Army Heritage and Military History
(for Company Grade Officers, WO1-CW3, and Company Cadre NCOs)
Steven Ambrose. Citizen Soldiers. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997. (480 pages) (paperback)
A broad look at the American campaign on the Western Front in WW II. The author considers every level of war, from strategy discussions of generals, to the tactics employed by junior officers, and the life of the combat soldier "on the ground." The dominant theme is that the "citizen soldiers" were called from peaceful pursuits of civilian life and matched against the fanaticism of the Third Reich, successfully. Readers gain an appreciation of the magnitude of the victory in Europe as soldiers exercise the utmost in leadership, courage, and innovation. The story is told mainly through a series of vignettes outlining the experiences of junior officers and NCOs. The book should serve any leader well as he or she prepares for the realities of warfare in a democratic society
Edward M. Coffman, The War To End All Wars: The American Military Experience in World War I. New York: Oxford University Press, 1968. (412 pages.)
The War To End All Wars is the classic account of the American military experience in World War I. Coffman conducted extensive research in diaries and personal papers as well as official records and then filled out the written record with interviews of survivors, including General of the Armies Douglas MacArthur, General Charles L. Bolte, Lt. Gen. Charles D. Herron, Lt. Gen. Ernest N. Huebner, and Maj. Gen. Hanson E. Ely. By using these sources, Coffman sought to convey the human dimensions of the conflict as well as the grand strategy and the tactics of the Western Front. In this he has succeeded admirably. The volume is suffused with the social context that makes the experience of individuals come alive. Coffman begins with a sketch of the status of the Army in the wake of the reforms of Secretary of War Elihu Root at the beginning of the twentieth century. They at least partially prepared the service for its role in World War I. President Woodrow Wilson was quite prepared to allow "the experts" to run the war (a very Progressive Era attitude), but in this war with its unprecedented mass armies and new weapons and techniques the experts had to do much learning on the job. With Wilson uninterested in the day-to-day running of the war, the secretary of war, Newton D. Baker, and the chief of staff became particularly important. The early mobilization was chaotic. (The Army was to grow from 127,000 to 3,000,000 in less than nineteen months.) Not until early 1918 did Baker secure as chief of staff the officer who brought a measure of order to the process--General Peyton C. March. But because command relations were ambiguous, March expended much time and energy in disputes with the commander of the American Expeditionary Forces, General John J. Pershing. Coffman provides a vivid portrayal of the personalities of these principals (as well as Lt. Gen. Hunter Liggett, Pershing's primary lieutenant, and General Tasker H. Bliss, the American military advisor to the Supreme War Council) and a sensitive delineation of how their immediate circumstances affected the policy positions they advocated. Coffman covers mobilization, the rudimentary training in the United States, the Navy's role in convoying the troops overseas, the organization and training of the American Expeditionary Forces in France, the American role in the air war, logistics, ground combat culminating in the Meuse-Argonne campaign, and demobilization. Coffman is particularly effective in discussing operations at the division and corps levels. In 1917-1918 the U.S. Army had to suddenly convert itself fro m a small imperial constabulary to a modern mass Army. In a sense this was just the reverse of the process the Army underwent in the 1990s. Thirty years after its initial publication, The War To End All Wars remains the best single-volume account of this earlier transformation.
Samuel P. Huntington. Soldier and the State. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press of Harvard University press, 1957. (534 pages) (paperback)
The author traces the concept of the military professional through the two World Wars. More important, he provides the first thorough analysis of the nature and scope of professional officership. This book contains enough professional fodder to provide inquiring cadets and young officers with an image of what they might be as military professionals. A close reading of the book reveals a staggering challenge to the will and intellect of the aspirant. A classic in the basic tenets required of the professional officer in American society.
Gerald F. Linderman, Embattled Courage: The Experience of Combat in the American Civil War. New York: The Free Press, A Division of Macmillan, in., 1987. (357 pages)
Combat studies tend to express themselves in two forms: as narrative accounts of wars, campaigns, and battles; or as accounts of individual soldiers, or groups of soldiers, in combat. Linderman's Embattled Courage, an example of the latter, examines the beliefs and behavior of volunteers from both Union and Confederate sides who sallied forth in 1861 to defeat their enemy. Initially they believed in the nobility of war, in fighting it "fair," and in the justness of their cause. Over time, the brutal experience of combat eroded almost all of their beliefs, except in their comrades and in their survival–and sometimes not even in these. Linderman organizes Chapters 1-5 around the notion of courage --"heroic action undertaken without fear"– that soldiers brought to the war from civilian society. Using well chosen excerpts from journals and letters, he then shows in Chapters 6-12 how combat's carnage carried the soldiers who survived from hope and belief in courage in 1861 to disillusionment and disbelief in 1865. Their behavior and what they had endured in these years segregated them morally from the larger society until they found a way back in after the war. In a fascinating epilogue the author notes how these survivors dealt with their combat experiences. Some found it difficult to speak at all of these experiences, others could not say enough about them, and still others romanticized and glamorized them, turning brutal memories into a feel-good nostalgia that would have astonished their younger selves.
Based as it is on exciting and graphic excerpts from journals and letters of combat soldiers, Embattled Courage brims with authenticity and authority. As such, it offers much to the professional soldier. For those officers and enlisted personnel who have been in combat the book establishes a larger historical context which may help to better understand and digest their own experiences. For those who have not, but who may well do so in the future, Linderman has created a framework which may permit them to grasp, to a degree, the harsh realities, physical as well as psychological, of combat. To the degree which they can know these "harsh realities" through reading and study, they will adapt more quickly and perform more efficiently to a combat environment.
