographies of its time. Other readers may find the book more confusing, boring or simply not to their taste.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good WW2 book, 16 Nov 2011
By 
BALLYSEAGAL (Glasgow, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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I just came across this book while looking through all the WW2 books available through Amazon and the name of the book hooked me right in. from reading the details about the book it sounded like it was the book for me.

I really enjoy WW2 books set in and around the european campain and this one didn't disappoint me. having read the Stephen E Ambrose Band of Brothers book and hearing all about what happened to them it was good to read a book about one soldiers tale in and around the Battle of the Bulge.

The section of the book set during the Hurtgen forest fighting really opened my eyes and have a real deep respect for all who went through the horrors of WW2.

In a nutshell if you like the Ambrose books you'll enjoy reading about George Wilson.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Personal story of a US infantry officer in Europe 1944-5, 28 Mar 2010
By 
T. D. Welsh (Basingstoke, Hampshire UK) - See all my reviews
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This dense, well-written book is a remarkably open-minded and well-observed account of a young lieutenant's experiences from D-Day (and before) to the end of WW2. The title refers to the pep talk given by their colonel to the officers of George Wilson's battalion before D-Day. After instructing them to lead from the front regardless of danger, he said, "If you survive your first battle, I'll promote you". (He didn't). The book starts with Wilson's being drafted into the Army in September 1942, and describes his basic and officer training in the States, the lead-up to D-Day, the invasion itself, the breakthrough at St-Lo, the pursuit of German forces to and beyond Paris, fighting on the Siegfried Line, the battles of the Huertgen Forest and the Bulge, and the end of his war when he was wounded in the final days of the struggle.

Wilson is a good, fluent, and vivid writer and he seems to have been a very good junior infantry officer too. Although he never got promoted to captain, he was briefly in command of a company and his remarks make it obvious that he knew what he was doing. In the course of the book we meet a wide variety of officers and men, of equally variable quality. At their best, the American infantry were as good as anyone, sometimes outthinking and outmanoeuvring the far more experienced and battle-seasoned Germans. However, there were also plenty of incompetent officers and lazy, cowardly, or just downright ineffective soldiers. Although the US forces in general had the benefit of huge material superiority, this came mostly in the form of tanks, trucks, artillery, aircraft, and supplies - the "poor bloody infantry" were usually the poor relations, and sometimes had to put up with conditions almost as bad as their German enemies.

The US infantry certainly suffered very many casualties, and Lieutenant Wilson was one of the few officers in his regiment to survive the war. His conclusions are simple. People always regret the pain and damage of wars after they are over - so why can't they think of a better way of stopping them from happening? At the very least, he resolves, Americans should do everything they can to keep war away from their own country.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars if you survive, 13 May 2009
By 
C. Daniel (uk) - See all my reviews
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This is the story of a young Officer landing shortly after D-Day. The book gives an excellant insight into the war in Europe and how lucky you need to be to survive some of the worst fighting from Normandy to the Ardennes. The book descrides the fighting from a platoons leaders point of view, the guy should have been promoted to General after what he went through. Good read
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than "Saving Private Ryan.", 30 May 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: If You Survive (Paperback)
If you liked "Saving Private Ryan" you will love this book. Willson was "lucky?" enough to be in every major battle; Saint Lo, Falaise, Siegfried Line, Hurtgen Forest, Battle of the Bulge. He was always on the very front line and he survived! This book is easy to read and very hard to put down. I was very sorry when I got to the very last page and there was no more to read. If you want action, forget movie theaters. Read this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great real life account, 13 May 2014
By 
A Hawley (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: 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 (Ivy Books World War II/Nonfiction) (Kindle Edition)
Fantastic book. If you like real life accounts about the war then read this book. I would definitely recommend this book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, 2 May 2014
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This review is from: 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 (Ivy Books World War II/Nonfiction) (Kindle Edition)
Good viewpoint from a platoon commander of an Infantry platoon who seems always to be in the wrong place at the wrong time
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