Book Reviews

The title of this book is taken from the editor's underlying theme: that the U.S. armed forces belong to its citizens, which include women. American citizens—a majority of whom are female—have a responsibility for what the military is, and what it does. Thus the book's declarative title is a response to those who oppose advancing the status of military women, proclaiming "Not in my Army/Navy/Air Force/Marine Corps!" The book's stated purpose is "to encourage civilians, especially women civilians, to accept and to to exercise that responsibility," while acting as an intellectual catalyst toward that end. It is successful on both counts-and more.

The book is edited by political scientist Judith Stiehm (of the Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College) whose earlier books Bring Me Men and Women: Mandated Change at the U.S. Air Force Academy and Arms and the Enlisted Woman are definitive works. It's Our Military Too! is divided into three parts: personal essays from active-duty women; a "just-the-facts" portion; and several essays by "civilian feminist intellectuals" with no military experience. The latter section, titled "Reflection and Speculation," seeks to stimulate further inquiry into the relationships among American society, gender roles, and the profession of arms.

Two authors of the three essays written by active-duty military women, are anonymous. My basic distrust of critics who hide behind pseudonyms leads me to discount their contributions accordingly. On the other hand, the essay "The Creation of Army Officers and the Gender Lie: Betty Grable or Frankenstein" makes some astute—albeit overstated—points on gender "integration" at the U.S. Military Academy and the Army in general. The essay, written by Lieutenant Colonel Rhonda Cornum—the Army flight surgeon shot down and taken prisoner during the Gulf War—is worth the price of the entire book. Again reflecting my own bias, Cornum's first-hand views on the importance of individuals identifying with the unit—not the race or gender of the members—certainly applies to naval aviation as well.

While Stiehm suggests that her book is targeted especially to women civilians, I recommend it strongly for men and women in uniform as well. Its variety of topics is one of its strongest features. The book is full of solid information—including chapters on military nursing, African-American women in the armed forces, and weapon design—that is useful for all military professionals. Provocative discussions on "Pernicious Cohesion," the various pros and cons of the women-in-combat debate, and "Telling the War Story" also add to our vocational repertoire.

Perhaps the most original contribution is Stiehm's own essay on "The Civilian Mind." Since all Americans—in and out of uniform—are both citizens and taxpayers, this chapter applies to everyone. Stiehm's perspective on the way the armed forces are viewed by the civilian population we defend has particular significance in this post-Cold War era of budget cuts, force-structure revision, and debate on civil-military affairs. It is a must read for all who wish to follow the upcoming Quadrennial Defense Review and National Defense Panel.

Captain Mariner is a career naval aviator. She is a Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff professor of Military Strategy at the National War College in Washington, D.C., and is a member of the Naval Institute’s Editorial Board.

 

Marine: A Guided Tour of a Marine Expeditionary Unit

Tom Clancy. New York, NY: Berkley Books, 1996. 336 pp. Photos. Illus. $16.00 ($14.40) Paper.

Reviewed by Colonel Michael D. Wyly, U.S. Marine Corps (Retired)

"Marines are America . . . the history of America is the history of the Marine Corps." With these words, Tom Clancy captures the distinguishing difference between Marines and the other services. For Marines, the difference is the people and the code by which they live; for others, it is the Marine Corps' organization, mission, and equipment. The Corps' uniquely American "warrior's code," according to the author, "caused me to give my primary novel character, Jack Ryan, a Marine background .... [Marine] ethics, morals, and character [are] central to Jack." He reaches his conclusion after weeks of living among Marines afloat and in the field, and writing about them. Marine is the fourth in a series of nonfiction works that includes Submarine , Armored Cav , and Fighter Wing , and is aptly subtitled "The Facts Behind the Fiction."

Marine is an unusual assembly of interviews, observations, and technical tutorial. Clancy's dialogue with General Charles C. Krulak, Commandant of the Marine Corps, encapsulated in a chapter called "The Warrior Prince," is the essence of the book. We see the modern model of leadership, a successful melding of old-school discipline and honor, down from the ivory tower of yesterday, responding to E-mail from privates and corporals. Perhaps it is because General Krulak's baptism of fire occurred down at the platoon level that he relates especially well to young Marines.

Clancy documents an instructive visit with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit and the 2d Battalion, 6th Marines, with its tough-as-nails but intellectual commander—Lieutenant Colonel John Allen—and his ready-to-go Marines. He reports their daily activities, a life without a routine because it defies routine, which civilian readers will learn is a life of hard work, attention to duty, and constant preparedness. His visit with Gunnery Sergeant James Hazzard at his recruiting station—and his observation that Marine recruiting is about "finding young people and showing them a path to a life of service with honor"—will be an eye-opener to school counselors and parents, grown up in post-conscription America.

None of this would have been necessary in the 1950s. In that era, when every qualified male donned a military uniform at sometime in his life, this book would have been unnecessary. Americans already would have known about the slang, the weaponry, and the life-style that a novelist now has to explain as if it were a culture from another planet. But today, such a book serves a useful purpose. Civilians can learn what we do.

