Recomended Military Books: General Topics

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GIs on route to Europe, World War II
GIs on route to Europe, World War II.

Today in WW II: 24 Sep 1944 US releases Morgenthau Plan, a plan for occupation of post-war Germany and conversion of that country to an agrarian economy, with no industry that could be used to wage war.   

Books About General Military Topics

Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War by Mary Roach. 288 pages (June 7, 2016) W. W. Norton & Company. The author brings her unusual point of view to the behind the scenes facilities where planners, scientists and engineers work to discover and improve ways to make soldiers on the ground more comfortable, more survivable, and more effective. Her voracious curiosity and eye for humor light up areas including military clothing and textiles that are camouflaged and comfortable, improving life on submarines, reconstructive surgery for combat injuries, and coping with the shock and panic that afflict soldiers in war. No matter your background, you will learn a lot from this book.

Unwarranted Influence: Dwight D. Eisenhower and the Military-Industrial Complex by James Ledbetter. 280 pages (January 17, 2011) Yale University Press. The term "military-insudtrial complex" was coined by President Eisenhower in his farewell address (17 January 1961). Eisenhower warned that the alliance of industry with the Dept. of Defense was a potential danger to the free society of the United States. The last fifty years have proven him right in that the MIC has warped the economy and heavily influenced policy but wrong in that fundamental liberties have not been compromised. There have also been many benefits: a strong defense in a dangerous world as well as stimulation of investment in defense R&D that has had many spinoffs into the civilian economy, from space travel to computers. The book dives deeply into the origins and evolution of the MIC and shows how its influence has been greater than commonly understood.

Nobody's Horses: The Dramatic Rescue of the Wild Herd of White Sands by Don Höglund. 272 pages (September 19, 2006) Free Press. Veterinarian Don Höglund relates the story of the 1994 round-up and relocation of free-roaming horses from the U.S. Army's White Sands Missile Range to a wild horse sanctuary in Oklahoma. The horses were in danger on the top secret base, roaming across legendary New Mexico ranch lands, used for testing the atomic weapons that ended World War II, and that continues to serve to test modern day missiles, bombs and warheads. The round-up was anything but smooth and easy, even with experienced wranglers and full Army cooperation.

Leathernecks: An Illustrated History of the United States Marine Corps by Merrill L. Bartlett and Jack Sweetman. 479 pages (October 15, 2008) Naval Institute Press. This is a newly updated version of an established, well-regarded history of the USMC. Very detailed, yet highly readable with many historic photos, maps and illustrations. Even if you own other histories of the U.S. Marines, you will find new material and insights from this book.

Failures of the Presidents: From the Whiskey Rebellion and War of 1812 to the Bay of Pigs and War in Iraq by Thomas J. Craughwell and M. William Phelps. 320 pages (September 1, 2008) Fair Winds Press. This one volume history of United States policy blunders focuses on Presidential decisions that were ill conceived, failed to achieve their objectives, were excessively costly or all of the above. Beginning with George Washington's dispatch of a 13,000 man military expedition to Western Pennsylvania to crush the so-called Whiskey Rebellion in 1794, and continuing through President Bush's 2003 War in Iraq, the book's twenty chapters each explore one event in depth, revealing the situation at the time, the various forces acting on the President for and against the action, the President's reasoning and decisions, and the consequences. Most of these incidents involve the use of military force, the main tool at a Presidents disposal. Since the episodes in this book were selected for their bad outcomes, as determined by subsequent history, the Presidents involved are cast into a negative light. In this regard, the authors reveal a clear left-wing bias in their selection and presentation, particularly in the chapters on Vietnam and Iraq. Many of the other chapters feature use of force against labor organizers, minorities or immigrants with a clear progressive flavor to the discussion. Still, the authors do try to present more than one point of view to even out their text. As a quick reference to a fascinating series of essential American experiences, the book is very useful.

Finding the Target: The Transformation of American Military Policy by Frederick W. Kagan. 432 pages (September 2007) Encounter Books. The author, a noted national security analyst, describes the transformation of the American military services in the decades after the Vietnam War. The book is a deep consideration of the nature of threats and conflicts in the 21st Century vs. the ability of current and planned forces to deal with them. While generally praising the performance and professionalism of today's forces, he is critical of the concept of "network-centric warfare" where computer-based information systems replace traditional command and control mechanisms, pointing to failures in Iraq and Afghanistan that high technology could not solve or prevent.

U.S. Army Infantry by Major General Jerry A. White (Editor). 344 pages (January 8, 2008) National Infantry Association. This is the story of the American infantry, from 1600 to now, with detailed descriptions of ground operations illustrated by maps and photos. Forward by Colin Powell.

