Books by Greg Michalson

Released: Jan. 1, 1994

In a look at a dimension of war that historians rarely cover- -the life of the ordinary soldier—Missouri Review ed. Morgan (The Assemblers, etc.) and managing ed. Michalson offer extracts of seven diaries, from the American Revolution to the Gulf conflict. The diarists are a diverse group: Joseph Plumb Martin was a farm boy from Connecticut when, in 1776, he joined the Continental Army in search of adventure; Amy Whitgreen was a Chicago nurse when, in 1898, she went to Cuba to combat yellow fever among US troops engaged in the Spanish-American War; Joseph Abodeely was an idealistic ROTC man from Arizona when he traveled to Vietnam. The diaries, too, vary in style and quality: Martin's, e.g., isn't a diary at all but a memoir, written years after the Revolution, while the Civil War account of Massachusetts soldier George Sargent was composed in the field, albeit edited and expanded after the fact. Meanwhile, Charles Ponton's WW I diary and Everett Fulton's WW II record of the air war in the Pacific are terse, immediate, and without literary embellishment, written by men on the run; Vietnam soldier Abodeely, however, occasionally allows himself some reflections on the future and on his feelings about the war. Further along, Duane Lee Smith's Gulf War diary proves a straightforward, sometimes cynical account of the long wait and short burst of action that marked that conflict. Common to all are the persistent verities of a soldier's life—boredom, menial tasks, and the petty irritations, absurdities, and amusements of camp life—which, it seems, loom larger in the lives of nearly all the diarists than do the fear and excitement of combat itself. A powerful record of seven American wars, told in the words of those who lived through them. (First printing of 15,000) Read full book review >