OVER THERE by Byron Farwell


The United States in the Great War, 1917--1918
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A well-told narrative of US participation in the most godawful and useless of modern wars. In 1917, on the eve of its entry into WWI, the US was without a single army division. Nineteen months later, the nation’s armed and naval forces had grown to 4 million people, and their deployment had tipped the balance of war in Europe against the Central Powers. Farwell, a vivid chronicler of military forces, generals, and wars (Armies of the Raj: From Mutiny to Independence, 1989, etc.), here describes that extraordinary build-up of American armed might and what it wrought. It’s hard to imagine a better, and better-written, tale of the US’s first military venture on European soil. What the book lacks in fresh insights or perspective it makes up for in compactness, comprehensiveness, balance, and style. Perhaps never before have so many topics about this Great War been covered with such economy and to such effect. We learn of storied generals and unknown doughboys, preparedness and weaponry, trench warfare and African-Americans in battle, and campaigns and peace maneuvers—as well as the horrors of the battlefront. And we learn of them always with an apt story, a telling statistic, or a sharp portrait’such as of the fabled Sergeant Alvin York or the “Lost Battalion.” It’s regrettable, however, that little of the stupidity and absurdity of war (so brilliantly brought to life in the works of Paul Fussell) finds its place in Farwell’s account.Nevertheless, someone looking for an introduction to this part of American history will find the basics of what should be known in this book. A fine place to go for a narrative history of its subject. (photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-393-04698-2
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1998


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