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In the Company of Soldiers: A Chronicle of Combat

In the Company of Soldiers: A Chronicle of Combat

3.6 21
by Rick Atkinson

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From Pulitzer Prize winner and bestselling author Rick Atkinson comes an eyewitness account of the war against Iraq and a vivid portrait of a remarkable group of soldiers

For soldiers in the 101st Airborne Division, the road to Baghdad began with a midnight flight out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, in late February 2003. For Rick Atkinson, who would


From Pulitzer Prize winner and bestselling author Rick Atkinson comes an eyewitness account of the war against Iraq and a vivid portrait of a remarkable group of soldiers

For soldiers in the 101st Airborne Division, the road to Baghdad began with a midnight flight out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, in late February 2003. For Rick Atkinson, who would spend nearly two months covering the division for The Washington Post, the war in Iraq provided a unique opportunity to observe today's U.S. Army in combat. Now, in this extraordinary account of his odyssey with the 101st, Atkinson presents an intimate and revealing portrait of the soldiers who fight the expeditionary wars that have become the hallmark of our age.
At the center of Atkinson's drama stands the compelling figure of Major General David H. Petraeus, described by one comrade as "the most competitive man on the planet." Atkinson spent virtually all day every day at Petraeus's elbow in Iraq, where he had an unobstructed view of the stresses, anxieties, and large joys of commanding 17,000 soldiers in combat. Atkinson watches Petraeus wrestle with innumerable tactical conundrums and direct several intense firefights; he watches him teach, goad, and lead his troops and his subordinate commanders. And all around Petraeus, we see the men and women of a storied division grapple with the challenges of waging war in an unspeakably harsh environment.
With the eye of a master storyteller, the premier military historian of his generation puts us right on the battlefield. In the Company of Soldiers is a compelling, utterly fresh view of the modern American soldier in action.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A Pulitzer-winning Washington Post correspondent and military historian gives the best account yet to come out of the Iraq War, chronicling the unit in which the author was embedded, the 101st Airborne, or Screaming Eagles, and particularly its headquarters. This inevitably puts much emphasis on the division commander, the intense, competitive and thoroughly professional Maj. Gen. David Petraeus. But no one is left out, from General Wallace, the gifted corps commander, to a Muslim convert and the victims of his ghastly but little publicized fragging incident at the opening of the war. The narrative covers this large cast from the division's being called up for the war at Fort Campbell, Ky., through to the author's departure from the unit after the fall of Baghdad. Through the eyes of the men he associated with, we see excess loads of personal gear being lugged into Iraq and insufficient supplies of essentials like ammunition and water (the reason for the infamous "pause"). We see sandstorms and the limitations of the Apache attack helicopter, and understand the legal framework for avoiding civilian casualties and "collateral damage," and much else that went right or wrong-in a manner that is antitriumphalist, but not antimilitary. The son of an army officer and thoroughly up to date on the modern American army, the author pays an eloquent and incisive tribute to how the men and women of the 101st won their part of the war in Iraq, in a manner that bears comparison to his Pulitzer-winning WWII volume, An Army at Dawn. Superb writing and balance make this the account to beat. $150,000 ad/promo; author tour. (Mar. 15) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Wars come at a human cost to both the victors and the vanquished, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Atkinson (An Army at Dawn) loses no time reminding readers that, all technological advances aside, warfare is still brutal and deadly for those at the tip of the spear. As an embedded journalist in the Iraqi headquarters of the 101st Airborne Division from February 2003 until the declared end of major combat operations in April, Atkinson became closest to Maj. Gen. David Petraeus. From this vantage point, he was able to watch the operation unfold and closely observe the development of senior combat leaders in the crucible of battle. While Atkinson asserts that the "war's predicate was phony"-which thus "cheapened the sacrifices of the dead and living alike"-he argues that it is imperative not to "conflate the warriors with the war." He found the warrior leaders of the 101st "uncommonly excellent" and relates their great endurance, flexibility, resourcefulness, and abiding concern for the welfare of their soldiers throughout all the challenges and hardships of the campaign. This fluid battle narrative will hold wide appeal and is recommended for all public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/03.]-Edward Metz, Combined Arms Research Lib., Leavenworth, KS Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Atkinson takes the long view of history and blends it with a journalist's acuity for telling detail to create a narrative that is rich in immediacy, yet seasoned with thoughtful analysis. In the spring of 2003, the author accompanied combat units to Iraq. He spent two months embedded with the 101st Airborne Division's headquarters staff, sharing their daily experiences from initial deployment out of Fort Campbell, KY, to overseas staging areas in Kuwait, and ultimately bearing witness to the unit's march on Baghdad. His view of the war was from a vantage point that permitted scrutiny of strategy, planning, and decision making at the senior command level. Atkinson's portraits of military leadership are compelling, balanced, and nuanced; they reflect professionalism, a keen sense of responsibility for the 17,000 lives in the command, and constant reevaluation of optimal deployment of the unit's assets. The author draws upon his notes from the frequent battle update briefings he attended with the HQ staff, material from personal interviews conducted in the field, and supplementary data from "after action" reports to which he had access following his return to the States. This is a candid, well-paced work by a writer with an appreciation for the region's culture and geography, foreshadowing the challenges of U.S. presence "in a country with five thousand years' experience at resisting invaders."-Lynn Nutwell, Fairfax City Regional Library, VA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A superbly written account of the recent unpleasantness in Mesopotamia. Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post writer Atkinson (An Army at Dawn, 2002, etc.) saw combat early on in Gulf War II as an embedded journalist with the 101st Airborne. He enjoyed unusually close access to the division's commander, Maj. Gen. David Petraeus, a tough "warfighter" who, Atkinson writes, "kept me at his elbow in Iraq virtually all day, every day, allowing me to feel the anxieties and the perturbations, the small satisfactions and the large joys of commanding 17,000 soldiers under fire." Much of Atkinson's account has a commander's-eye, synoptic view of the 2003 Iraq campaign, and it resounds with extraordinary statistics and facts that presumably were not available to the average grunt: for instance, that the Iraqi army was "poorly trained [and] . . . excessively led: an army of half a million included 11,000 generals and 14,000 colonels. (The U.S. Army, roughly the same size, had 307 generals and 3,500 colonels.)" Toward the end of the fight on the ground, the Americans had taken only 10 percent of the prisoners that they had in the first Gulf War-not because the Iraqis fought any better, but because that army simply melted into the crowd, some to fight another day. Atkinson's memoir is engaging on many levels; for civilians, it provides a crash course in military culture, while veterans will appreciate some of the eternal verities of that culture's illogic, whereas American soldiers were not allowed to have alcohol in the theater, for instance, Czech soldiers merrily stowed case after case of beer in their bivouac; whereas previous generations of soldiers marched on their stomachs, today's apparentlycan't make a move without a staff attorney on hand; and so forth. Atkinson shows the soldiers of the 101st and their comrades nothing but respect, even as he expresses misgivings for the mission: "They were better than the cause they served." Sure to be textbook reading at the Pentagon, but deserving of the widest audience. $150,000 ad/promo; author tour. Agent: Raphael Sagalyn/Sagalyn Literary Agency
From the Publisher

