This book is a collection of accounts describing the combat action of small Army units - squads and platoons, companies and batteries. These are the units that engage in combat, suffer the casualties, and make up the fighting strength of the battalions, regiments, divisions, corps, and finally, of the field army. Combat is a very personal business to members of such a small unit. Concerned with the fearful and consuming tasks of fighting and living, these men cannot think of war in terms of the Big Picture as it is represented on the situation maps at corps or army headquarters. Members of a squad or platoon know only what they can see and hear of combat. They know and understand the earth for which they fight, the advantage of holding the high ground, the protection of the trench or hole. These men can distinguish the sounds of enemy weapons from those of their own; they know the satisfying sound of friendly artillery shells passing overhead and of friendly planes diving at an objective. They know the excitement of combat, the feeling of exhilaration and of despair, the feeling of massed power, and of overwhelming loneliness.
The author has tried to describe combat as individuals have experienced it, or at least as it has appeared from the company command post. In so doing, much detail has been included that does not find its way into more barren official records. The details and the little incidents of combat were furnished by surviving members of the squads and companies during painstaking interviews and discussions soon after the fighting was over. Conversely, many facts have been omitted from the narrative presented here. The accounts tell only part of the complete story, intentionally ignoring related actions of cause and effect in order to keep one or two small units in sharper focus. The story of action on Heartbreak Ridge, for example, describes fighting that lasted only one or two hours, whereas the entire battle for that hill went on for several weeks. Sometimes there are obvious gaps because important information was lost with the men who died in the battle. Sometimes the accounts are incomplete because the author failed to learn or to recount everything of importance that happened.