Thursday, March 19, 2009

In the Hands of Providence: Joshua L. Chamberlain and the American Civil War by Alice Rains Trulock

“In the Hands of Providence: Joshua L. Chamberlain and the American Civil War” is a masterful biography of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. Chamberlain was one of the great Americans of the nineteenth century. He was one of the most heroic and hardest fighting U.S. Army officers of all time.

The author, the late Alice Rains Trulock, presents a well researched, thoroughly documented, and in depth portrait of this intelligent and courageous man. She traces Chamberlain's early life and career. She begins looking at him as a student, and later as Professor of Rhetoric at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. Chamberlain's military career is covered in detail. We see his rise from command of the 20th Maine to general officer rank in the Union army. We learn of his outstanding leadership and valor during some of the fiercest and bloodiest battles of the Civil War, including Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, and Petersburg. His experience at Five Forks, Virginia is chronicled with some of Trulock's liveliest and most exciting prose.

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain is best known for his actions as Colonel of the 20th Maine Volunteers at the Battle of Gettysburg. Here Trulock describes in detail the events of July 2, 1863. On that date he led his 380-man regiment in its successful defense of Little Round Top. This is arguably the most critical engagement in the most critical battle of the war. His leadership and actions saved the Union army from a crushing defeat, and ensuring his own place in the pantheon of American military heroes.

Trulock also details Chamberlain's post-Civil War career as Governor of Maine (1867-1871), President of Bowdoin College (1871-1883), and as a semi-successful businessman.

The book gives well researched and beautifully written descriptions of Chamberlain's military, political and business accomplishments. "In the Hands of Providence" also gives the reader a balanced and objective look at Chamberlain's personal life. Particularly enjoyable and enlightening are the descriptions of his relationships with his wife Fannie, his daughter Grace and son Harold Wyllys (yes, the spelling is correct – it is pronounced like Willis), and his brother Tom. The author does a brilliant job of allowing the reader to get to know Chamberlain the patriot, scholar, college professor and president, military hero, and Governor of Maine as well as the warm hearted and loving family man.

Published in 1992 by the University of North Carolina Press, “In the Hands of Providence: Joshua L. Chamberlain and the American Civil War” is the best modern biography of one of the most extraordinary and gifted Americans of the nineteenth century. I highly recommended these 592 pages of information and entertainment. Reviewed by Jimmie A. Kepler

Friday, March 13, 2009

Rattler One-Seven by Chuck Gross

Rattler One Seven gives insight into Chuck Gross's journey into manhood through the Vietnam Conflict from Special Secret Operations to the little known but bloodiest operation of the entire war, Lamson 719. Chuck Gross relives the days and events of everyday life as an helicopter pilot in Viet-Nam.

His story is personal and candid. He shares his thoughts and feelings as he transitioned from a midwestern high school graduate into a seasoned Senior Aircraft Commander in three short years.

The book lets you feel the daily grind of combat and life as a chopper pilot. The Viet-Nam history buff will enjoy reading the book. Gross does not sensationalize his service. The book also shows how his enlistment and becoming a helicopter pilot ultimately lead to an aviation carrier and becoming a pilot for American Airlines. Read by Jimmie A. Kepler in October 2005.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

American Daughter Gone to War: On the Front Lines With an Army Nurse in Vietnam - by Winnie Smith

This book is different. This book goes where no memoir has gone before. It is a soul sharing account of former US Army nurse Winnie Smith's three years in the US Army nurse corps with the focus on Viet-Nam and its devastating personal aftermath.

You follow her from her initial days in the US Army to Japan where she gets her first views of the war in Viet-Nam. She starts developing strong relationships with the "warriors.” Some become extended family. This closeness takes it toll as the men she liked, and sometimes loved, were killed, lost in action, or wounded. Her testimony of life at the Third Field Hospital in Saigon and then in the head trauma unit of the next hospital were so vivid you are there. She lets it be known that the army was not set up for females by the lack of facilities available. She danced with David Nelson of Ozzie and Harriet fame with out even knowing who he was until the other nurses asked what he like was. Her fear had her turn down marriage proposal from West Pointer Peter.

After the service, she had trouble with relationships. In the years ahead, she lived in Dallas then San Francisco. While she went to graduate school the years following Viet-Nam are a vivid picture of the horrors of post traumatic stress disorder. The book is a painful look at this horrific disorder. The book shows there is hope and in many ways seem to be her avenue for dealing with it. She is surprised other persons have similar difficulties coping. She is shocked to learn that her stepfather who lost a leg in World War II had been injured days into the combat zone and thus had no real experience of war as a point of common ground. The book is worth your time. It shows the human toll of any war. Read by Jimmie Kepler in April - May 2006.