Clancy's tutorial on Marine weapons serves as a primer-like review of the infantryman's arsenal. He admits he likes guns with a passion, perhaps more of a passion than today's politically correct society will tolerate.

The final 50 pages of the book begin and end as a miniature version of the Clancy novel. This one is set in the 21st century, a series of "Marines-to-the rescue" scenarios to maintain an enduring Pax Americana .

Clancy paints the Marines as we like to see ourselves-tough infantry fighters, who draw as much strength from personal character as from our weapons. But in his 21st century forecast, he unwittingly betrays his own thesis by postulating only flash situations that are quickly resolved—what the Pentagon likes to call situations "short of war." The killing is technological, accomplished surgically at long range. He suffers from the same delusion that so many authors did during the technological revolution preceding 1914. In so doing, unintentionally, he ignores what every Vietnam veteran knows, and the next generation is quickly forgetting. Wars, when they really are wars—as were Vietnam, Korea, the World Wars, the Civil War, and the War for American Independence—are like plagues and famines—they are long-term tragedies, not sudden and passing jolts like earthquakes or tornadoes. They test every ounce of character and the ability to endure long, drawn-out, and seemingly endless ordeals. Desert Storm, the 1991 evacuation of Mogadishu, and lightning operations in Libya, Panama. and Haiti are anomalies—flare-ups, resolved quickly, seemingly by technology, but more so by the pettiness of their political origin. The real tests of the mettle of Marines have been the repeated slaughters of World War I, the long bloody haul across the Pacific in World War II, the ordeal at frozen Chosin, and the nightly point-blank infantry fights of Vietnam. Clancy gets it right: "Marines will always be the best trained warriors in the world." But the reader should not put down the book thinking that 21st century conflict will be resolved as quickly or as bloodlessly as in Clancy's fantasy of technological heroism.

Colonel Wyly served two combat tours in Vietnam as a company-grade infantry officer. He has written extensively on tactics and was a member of the maneuver warfare panel at the Naval Institute’s 1996 Tidewater Symposium & Exposition.

 

Old Soldiers Never Die: The Life of Douglas MacArthur

Geoffrey Perret. New York, NY: Random House, 1996. 590 pp. Ind. Maps. Photos. Notes. $32.50 ($29.25).

Reviewed by Lieutenant Colonel Merrill L. Bartlett, U.S. Marine Corps (Retired)

I never met General Douglas MacArthur, or even saw him in person, until his death. A Basic School classmate, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, remarked that MacArthur had just died and he recalled for us the memorable speech delivered at West Point in 1962. Fascinated by the account, a handful of us agreed to make the short journey to Washington and pay homage to this larger-than-life figure laying in state in the rotunda of the Capitol. Then, and now, MacArthur had his admirers—who stood in long lines for hours to pay their respects—and his critics, such as President Harry Truman who raged that MacArthur was a "prima donna, brass hat, and a bunco man." He was, to paraphrase Evelyn Waugh, the quintessential 20th century American hero—and he could have lived in no time but his own and as nothing but a warrior.

This hefty volume, the third serious biography of MacArthur, begs the question: What new is there to reveal? For nearly a decade, D. Clayton James's fine study remained the standard for scholarship on this most enigmatic character. In 1975 Little, Brown brought out William Manchester's hagiographic tome on MacArthur, but serious students of military history faulted it for significant lapses in scholarship and journalism seemingly run amok. Other readers excused Manchester's slipshod research and unreliable end notes by exclaiming that his demonstrated gifts as a writer somehow excused him from the standards of less-exalted historians. In this new attempt to unravel the mercurial MacArthur, Geoffrey Perret has shown that, while his scholarship might not be quite up to the standard set by D. Clayton James, his writing skills are just as pristine as those of the venerable Manchester. In the process, Perret demonstrates a remarkable ability to analyze and explain the myriad benchmarks in MacArthur's life that propelled him onto the stage of the American Century for more than five decades and through three wars.

MacArthur returned from the Western Front as the most decorated American soldier of World War I. By then, his exploits, heroism, and eccentric indifference to Army uniform regulations had made him a legend within the Rainbow Division. But even the smothering force of his indefatigable mother, who appears prominently and decisively in this volume, could not gain for him the coveted Medal of Honor. After the Armistice, when other senior officers faced reduction in rank because of the peacetime draw down, MacArthur returned to West Point as its superintendent, still a brigadier general. During that tour, he turned the hidebound institution on its ear and sharpened its focus on the business of preparing cadets to lead an army into the next war. He ended what normally would have been the final chapter in his career as Chief of Staff of the Army. The author's interpretation of MacArthur's role in the military and naval hierarchy of the Hoover administration is closer to the mark than most, but he sidesteps his subject's role in supporting President Hoover's plans for deeper reductions in defense spending. And the Hoover-MacArthur plan for the Army to absorb the Marine Corps' amphibious assault mission—and by default, the Corps itself—fails to receive any mention.

