There are certain phrases that the families of soldiers never want to hear: "wounded in action", "missing in action", "killed in action", and "prisoner of war." But every time the United States enters a conflict, it is almost inevitable that some wife or husband, some mother or father, or some child will hear those words. They are words that many of us will never really understand. Even with the advent of imbedded reporters and glamorized battle coverage on television, there are some aspects of war that the average American simply cannot comprehend. But in 1993, the family of CW4 Michael J. Durant would learn about the true horrors of war.
For those who have read Mark Bowden's BLACK HAWK DOWN or seen the movie, Chief Warrant Officer Michael J. Durant is a familiar character. He was one of the Black Hawk pilots shot down in the United Nations' peacekeeping effort in Somalia. Fortunately for Durant, he was not killed in the crash or the frenetic firefight that ensued. Rather, he was dragged through the streets with a fractured leg and broken back, loaded into a pickup truck, and held hostage by a Somalian militia. During his ten days of captivity, Durant was held in filthy "prisons", shot by angry militiamen, and given only aspirin for the pain caused by his wounds. But during his entire ordeal, Durant and his positive attitude survived. In fact, even his captors were eventually mesmerized by him in a somewhat reversed kind of "Stockholm Syndrome." They gave him a radio through which he kept up with the peacekeeping efforts and received dedications from other soldiers in his unit. They fed him more food than he could eat, bathed him, and allowed him to read his Bible. It was in that Bible that Durant first wrote IN THE COMPANY OF HEROES, scribbling codes in the margins so that he would remember all of the harrowing details.
IN THE COMPANY OF HEROES is much more than Durant's story of being a prisoner of war. While that would have made an excellent book in and of itself, Durant goes further, giving the reader insights into the rest of his military career. IN THE COMPANY OF HEROES is exceptionally written and gives the reader profound insight into the ugliest parts of war. It is a story that everyone should read and learn from --- not only about war, but also about the human spirit and its willingness to survive in even the harshest of situations.
Reviewed by Melissa Brown on May 8, 2003