Book Review: Never in Finer Company: The Men of the Great War's Lost Battalion


by Edward G. Lengel

New York: Da Capo Press, 2018. Pp. x, 356+.. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $28.00. ISBN: 0306825686

An American Epic of the Great War

Dr. Lengel has written extensively on the U.S. in World War I, including Thunder and Flames: Americans in the Crucible of Combat, 1917-1918. In this new work, he gives us a surprisingly fresh look at what is rather well trod ground. He retells the story of the famous “Lost Battalion” within the framework of the overall events of the of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, and through the experiences of four men.

Two of these men are obvious, the leaders of who led the isolated troops Maj. Charles Whittlesey, the Wall Street lawyer who proved an outstanding commander, and his principal subordinate, Maj. George McMurty, and, seemingly the odd choices of Cpl. Alvin York, who famously captured “the whole damned German Army”, and journalist Damon Runyon, both of whom had interesting connections with the events.

Lengel weaves his tale around these men, showing how their lives crossed in many ways, albeit perhaps not their paths, all against the background of a nation going to war. Thus he examines the emergence of a multi-ethnic America, as reflected in life in New York City, principal recruiting ground of the 308th Infantry, and the mixing of men from all across the nation in training camps and combat.

Well written, Never in Finer Company is an easy read about men thrown together by the tides of war, with some excellent battle pieces. A very good book.


Note: Never in Finer Company is also available in several e-editions and in an audio-edition

StrategyPage reviews are shared with The New York Military Affairs Symposium


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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