cover image Never in Finer Company: The Men of the Great War’s Lost Battalion

Never in Finer Company: The Men of the Great War’s Lost Battalion

Edward G. Lengel. Da Capo, $28 (368p) ISBN 978-0-306-82568-2

Military historian Lengel (To Conquer Hell) marks the centennial of WWI’s conclusion with this expert recounting of a devastating incident involving American soldiers, who, in the last weeks of the war, engaged the Germans in the Argonne Forest. Lengel organizes his narrative around three Medal of Honor winners—77th Division officers Charles Whittlesey and George McMurtry, and the 82nd Division’s sharpshooter, Alvin York—plus newspaper reporter Damon Runyon. The first three chapters provide background on the men and the war to set the stage for their experiences on the front lines in battle-ravaged France. At this point, Lengel’s story catches fire as he describes what happened when Maj. Gen. Robert Alexander ordered the 77th into the Argonne to keep pressure on the Germans while other divisions cleared the enemy out. Lengel vividly shows how the Germans unexpectedly pinned down and cut off the 77th in an isolated pocket of the forest, trapping the soldiers for seven days without ammunition, food, water, or medicine. Lengel’s purpose in looping York and Runyon into the story is revealed in the penultimate chapter, wherein he examines the media’s role in creating heroes. This is a must-read for anyone interested in WWI and the experiences of soldiers in battle. Photos. [em](Sept.) [/em]