Army Heritage and Military History
(For Cadets, Soldiers and Junior NCOs)
Stephen E. Ambrose, Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992. (335 pages)
This book gives an idea of the tremendous sacrifices American soldiers endured as a matter of course during World War II. The author captures many of the representative moments of a WW II soldier's career. The shock and fear of combat, the suffering of freezing overnight in a foxhole, going hungry and without a bath for days on end, the elation of survival and success, and the disgust of inept or arbitrary commanders. But even through all the dangers and hardships, through all the hell they experienced, they enjoyed a brotherhood of comrades that they could get no where else and would never know again.
Rick Atkinson. The Long Gray Line. New York: Owl Books, 1999. (589 pages)(paperback)
The author examines the experiences of the West Point class of 1966. Atkinson shows how their individual careers epitomized the problems faced by their generation and by members of the their profession. This is a sophisticated, moving, and exciting account of the attempts of one West Point class to apply to real life the lessons they had learned at the academy. Of special interest to the cadet and junior officer, but a compelling read for officers and NCOs of every grade
Tom Brokaw. The Greatest Generation. New York: Random House, 1998. (412 pages) (paperback and hardcover)
Recounting in a series of narratives the newscaster has written an exceptional book about the youth who grew up during the Great depression. Brokaw terms them the "greatest generation" because they came of age and, through their extraordinary sacrifices, won the first truly global war. The reader is exposed to the stories of a cross-section of American citizens, soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines. It is a story of individuals who return from war to rebuild their lives and to give the world new literature, science, and industry, not to mention the most powerful peacetime economy in world history. The book affords the novice the requirement for self-sacrifice and devotion to cause. It also allows the military reader to appreciate the impact of non-military members on a nation's war effort.
T. R. Fehrenbach. This Kind of War: The Classic Korean War History Brassey's Inc. 2000 (483 pages) (paperback and hardcover)
The ultimate story of a nation's lack of military preparedness. Writing from the perspective of the smallunit leader, Fehrenbach weaves two intertwining themes. One theme provides a bluntly told narrative history of the Korean War, including explicit descriptions of what happens when small units fight against overwhelming odds. The second provides a historical social-political-military context against which the Korean War plays out without closure. A book for every leader, because it exposes critical issues not yet resolved in the US regarding how to produce a military that will continuously be on guard and ready to protect a public that wants only to live in and dream of a peaceful world.
Charles E. Heller and William A. Stoft, editors. America's First Battles: 1776-1965. Lawrence, Kan.: University Press of Kansas. 1986. ( 416 pages)
The first battle in any war, argue the various authors of this book, may reveal the strengths and weaknesses of armies–both winners and losers. America's First Battles examines the first major engagement of each of America's nine major wars–from the Revolution through Vietnam–with an eye toward the weaknesses revealed. Faulty doctrine, insufficient command-and-control, and, most importantly, preparedness, are all discussed. Was the U.S. Army ready for each of its wars? If not, did it learn quickly from its mistakes? Each essay considers the strategic and political background of the conflict, and the circumstances in which the U.S. Army found itself when the war began, all intertwined with a detailed combat narrative. How an army prepares for war during peacetime is often a good indicator of how well it will perform in the first battle of the next war. This is a valuable perspective for an Army officer to possess, even if hindsight is 20-20. Several trends are made clear by the essays in this book. For example, drastic demobilization following each conflict is a familiar theme throughout U.S. history, and it has affected the Army's ability to fight many of its first battles. Rapid and deep cuts in manpower following World War II affected military readiness to such an extent that the Army was largely unprepared for the Korean War. Yet at other times the Army was prepared. It was a fit and ready Expeditionary Corps that first fought in France in 1918, as was the Army in Vietnam in 1965. What did the Army do wrong? What did it do right? The continuum of answers is enlightening.
David W. Hogan, Jr. A 225 Years of Service, The U.S. Army 1775-2000. Washington, D.C.: CMH, 2000. (36 pages)
This pamphlet gives a brief overview of how the Army has served the nation since the formation of George Washington's Continental Army on 14 June 1775. It covers not only the Army's distinguished performance in America's major conflicts but also its conduct of several other military and non-military missions throughout American history. During the nation's early years, the Army contributed greatly to national development through exploration, relations with Native Americans, road and building construction, and the assertion of national authority. As the nation became a more complex industrial society and a superpower in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the Army's list of missions expanded to include expeditions to foreign lands, military government of colonial and occupied territories, scientific and medical research and development, flood control and disaster relief, the assimilation of different ethnic and racial groups, greater opportunities for women, and aid to disadvantaged elements of society. An insert by the Chief of Military History relates the Army's history to its current transformation into a force capable of meeting the challenges of the twenty-first century. The pamphlet includes color illustrations, suggestions for further readings, and a list of discussion questions.
