RECONCILIATION ROAD by John Douglas Marshall


A Family Odyssey of War and Honor
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 A journalist's self-absorbed and ultimately pointless report on his search for the truth about a celebrated forebear who'd disowned him. Seattle Post-Intelligencer correspondent Marshall is a grandson of the late S.L.A. (``Slam'') Marshall (1900-77), a highly regarded military historian. In 1989, an American Heritage article accused Slam, among other things, of fabricating the field research for an influential work on how US soldiers performed in combat during WW II (Men Against Fire, 1947). The mainstream press picked up the story and kept it alive long enough for outraged kinfolk to enlist the aid of John Douglas in clearing Slam's name. Having been drummed out of the family corps by Slam after surviving an honorable discharge from the Army as a conscientious objector in 1971, the author had mixed feelings about undertaking any such campaign. Eventually, though, he set out on a cross-country trek that took him to archives in El Paso, Fort Benning, and the nation's capital, as well as to the home of General William Westmoreland, to frequent reunions with family members, meetings with Slam's disciples and antagonists, and elsewhere. Beyond learning that the elder Marshall's most vociferous critics had personal axes to grind and that Slam may have exaggerated certain aspects of a muddy-boots career ranging from WW I through Vietnam, the author uncovers no evidence that conclusively diminishes or rejuvenates his grandfather's status as a preeminent annalist whose texts have had an enduring impact on battlefield doctrine. Also, unfortunately, Marshall doesn't explain very thoroughly the CO convictions that ruptured his ties to a well-loved grandparent--and without perspectives of this sort, the author's account of his long march seems a weaker effort to set a record straight or to come to terms with yesteryear's troubles. Notes from a reluctant sojourner whose trip through the past yielded remarkably few insights worth sharing. (Eighteen photographs)

Pub Date: Oct. 18th, 1993
ISBN: 0-8156-0274-X
Page count: 312pp
Publisher: Syracuse Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1993