Sacred Ground: A Tribute to America's Veterans by Tom Ruck. 189 pages Regnery Publishing (November 13, 2007). This lovely and compelling book contains photographs and essays to show the history, meaning and physical beauty of American veterans' cemeteries. The quiet dignity of the locations along with the stories of those who rest there is a reminder of the courage and sacrifice of the veterans who have sustained the country.
Over Here: How the GI Bill Transformed the American Dream by Edward Humes. Hardcover: 336 pages (October 2006) Published by Harcourt; 1st edition. The G.I. Bill (officially the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944) was extraordinary legislation with effects on American society far beyond anyone's intentions. Conceived as a way to reward returning WW II servicemen, and to avoid a dangerous and politically embarrassing repeat of the WW I vet's Bonus March, the educational, home buying, and other G.I. Bill benefits became the leverage to propel the huge post-war expansion of the American economy and the explosion of the U.S. middle class. Before the war the U.S. was a blue collar country with expectations weighed down by the Depression. By the 1950s there was a huge cohort of college-educated professionals who owned their own homes in the newly constructed suburbs and whose children would never know the deprivations of earlier times. Economists may argue about how much of that would have happened without the G.I. Bill, but there is no question that the America of today was largely shaped by its direct and indirect effects. In Over Here, Humes explores how the G.I. Bill came to be, how the vets used it, what kind of lives they shaped because of it, and how the country as a whole benefited. He weaves the historical facts into the personal stories of seven individuals representing a spectrum of people and careers, showing the wide ranging and highly variable lives that were enriched. He also delves into the shameful discrimination that excluded African-Americans and other minorities, exactly as intended by segregationist sponsors of the law. Humes also exposes his own left-of-center viewpoint and political objectives, which sometimes detracts from the main theme, but does not spoil the book.
Mud: A Military History by C. E. Wood. Hardcover: 176 pages (May 2006) Published by Potomac Books. Historians and strategists generally overlook mud as a factor in war, but all veterans know its impact first hand. Wood -- himself a former U.S. Marine and soldier with a doctorate in history and a master’s in geography -- explores in detail the nature of mud, how it has impacted battles across the globe (Civil War, World Wars I and II, Vietnam, and Iraq among others), what it means to mobility and its effects on soldiers and their equipment.
Military Blunders by Michael Coffey. Paperback, 320 pages (September 2000) Published by Hyperion. This is the official companion volume to the History Channel documentary series "Military Blunders" covering strategic disasters and operational mishaps from WW I through Desert Storm. Provides a fresh perspective on many famous and little known battles, campaigns, and the schemes of the warring countries. Introduction by Mike Wallace.
Almost History by Roger Bruns. Hardcover, 224 pages (October 2000) Published by The Stonesong Press. A thought-provoking book on the alternative paths history might have taken at critical points where it could have gone either way. The best part of the book comes from the actual documents that were prepared for the outcome that didn't happen: Ike's apology for the D-Day failure, a British plan to invade the Soviet Union in 1945, McNamara's notes on plans to bomb Cuba in 1962, and a 1963 plan to withdraw from Vietnam. These and many more illuminate the details of historical events in a fascinating new way.
Armored Cav : A Guided Tour of an Armored Cavalry Regiment by Tom Clancy. Paperback, 325 pages, Published by Berkley Pub Group, Publication date: June 1997. Clancy gets inside the regiment's daily operations. Lots of material on ground mobility including a very personal chapter on the HMMWV. Paperback, 325 pages. Published by Berkley Pub Group. Publication date: June 1997
Army Dictionary and Desk Reference by Timothy Zurick, Tim Zurick. Defines some 3,500 terms and acronyms important to the modern US Army, identifying the branch of primary usage of each term. Includes 40 pages of reference tables, and the Code of Conduct for Members of the US Armed Forces.
Brassey's Book of Camouflage by Tim Newark, Quentin Newark, J. F. Borsarello. Hardcover, 144 pages. Published by Brasseys Inc. Publication date: December 1996. Also available in paperback. A comprehensive history of camouflage uniforms, the first ever published. Covers development of camouflage in the First and Second World Wars and goes on to describe the full range of camouflage uniforms in present use today. Contains fifty color plates of the main camouflage patterns plus 150 further color illustrations of current camouflage.
Jungle Snafus ... and Remedies by Major Cresson H. Kearny, (Ret.) Major Kearny served for years as the first and only Jungle Experiments Officer in the Panama Mobile Force, a unique position in the U.S. Army. That service began eight months before Pearl Harbor, and included direct involvement in the development and adoption of many of the specialized items used by Americans in jungles in World War II and in the Vietnam War. In the book he covers useful equipment needed to live, work, and fight in the jungles of the world based on his personal experiences of the testing and procurement difficulties as well as makes specific recommendations for the most useful and lifesaving items every soldier should have.
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