'); } -->
Combat historian and author Patrick ODonnell made a visit to Derby Auditorium on Thursday to share the story of his latest book with a group of more than 100 Soldiers as part of the Combat Leader Speaker Program.
Dog Company: The Boys of Pointe du Hoc tells the story of the 2nd Ranger Battalion during World War II.
Dog Company is about 68 men in Dog Company, 2nd Ranger Battalion, who were ordinary guys that accomplished one of D-Days toughest missions, if not the toughest mission: scaling the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc, ODonnell said.
Many of the men in the company had not discussed their military exploits publicly until approached by ODonnell.
For me, the greatest honor was being entrusted with the stories of these men, ODonnell said.
For ODonnell, his passion as an author is World War II, which has served as the subject for six of his eight books.
Ive been into World War II since I was 4 years old, ODonnell said. Ive been studying the history and the stories, and when I got out of college, I interviewed a member of the 82nd Airborne Division, and for me that was magical. Its one thing to read about this stuff, but its another to actually interview one of these people. Ive just been really blessed to be able to interview some great Americans over the last 20 years.
These firsthand accounts that ODonnell was able to obtain helped Dog Company to provide an engaging look at their World War II experiences, said Maj. Richard Dempsey.
Having just finished reading the book, Ill tell you he really does have an excellent way to portray the narratives of the guys who were actually there and fought, Dempsey said. Its extremely vivid discussions from the attack of Pointe du Hoc all the way through to the Hurtgen Forest to the Battle of Hill 400. Its just some vivid, really great reading about what those guys went through.
In addition to his wealth of knowledge on World War II, ODonnell has also experienced modern combat firsthand.
ODonnell was embedded with a Marine platoon during the Battle of Fallujah, during which time he was overwhelmed by the ability and courage of modern-day Soldiers.
While promoting Dog Company, ODonnell said he was forced to come to the defense of modern Soldiers.
Ive been on a book tour for the last two months, and I did a radio show with a veteran of the Korean War, and he looked at me and he said, This generation could never do what the Pointe du Hoc men did, ODonnell said. I told him he was absolutely dead wrong, and I was very adamant about that. Ive seen firsthand what you guys can do in battle, and it absolutely blew me away. I mean, when I was in Fallujah, we had guys who were wounded multiple times who hid their wounds or got out of the aid station just to go fight with their buddies.
And while the World War II generation has often been referred to as the greatest generation, ODonnell said current Soldiers sometimes face a more challenging task.
You have a much harder task than the World War II generation, ODonnell said. They had clearly-defined objectives and hills. This is an ongoing fight that isnt necessarily defined, but what makes it amazing is you guys keep going back over and over, and a lot of times, nobody recognizes those sacrifices other than the people who are in your families.
The men of the 2nd Ranger Battalion, the focus of Dog Company, fought not only at Pointe du Hoc on D-Day, but also worked their way across Europe, fighting in key battles along the way.
Despite their numerous wartime accomplishments, most of their exploits were unknown to the American public. It was not until President Ronald Reagans speech on the 40th anniversary of D-Day that their contributions were made public knowledge.
Pretty much the only people who knew their story was them, ODonnell said, until, the 40th anniversary of D-Day, when President Reagan makes one of his most famous speeches, The Boys of Pointe du Hoc. And the men of Dog Company reassembled on that windswept cliff, and the past is made present. America understands through that speech, in my opinion, the connection between Americas heroes in World War II and the present day. It was a major link in understanding our history.