Charles B. MacDonald, Company Commander. Springfield, N.J.: Burford Books, 1999. Original edition, 1947. (278 pages)
Company Commander is Charles MacDonald's memoir of his experiences in World War II. Placed in command in September 1944 of Company I, 23d Infantry at the age of twenty-one, MacDonald, who had never been in battle, quickly underwent a harsh baptism of fire. He commanded his company until the end of the war, leading his men throughout the Battle of the Bulge, an unforgiving test of his and his company's mettle. MacDonald knew that he was responsible for other men's lives and that any mistake by him could mean soneone's death. Written shortly after the war, his account gives a vivid sense of the awesome responsibility of command from the perspective of the unit commander. MacDonald happily was a skillful, fluent writer, who went on to become an eminent military historian. Written with immediacy, the book communicates a keen sense of what it was like for an inexperienced officer to be thrown into a leadership role in combat, the personal skills it took to survive, and the intangibles that held small units together in the face of danger and deprivation. This book is less about tactics and weapons than what it takes on the personal and psychological level to fight and survive and be a company commander.
S.L.A. Marshall. Men Against Fire: The Problem of Battle Command in Future War. Reprint, Gloucester, Massachusetts: Peter Smith, 1978. Originally published by Infantry Journal Press, 1947. (215 pages) (hardcover)
An examination of the infantry commander's problems in motivating soldiers in combat. Through a series of interviews with soldiers, the author describes how men can be conditioned to act as a cohesive unit under the stress of battle. Marshall raises many fundamental questions, still germane today, about why soldiers fail to fire their weapons in battle and how the lack of moral leadership can destroy the effectiveness of fighting organizations. A must for those who have yet to undertake the reality of battle.
Alan R. Millett, and Peter Maslowski. For the Common Defense, A Military History of the United States of America. New York: The Free Press, 1984. (621 pages)
For the Common Defense is one of the leading textbooks of American military history. The volume examines the American military experience from colonial times up to the fall of Saigon in 1975. Although the book describes the nation's major wars and military operations, its true focus is the evolution of American military policy. Some of the book's major themes are the dynamic interrelationship of American military, social, and political institutions, the interplay between regulars and part-time citizen soldiers, the gradual professionalization of military institutions, and the impact of industrial and technological developments on military affairs.
For the Common Defense puts narrower historical studies into a broader historical and intellectual context. It is vital that soldiers be acquainted with these broader themes if they are to understand the American military experience.
Robert H. Scales, Jr. Certain Victory. Reprint, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas: U.S. Army Command and General Staff College Press, 1994. (434 pages) (paperback and hardcover)
A history of the US Army in the Gulf War (and related support activities) produced by the Army's Desert Storm Special Study Group, which was commissioned by Chief of Staff General Gordon H. Sullivan and directed by Brigadier General Robert H. Scales, Jr. The book provides one of the best summaries of how the professional of the 1980s differed from the drug-riddled and racially divided Army of the 1970s. Additionally, it shows the value of state-of-the-art weaponry and what a well-trained and equipped professional force can accomplish. The book also does an excellent job of outlining how the Army planned to transition the force and lessons learned from Desert Storm to the Army of the future. A careful and informed reading of Certain Victory will provide the reader with a view of the US Army that by 1990 knew a lot about ground combat. It was also an Army that realized you needed good people, well trained, with quality weapons and equipment to be successful on the modern battlefield. A must read for the officer wanting to understand where his Army is tending.
Mark A. Stoler, George C. Marshall: Soldier-Statesman of the American Century. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1989. (252 pages)
This fast-moving account summarizes the life and career of the foremost American soldier-diplomat of the twentieth century. Stoler pictures Marshall as consistently living in multiple worlds and managing to harmonize the conflicts between them. He was born in a small town of an isolationist nation but took leading roles in an industrialized world power. He was trained as a nineteenth century citizen-soldier but commissioned in a twentieth century army of empire. Finally, he was the first soldier to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. In filling a series of high-level positions--Army chief of staff, special envoy to China, secretary of state and of defense--Marshall consistently acted as the dispassionate pragmatist, carefully weighing pluses and minuses to the ultimate benefit of his country. Repeatedly, Marshall mastered the nuances of congressional appropriations, coalition diplomacy, and fast-changing foreign policies as the Cold War overtook the wartime alliance, all the while retaining a fine sense of the limits of military power as well as an appreciation of the linkage between economic, military, and political issues. In stark contrast to his more visible contemporary in uniform, Douglas MacArthur, Marshall never let his ego get in the way of a job to be done, never confused his personal interests with those of his country.
Stoler's portrait of Marshall is relevant to upper-level officers of today not only as a faithful illustration of the ideal soldier for a major democracy--the only twentieth century American in uniform to evoke comparison with George Washington--but for its illustration of the versatility implicit in post-Cold War missions. In the era of peace-keeping, when the line between force and negotiation seems hopelessly blurred, military leaders must develop skills at dealing with civilians and military personalities of differing influence and from a variety of cultural backgrounds.
Tom Willard. Buffalo Soldiers (Black Saber Chronicles). Forge Press, 1996. (hardcover)
The stories of black cavalrymen fighting along side their white counterparts against the Plains Indians. Told through the eyes of Samuel Sharps, a young man saved from slavery, who will go on to become a sergeant major. This is the story of the all black unit nicknamed the "Buffalo Soldiers" by the Indians they fought. The book provides the reader with not only an appreciation of the hardships of war and frontier life, but with the more important social commentary related to the Buffalo Soldiers as free men.