Thursday, October 22, 2009

The War Chronicles: From Flintlocks to Machine Guns by Joseph Cummins

Maybe you are familiar with the wars involving the United States.  But have you ever wondered about the wars that were taking place in other parts of the world? "The War Chronicles: From Flintlocks to Machine Guns" by Joseph Cummins contains short sections on all wars throughout the world from the French Revolution in 1783 to the Iran-Iraq War of 1988.

The book is organized with 21 chapters.  It gives the dates of the conflict.  You see who the principle combatants and the theaters of operations.  The casualties are given.  You get a succinct sketch of the entire conflict.  A timeline of events is shared. This followed by a narrative of the complete war in greater detail including a thorough description of the key battle.  A biography of the two principle leaders on each side is shared. This is followed by a profile segment which gives details of the structure, organization, and military hardware involved. 

Joseph Cummins does a masterful job as he describes each conflict with an attention-grabbing energy that brings the time, people, and crisis to life in a narrative history style.   I personally enjoyed his short biographies of the two principle leaders on each side.  What a great reference for secondary students having to do reports of the key war leaders.

This is more than a coffee table reference book.  It would make an excellent reference book for any military history buff.  It also would be an outstanding text book for an introductory military history survey course and would be a great addition to any school or community library.  Any soldier, sailor, airman, or marine would be proud to have it in their personal library.

This is a follow-up work to Joseph Cummins book "The War Chronicles: From Chariots to Flintlocks: New Perspectives on the Two Thousand Years of Bloodshed That Shaped the Modern World."

Review by Jimmie Aaron Kepler

Friday, October 09, 2009

Sisters of Valor by Rosaline T. Turner

Have you ever wondered what it would be like having your husband deployed and in harm’s way?  Have you ever wondered what your wife is going through while you are doing your job as a member of the United States Armed Forces half a world away?  Have you ever thought of what your mother went through when you dad was deployed? 

Sisters of Valor answers these and more questions.  Rosaline T. Turner tells the the story of four women’s experience as their husbands are serving in Viet-Nam.   We meet Captain Paul Mitchell and his wife Susan, the story’s main character.  Paul is a United States Marine Corps company commander.  They are from Iowa.  We meet Gunnery Sergeant Louis Siconi and Rose.  We meet Texanne and her husband Robert the S-1 in Saigon.  We meet Magda Spencer from Pennsylvania and her husband Jerry the pilot.

The author has crafted wonderful characters.  It is through these characters she does a wonderful job of telling the story.  And she is a very good story teller.  We feel the pain of a country divided and the impact of antiwar protestors.  We see the value of building a support group.  We learn how to deal with visiting parents and pressures of parents to move back home.  We see some turn to drink to cope.   We experience the pressures from family from extended family for financial assistance.   We feel the bitterness of extended activity duty due to a person’s military occupational skill being deemed as critical.  We share the joy of the birth of a child while marine husband is deployed.  We experience the trials of traveling by ourselves with two small children to go home for Christmas and the holidays without our spouse.  We feel the terror of the Tet Offensive and the support of our friends during this trying time. We see how some of the women feel guilty that their husband is in a safer job.  We share the thrill of talking to a spouse half a world away via a HAM a radio link.  We learn of the good and bad of R & R.   We feel the loneliness: going out to bar without your spouse, loneliness and falling to temptation while on R & R in Australia.  We deal with a potential major illness of a child without our spouse.   We survive the craziness of the Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy assassinations.   We have the dreaded official car drive to our house with the notification of the death of our husband.  We experience a husband missing in action.  And we have reflection a quarter of a century later.

The book is excellent.  It is a very interesting story told by a master story teller.  I recommend it for persons’ whose spouse or parents were deployed during the Viet-Nam War.  The book’s message is timeless.  It would be a good read for a person whose spouse is in the Middle East today.

My father was career military.  He was in Viet-Nam in 1963-1964.  I was 10 and 11 years old when he was deployed.  Reading the book has given me a new appreciation of what my mother went through while he was gone.  I am a former US Army officer.  The book helped me have a better understanding of what my wife went through during my deployments as well.

To Rosaline T. Turner – thank you for a needed book.  I have several friends to whom I have already recommended the book.  It will help them as they deal with what their daughters or daughters-in-law are facing today with their husbands in harm’s way.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

A Life in a Year: The American Infantryman in Vietnam, 1965-1972 by James R. Ebert

Wisconsin high school teacher James R. Ebert does a masterful job as he combines interviews and printed primary sources in this remarkable telling of the infantryman's experience during the Vietnam War. Ebert tells the story of the US Army and a few US Marine infantrymen during the Vietnam War. He takes their story from induction into the service through basic and advanced individual training, arrival in Vietnam, their first combat experiences, the first killed in action they experience, in some cases the soldier's death, and the freedom birds that take them back to the world. Ebert points out while infantryman accounted for less than 10% of the American troops in Vietnam, the infantry suffered more than 80% of the losses.

Ebert uses an interesting technique starting every chapter with a letter by Leonard Dutcher to his parents. Dutcher just wanted to do his part for God and country and go home at the end of his 12-month tour (13 for Marines). In the last chapter, we find out that Dutcher was killed. It caught me off guard and really added to the impact of the book. Ebert takes many of the soldiers and Marines experiences word for word from the individual himself through interviews or letters. It is a collective look at similarities of the many infantry soldiers and Marines in the war. It is a very personal account from many points of view.

This is an important book in Vietnam War literature. This is what the grunts really went through. I was left with somewhat of feeling of guilt from reading the book. Why? I graduated high school in 1971. Some of my high classmates went to Vietnam and fought. Everett Maxwell was killed in action. I went to college and was ultimately commissioned a second lieutenant in the infantry, went through airborne school and served three years active duty. My becoming an officer deferred my entry on active duty from 1971 to 1975. This is the reason for my reflective thoughts. Read by Jimmie A. Kepler in August 2004.