A patriotic though unsentimental look at the major wars fought by the United States as told through the difficult experiences of ordinary soldiers.
Arizona Sen. McCain and his longtime staffer and co-author Salter (Hard Call: Great Decisions and the Extraordinary People Who Made Them, 2007, etc.) again sound the themes of courage and honor represented by the regular Americans of all branches of the military who fought for their country from the Revolutionary War to the Iraq War, circa 2006. From the first soldier, Joseph Plumb Martin, who enlisted in Gen. George Washington’s army at age 15 and served the duration of the War of Independence, the authors emphasize the deprivations and confusion of war over the hollow declarations of “glorious triumph over adversity.” McCain and Salter use Martin’s own late-life memoir to pepper the details of military life—e.g., being commanded at one point by the Marquis de Lafayette and suffering the cold and hunger of the winter of 1779 at Morristown, which prompted Martin’s regiment to mutiny in May 1780. George Roberts, an African-American seaman, represented one of the 15 to 20 percent of black sailors in the U.S. Navy during the War of 1812, serving with distinction but under segregated conditions and restricted liberty. Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., son of the famous Boston professor and essayist, was an idealistic Harvard student who fought bravely with his Massachusetts regiment for the Union and was profoundly changed by the bloodshed of the Civil War. Other notable soldiers include Maj. Gen. Littleton “Tony” Waller, who refused to fulfill an order to slaughter the Philippine natives during a battle of the Spanish-American War in Manila in 1898 and was court-martialed; and Guy Gabaldon, who, while battling on the Pacific island of Saipan during World War II, convinced many Japanese to surrender rather than commit suicide.
Deeply personal stories that track real soldiers through conditions of trying morale.