Through this pamphlet, the reader acquires a sense of how the Army has helped the United States grow into the country that it is today. At each stage of the growth of the republic, it shows the broader context in which the Army operated, the demands that the nation placed on its military, and how the military has met those demands. It describes how the Army's conduct of America's wars helped to achieve national objectives. At the same time, it makes clear that the performance of non-military missions is by no means a new phenomenon for the Army but rather a role that has been with the service since the Revolutionary War–and even before that war, if one includes the tasks of colonial militias. Throughout its history, the Army has also deferred to civilian authority, a distinct achievement in a world beset by coups and the threat of military rule. In sum, this study makes clear that, throughout American history, when the nation was in need, the Army was there to answer the call.
John Keegan , The Face of Battle New York: Vintage Books, 1977, (354 pages)
The Face of Battle is a recounting of warfare as the soldier saw in three distinct eras of military history. Keegan brings to life the sights, sounds, and smell of the battlefield at Agincourt, Waterloo, and the Somme. At Agincourt, where on 23 October 1415, the outnumbered English forces under Henry V waited for the French to charge across rain-wet ploughed fields. English archers cut down two French advances that had bogged down in the mud. Henry's men then attacked from the rear, and the French broke and fled. At Waterloo, on 18 June 1815, Napoleon attacked Lord Wellington, whose forces, aided by Blucher's Prussians, routed the French, thus allowing allied forces to march unopposed on Paris and force Napoleon into permanent exile. During the Battle of the Somme, on 1 July 1916, Keegan describes the gallant but foolhardy British charge against highly organized German positions. Small gains were made, but by nightfall the British had lost about 60,000 men, the greatest one-day loss in the history of the British Army. The value of this book is Keegan's tossing aside long-held myths and romantic revisions of warfare, and instead describing the total battlefield experience. The accounts of the three encounters shows what combat meant to the men who marched into these battles. Ever since its original publication some twenty-five years ago The Face of Battle remains unmatched in its compelling descriptions and illuminating insights. In addition to narratives of the three battles Keegan, in an introductory chapter, discusses the writing of military history, its usefulness and deficiencies, and other insights. A concluding chapter discusses the nature and future of battle. This book is easy to read and should be one of the first volumes to be read in this list.
Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore (ret.) And Joseph L. Galloway. We Were Soldiers Once, and Young. . . New York: Random House. 1992. ( 412 pages)
In the fall of 1965 the festering Vietnam War entered a new phase. During the earliest years of American involvement in South Vietnam the battles had been relatively small–fought against Viet Cong guerrillas– and most Americans were advisors. But with the introduction of U.S. combat troops in the spring and summer of 1965, all that changed. The Battle of Ia Drang, as it came to be called, marked the first clash between American troops and North Vietnamese regulars. We Were Soldiers Once, and Young is the story of that battle, giving a detailed account of both the American 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division and the North Vietnamese 32d, 33d, and 66th Regiments in the rugged Ia Drang Valley of South Vietnam's Central Highlands. But this is more than just a straightforward combat narrative; the book also portrays the personal side of men in battle.
The personal battle account is a common genre in military history, but few provide more than a blinkered glimpse into the conflict from which they arise. This book rises above the rest for two reasons. First, as a study of a single battle, the book provides a detailed view of combat in Vietnam. Second, the battle in the Ia Drang was an important learning experience for both sides, and this book outlines why. For the Americans, this was the first big-unit engagement in Vietnam using the helicopter to move men into battle, and its mobility seemed to validate General William C. Westmoreland's aggressive search-and-destroy-missions and his strategy of attrition. The North Vietnamese had never encountered the new airmobile tactics, and the battle taught them a valuable lesson.
Anton Myrer. Once an Eagle. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, c1968. USAWC Foundation Press, 1995. (817 pages) (paperback and hardcover)
A historical novel this is perhaps one of the most important military novels ever written. Its stark and realistic descriptions of men in combat are classic. It provides a penetrating analysis of human and technical challenges, and of leadership and command's moral dilemmas. Read by a generation of Vietnamera soldiers, the book has profoundly influenced the shape and character of the post-Vietnam Army. The author realistically portrays the confusion of combat, the bonds that form between men who fight together, and the responsibility of command. A must read for those young leaders contemplating a career in the profession of arms.
Michael Shaara, The Killer Angels. New York: Ballantine Books, 1974. (355 pages)
The Killer Angels is a Pulitzer Prize winning fictional account of the bloody battle at Gettysburg, a pivotal three-day fight during the American Civil War. Based on solid historical research, the book takes a close, personal look at this monumental struggle from the perspective of the key participants on both sides who directly influenced the outcome. Filled with penetrating portraits of men such as Lee, Longstreet, and Chamberlain, it brings to life the passions that drove these men and the reasons for the critical decisions they made during this decisive battle.
Every soldier should read this book. Through the use of fiction based on historical research, the author succeeds in conveying the realities of war. It tells the story of both great and ordinary men thrown into extraordinary circumstances. The confusion and fog of war, gallant initiatives and dreadful misunderstandings, fear and unsurpassed bravery, all intertwine into a powerful story that is both tragic and awe-inspiring. After reading this book the soldier will appreciate that war is not a simple matter of foolproof plans and mathematical probabilities, but a wild, uncertain affair that hinges on tentative guesses, individual initiatives, and large measures of luck.