In the Company of Soldiers: A Chronicle of Combat

In the Company of Soldiers: A Chronicle of Combat

by Rick Atkinson

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Overview

In the Company of Soldiers: A Chronicle of Combat by Rick Atkinson

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

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. 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, a brilliant military historian puts us right on the battlefield. In the Company of Soldiers is a compelling, utterly fresh view of the modern American soldier in action.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780805077735
Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 03/01/2005
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 407,211
Product dimensions: 5.55(w) x 8.27(h) x 0.95(d)

About the Author

Rick Atkinson, recipient of the 2010 Pritzker Military Library Literature Award for Lifetime Achievement in Military Writing, is the bestselling author of The Day Of Battle, An Army at Dawn, and The Long Gray Line. He was a staff writer and senior editor at The Washington Post for twenty years, and his many awards include Pulitzer Prizes for journalism and history. He lives in Washington, D.C.

Read an Excerpt

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.

Table of Contents

Prologue1
Part IPeace
1Rough Men Stand Ready11
2Good for You and Good for Me29
3"This Thing Is Going to Go"43
4The Land of Not Quite Right61
5The Garden State79
Part IIWar
6"The Bold Thing Is Usually the Right Thing"103
7Enemy in the Wire125
8The Cry of Beasts in Their Desolate Houses139
9"A Man Just Sort of Exists"159
10Alexandria to Zoe181
11An Army of Bones193
12Nebuchadnezzar Goes Down215
13"War Is a Bitch"241
14At the Gates of Babylon257
15"Every Thing Has Its Place"277
Afterword297
Author's Note307
Glossary311
Index313

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In the Company of Soldiers: A Chronicle of Combat 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 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.
Layman on LibraryThing 4 days ago
I agree with the reviewer who said this is more aptly titled, "In the Company of Generals," though I would add "and Colonels." Unlike Thunder Run or The March Up, few battles are narrated from the perspective of the soldier actually doing the fighting. This is not a criticism of the book, just a notice to the prospective reader. What Atkinson does well is write about the Commanders of the 101st Airborne, and their travels, travels, and accomplishments from preparing for war through the Gulf War itself.The sheer logistical nightmare of preparing for a war thousands of miles from one's base is captured in the big picture and through anecdotes, such as the vigorous disagreement about whether to tape or paint helicopter blades to protect them from the sand. After heated discussion and much agonizing, it was discovered there was no tape. Paint would have to suffice. By spending time with the Commanding General of the 101, as well as his logistics and other officers, Atkinson does an excellent job of conveying the size of the logistical challenge faced by the 101st (and, no doubt, other U.S. divisions) and the magnitude of the accomplishment in meeting it.As the war itself unfolds, Atkinson does a decent job of helping us understand how the 101st' mission changes to meet the realities of combat. The reader may be (as I was) distracted by continuous petty attacks on President Bush, Secretary Rumsfeld, and even Fox News. They are so ancillary to his point that they serve no purpose other to offend, or at the very least distract. Though Atkinson may try to place them in a bigger context, it's pretty transparent he is searching for his own voice among the facts at his disposal (like when he singles out a negative comment written in a bathroom stall about President Bush as somehow representative of troop morale and opinions on the war).Overall, an excellent discussion about preparing for war, a good discussion of the 101st' role in that war as seen from its Commanders, but distracting and petty political potshots taken throughout.
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.