PARATROOPER by T. Michael Booth


The Life of Gen. James M. Gavin
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 A first-rate narrative take on the life and times of Lt. Gen. James Maurice Gavin, one of the US Army's few great WW II heroes to stand his last post without a full-dress biography or autobiography. Drawing mainly on their subject's personal papers (including an unpublished memoir), Booth and Spencer offer a sympathetic, albeit tough-minded, appraisal of a complex career officer whose combat record remains a legend in the American military. A foundling, Gavin was raised by foster parents in western Pennsylvania's coal country. Leaving his hardscrabble home as a teenager, he enlisted and soon earned an appointment to West Point. Graduating in 1929, Gavin was well prepared for senior command when the US entered WW II. A protÇgÇ of Matthew Ridgeway, Gavin made an enduring name for himself as the 82nd Airborne Division's up-front leader in its nonstop campaigns on Europe's bloodiest killing grounds. The unhappily married paratrooper made love as well as war; his conquests included the high-profile likes of Marlene Dietrich and journalist Martha Gellhorn. When the guns fell silent, America's youngest general since Custer never quite regained his stride. With little prospect of earning a fourth star, let alone becoming Chief of Staff (owing to his vocal critiques of Pentagon policy), Gavin resigned from the Army in 1957 at the age of 50. Contentedly ensconced in a successful second marriage, the former soldier went on to head Arthur D. Little, a world-class consultancy whose revenues increased almost tenfold during his 20-year stewardship. Gavin (who gave JFK the idea for what became the Peace Corps) took time out to serve as US ambassador to France and otherwise kept active in public affairs, e.g., opposing LBJ's commitment of American forces in Vietnam. Stricken with Parkinson's disease, he died quietly in 1990. A balanced account of a storied fighting man's achievements on and off the battlefield. (16 pages of b&w photos--not seen)

Pub Date: April 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-671-73226-9
Page count: 528pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1994