“A beautifully written and memorable account of combat from the top down and bottom up as the 101st Airborne commanders and frontline grunts battle their way to Baghdad...A must read.” —Tom Brokaw

“A perceptive, exciting and engaging book. The battle scenes are heart-pounding narratives.” —The Washington Post Book World

“A fascinating first-hand account.” —The Economist

“An engaging and accurate view of life on the ground during the Iraq war. It likely will be the Embedded Book to Read.” —Chicago Tribune

“An exceptional achievement...With a skill rarely seen in the genre of military narratives, Atkinson tells a compelling story about the war and the modern American military that fought it.” —The Indianapolis Star

“Atkinson's deep knowledge of the U.S. military, combined with his reporting skills and fluid writing, have yielded, as expected, a superb book about the fall of Iraq.” —The Denver Post

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From In the Company of Soldiers:

We turned around. Najaf was pacified, at least for today. Back at the middle school where No Slack had its battalion command post, Hodges told Petraeus that he had declared Ali's shrine to be a demilitarized zone, "so there's no military presence west of Highway 9." He also had issued edicts outlawing revenge killings, but allowing the looting of Baath Party or Fedayeen properties. "You see guys walking down the street with desks, office chairs, lights, curtains," Hodges said, and I wondered whether authorized pilfering was a slippery slope toward anarchy.

Before we walked back outside, Chris Hughes showed me a terrain model that had been
discovered in a bathroom stall in a Baathist headquarters. Built on a sheet of plywood, roughly five feet by three feet, it depicted the Iraqi plan for Najaf's defense. Green toy soldiers, representing the Americans, stood below the escarpment on the southwestern approach to the city. Red toy soldiers, representing the Iraqis, occupied revetments along the perimeter avenues, with fallback positions designated in the city center. The model included little plastic cars, plastic palm trees, even plastic donkeys. Nowhere did I see JDAMs, Apaches, Kiowas, Hellfires, or signs of reality.

Meet the Author

Rick Atkinson was a staff writer and senior editor at The Washington Post for twenty years. His most recent assignment was covering the 101st Airborne Division in Iraq. He is the bestselling author of An Army at Dawn (0-8050-7448-1), The Long Gray Line (0-8050-6291-2), and Crusade. His many awards include Pulitzer Prizes for journalism and history. He lives in Washington, D.C.

Rick Atkinson is the bestselling author of An Army at Dawn (winner of the Pulitzer Prize for history), The Day of Battle, The Long Gray Line, In the Company of Soldiers, and Crusade. His many other awards include two Pulitzer Prizes for journalism, the George Polk Award, and the Pritzker Military Library Literature Award. A former staff writer and senior editor at The Washington Post, he lives in Washington, D.C.

