FIRST CALL by Thomas D. Boettcher

FIRST CALL

The Making of the Modern U.S. Military, 1945-1953
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A masterful overview of how President Truman restructured the US military in the face of determined opposition from officer elites and of the grave problems attendant on the new cold war. Drawing on a wealth of sources, Boettcher (Vietnam, 1985) relates how HST pressed for greater integration of America's armed forces in the wake of WW II. As the various service branches scrambled to protect their turf (and their diminished budget allocations), a battle royal erupted over the chief executive's organizational goals. Congress nonetheless passed the National Security Act of 1947, which not only created an independent Air Force and the CIA but also put control of the military establishment firmly in civilian hands. In the meantime, Soviet belligerency precipitated the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, NATO, and allied initiatives that, while they helped contain Communism, stretched US resources to the utmost. Although theoretical objectives yielded to imperative realities during the Korean conflict as well, Truman left no doubt who was commander in chief. While Boettcher faults him on several counts (notably, partisanship and the decision to build thermonuclear bombs), he concludes that the world is a safer place for the chief executive's refusal to use atomic weapons in Korea, and for other difficult decisions. The author provides a tellingly detailed account of a turbulent era and of the larger-than-life personalities (Eisenhower, Forrestal, MacArthur, et al.) who shaped it. He also shifts his narrative back and forth in time, putting contemporary issues into clear geopolitical perspective. Cases in point range from a recap of WW I's Belleau Woods offensive (which ensured the USMC's survival) through a briefing on the court martial of Gen. Billy Mitchell, a turning point in air power's strategic development. A first-rate history with appeal for general readers as well as specialists.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-316-10092-7
Page count: 472pp
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1992