Dog Company: The Boys of Pointe du Hoc–the Rangers Who Accomplished D-Day’s Toughest Mission and Led the Way across Europe by Patrick K. O’Donnell adds to the rich history on the 2nd Ranger Battalion. The book specifically centers around D Company in that Battalion.
As with many unit histories in a war, O’Donnell begins with the formation of the unit and how the men bonded during training. Unlike other World War II units, Dog Company’s (and the rest of the battalion’s) training was especially harsh to weed out those who were not fit either mentally or physically for their projected missions. O’Donnell then describes how a core group of men fought in the various battles in the European Theater of Operations from Pointe du Hoc to Brest to the Bulge and beyond. He captures their feelings of exhilaration in surviving battle, but also the sense of loss from so many friends who were either killed or wounded.
One of O’Donnell’s strengths is his ability to capture the story of the individual soldier in the midst of a larger battle. For instance, he discusses how the actions of a few Rangers helped decide the Battle of Brest (a major port along the coast of France). One of the Rangers bluffed his way into convincing a German commander to surrender his garrison. O’Donnell’s ability to discuss the significance of the actions of the individual soldier in a battle allows the reader to appreciate the soldier’s perspective, but also understand the strategic ramifications of that soldier’s unit’s actions.
O’Donnell’s characterizations of battle are strongest in the battles for Pointe du Hoc and the Hurtgen Forest. Most readers know about the Rangers’ struggles on D-Day, but few can comprehend the misery and slaughter in the Hurtgen Forest. Although the actions of the American high command were criminal in needlessly ordering American troops to their deaths in the Hurtgen, O’Donnell details the heroic actions of Dog Company in its taking and defense of Hill 400. Vastly outnumbered, the Rangers held off numerous attacks by the Germans for days until relieved.
O’Donnell adds another layer to the rich history of Ranger warfare in World War II.