Some warriors are drawn to the thrill of combat and find it the defining moment of their lives. Others fall victim to fear, exhaustion, impaired reasoning, and despair. This was certainly true for twentieth-century American ground troops. Whether embracing or being demoralized by war, these men risked their lives for causes larger than themselves with no promise of safe return.
Focusing on both soldiers and marines, Peter S. Kindsvatter draws on histories and memoirs, oral histories, psychological and sociological studies, and even fiction to show that their experiences remain fundamentally the same regardless of the enemy, terrain, training, or weaponry.
Kindsvatter gets inside the minds of American soldiers to reveal what motivated them to serve and how they were turned into soldiers. He re-creates the physical and emotional aspects of war to tell how fighting men dealt with danger and hardship, and he explores the roles of comradeship, leadership, and the sustaining beliefs in cause and country. He also illuminates soldiers' attitudes toward the enemy, toward the rear echelon, and toward the home front. And he tells why some broke down under fire while others excelled.
Here are the first tastes of battle, as when a green recruit reported that "for the first time I realized that the people over the ridge wanted to kill me," while another was befuddled by the unfamiliar sound of bullets whizzing overhead. Here are soldiers struggling to cope with war's stress by seeking solace from local women or simply smoking cigarettes. And here are tales of combat avoidance and fraggings not unique to Vietnam, of soldiers in Korea disgruntled over home-front indifference, and of the unique experiences of African American soldiers in the Jim Crow army.
By capturing the core "band of brothers" experience across several generations of warfare, Kindsvatter celebrates the American soldier while helping us to better understand war's lethal reality-and why soldiers persevere in the face of its horrors.
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"From boot training to combat, from chow to dysentery, author Peter Kindsvatter characterizes military life in the U.S. campaigns in WWI and II, Korea, and Vietnam. Into this mixture of vignettes go the thoughts and opinions of hundreds of combatants and correspondents. Narrator Joshua Swanson, when faced with an inexhaustible supply of brief quotes, pauses slightly before each to set them apart. But his addition of numerous hesitations between words makes his timing irritating for the listener. With little change in volume or emotion, Swanson also fails to add energy to the long disquisition. An excellent section at the end about the integration of blacks into the military in 1949 exposes the little-publicized racial conflicts and inequities that persisted long after the policy revision. J.A.H. (c) AudioFile 2011, Portland, Maine"
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