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In the Company of Soldiers: A Chronicle of Combat 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Rick Atkinson was assigned as an embedded reporter with the command element of the 101st airborne division for the 2003 Iraqi war. He spent most of his time with the division commander, general Patraeus and his staff. This is not a chronicle of heavy combat, but an interesting look at what it takes to deploy, supply, and direct a division into combat. There were many problems to be overcome. Sand wrecked equipment, sometimes food and water were in short supply, and the Iraqi soldiers continually changed their methods of attack forcing the US forces to adjust their tactics. The command also had to take advantage of opportunities as they were presented, but be cautious due to the nature of the 101st; light infantry without heavy weapons or armor. Though not on a par with 'An Army at Dawn', it is an insightful look at the responsibilities and decision making processes at the top.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i liked the book a lot. It was though lacking first hand accounts of the battles fought.
Cary_K More than 1 year ago
This was an easy read and a great look into the early stages of the Iraqi war through the time Baghdad fell to the U.S. The author showed his Pulitzer Prize muscles in writing this one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The title should be In The Company Of A General or Traveling With A General In Iraq. I guess Mr. Atkinson needed some money while he wrote his next book. A Chronicle of Combat. Really.
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anthony dates More than 1 year ago
As a fellow soldier it was nice to see what was going on in the war room while we were out on the front lines, it was very detailed about that!
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best books and most informative about war since The Long Gray Line. Atkinson's style of writing is enjoyable. Keep it up.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As an embedded journalist with the 101st Airborne (¿Band of Brothers¿ fame), Pulitzer Prize winning correspondent and military historian Richard Atkinson provides a deep look at the Iraq War from the perspective of the American troops. Though the concentration is more on the field grade officers, no one seems to have been left out of this effort. Readers learn how the soldier sees things whether it is equipment and supply shortages or overages (sounds contradictory, but is a big concern) or the individual and group safety in a hostile environs. Mr. Atkinson furbishes insight from the moment the division is called up to leave Fort Campbell to deploy to the desert until the capture of Baghdad when the author returns to the states................................. Military history buffs will realize that the author salutes the army for their superb efforts to win a war while fighting nature and preventing civilian casualties though not all went well. IN THE COMPANY OF SOLDIERS: A CHRONICLE OF COMBAT is clearly anti this war yet fully supportive of the soldiers that the books raves about as courageous, sincere, and capable. Mr. Atkinson condemns the administration for lack of logistical planning and for its rationale for armed combat (being revised by the winners to we did right removing an abusive dictator; if that was the cause then the administration should have taken that thesis to the American people). Rumsfeld bashing aside, Mr. Atkinson clearly congratulates the deserving 101st with a twenty-one gun salute......................... Harriet Klausner
Guest More than 1 year ago
Rick Atkinson, one of our nation's most distinguished military historians, produces a uncharacteristically mediocre travelogue about the Iraq War. I found this book, along with all of the other Iraq instant histories out there, to be of questionable historical value. Atkinson's modus operandi in IN THE COMPANY OF SOLDIERS makes this book suspect even among the other instant histories currently clogging bookstore shelves. He simply followed the General in charge of the Army's 101st Airborne around for a month during the war, resulting in a 'and then we left location X and arrived at location Y'-type narrative structure. While this makes for interesting journalism, it falls far short of the standards of History set by Stephen Ambrose's Band of Brothers (incidentally, about the 101st in WWII) or Mark Bowden's Black Hawk Down. There is precious little fact checking or external corroboration involved with this book. It is merely the war seen through a soda straw. IN THE COMPANY OF SOLDIERS lacks the breadth, poise and authoritativeness that laborious interviewing, research and long hours spent in the archives produces. The book also suffers from a ailment common to much recent military journalism: being overly-impressed by rank and taking high-ranking officers at their word. (Enlisted soldiers are treated like children by Atkinson: they are seen but rarely heard). The best historians (e.g. Studs Turkel, Michael Herr, Stephen Ambrose) stake their claim by examining the plight of the common man caught up in uncommon circumstances. They talk to the grunts on the frontlines. Generals are, for the most part, politicians in uniform and Atkinson's book suffers as a result of his almost deliberate higher headquarters myopia. The title oughta be IN THE COMPANY OF A WEST POINT GRADUATE.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Atkinson's well written An Army At Dawn compelled me to purchase this book and I was thoroughly dissapointed. In the Company...is viewed solely from the perspective of the commanding level and lacks the intimacy of front line accounts. In addition to the stand off tone Atkinson also interjects his own political take on the administration and events in Washington. This was supposed to be a book about a man joining the men and women of the 101st and telling their account of the Iraqi war, not Atkinson's. Altogether dissapointing and lackluster.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The author spared no punches at constantly giving his personal disapproving opinion on the politics of this war. It almost reads as a Democratic Campaign leaflet against the Bush Administration¿s war in Iraq. It is horribly biased against the reasons for going to war. Atkinson makes it a point in almost every chapter to show how wrong and inept the Bush Administration¿s policies are. In the author¿s impressions of casual conversations, the attitude of the young men and women in the 101¿st appear to also be very negative as to the reasons they are in Iraqi and fighting the war. I would not recommend this book if you supported the war in Iraq.