Most observers seem to have forgotten that MacArthur's posting to the Philippines prior to World War II was as a military adviser, in the status of a retired officer. Only when war clouds enveloped the Pacific was he restored to the active list. From the day that the first Japanese bombs fell on the Philippines until MacArthur's ouster from command during the Korean Conflict, he surrounded himself with a tightly knit clique of subordinates. The author lays bare the infelicities of such fawning "horse-holders" as Richard K. Sutherland (chief of staff), Charles A. Willoughby (intelligence officer), Sidney Huff (aide-de-camp), and Courtney Whitney (publicity officer and chief drum beater). Other subordinates, such as corps commanders Walter Krueger and Robert Eichelberger, simply were used and then discarded. Once and for all, the author corrects the record with regard to a number of MacArthur's shibboleths, such as his first marriage, General Pershing's supposed anger over a subordinate "stealing" his girlfriend, and the claims that MacArthur loaded tons of personnel possessions and sacks of money out of the Philippines onto precious deck spaces. MacArthur's triumphant return to the Philippines loses much of its luster in the eyes of the author, as the drive to recapture Luzon becomes a dull, costly slog through the jungles that had lost the interest of the invasion's architect. In Perret's view, MacArthur's claim to greatness was deflected by his penchant for selective insubordination, and his willingness to involve himself in political stratagems and intrigues. He concludes that while MacArthur was both vainglorious and brilliant, he never was close to being the greatest soldier of this century.

Still, as a historian, the author finds himself at sea occasionally with his discussion of naval tactics. His account of the Battle of the Philippine Sea is muddled and confusing, and he is quick to join Halsey's critics for the seaborne dash away from the amphibious objective area in hopes of engaging the larger Japanese naval force. Although Perret ascribes military genius to MacArthur for masterminding the decisive amphibious assault behind the North Korean lines at Inchon in 1950, he misses the importance of Admiral Forrest P. Sherman's visit to Tokyo and the power of the Chief of Naval Operations in lining up the lesser naval flag officers to support the dangerous and daring operation. Other glitches occur as well: a photograph of MacArthur in World War I proclaims that he earned "seven silver crosses" instead of seven silver stars; and a reference to a vignette about a pompous retired officer in the service of another country at an exalted rank appeared first in a letter home from one Marine Corps brigadier general to another, and the subject of that rebuke was none other than Smedley D. Butler.

Even with the appearance of this fine volume, attempts to unravel the complex character of General Douglas MacArthur will continue. For some, he remains "a military blunderer and grade-A charlatan," while to others, MacArthur continues to be revered as "a great soldier and patriot." Only the initiatives and imperatives of the American Century could have spawned someone like Douglas MacArthur, and it is not likely that anyone so remarkable will ever appear again. Geoffrey Perret has produced a thoughtful and provocative volume—one that will be difficult for a reader to lay aside, once begun.

Colonel Bartlett taught history at the U.S. Naval Academy from 1977 to 1982, where he won the William P. Clements Award as the outstanding military educator of 1980. He won the Robert D. Heinl Jr. Award in Marine Corps history in 1980 and 1987, and has authored four books, the most recent being Pete Ellis: An Amphibious Prophet, 1880-1893 (Naval Institute Press: 1996).

 

Hazardous Duty

Col. David Hackworth, USA (Ret). New York, NY: Morrow, 1996. 326 pp. Gloss. Ind. $27.00 ($24.30).

Reviewed by James Blackwell

America's most celebrated Vietnam War penitent, David Hackworth, tells us in his latest book of an incident during his odyssey in Australia, in which some school children asked him to show them his medals and tell some war stories. Hackworth then describes a weird ceremony he staged to give his decorations away to the children, but says that he ". . . didn't much feel like telling the stories." He saved those for this book, and he does not disappoint us.

Colonel Hackworth has two broad themes in this book. One is that "No one knows more about life and death than a combat soldier." He makes this point by telling a series of war stories from the conflicts of the past six years: the Persian Gulf War, Bosnia, Somalia, and Haiti. Interspersed are vignettes from his own past, and three episodes of non-war events: his 1993 return trip to Vietnam; the 1994 Korean crisis, which he calls a "phony war;" and the suicide of Admiral J.M. Boorda, Chief of Naval Operations, in May 1996. Hackworth carries this theme superbly.

I know of no other contemporary author who tells of war from the soldier's perspective as effectively as David Hackworth. In fact, there probably has not been anyone this good since Ernest Hemingway. Hackworth rightly criticizes the U.S. media—his present employer—for losing the skill at combat journalism once so admired in Ernie Pyle and others like him. Hackworth's best prose is in Chapter Three, where he describes the brutality of the conflict in the former Yugoslavia. His best research is in Chapter Six, in which he tracks down the story of the disaster in Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1993. He tells his stories in the vernacular of the soldier throughout the book, so I will not have my 11-year-old daughter read this—but I will make sure that my 17-year-old son reads it before he finishes high school.

Colonel Hackworth has two obsessions when it comes to praising soldiers. One is his own opinion that the generals and admirals in charge of our soldiers today are not up the task of leading them. Hackworth reviles—by name in many cases—all but a few who hold flag rank today. Those he believes to be worthy of the rank can be counted on the fingers of one hand. I find it hard to agree with Hackworth here. The other obsession he has is with the weapons and equipment in the hands of warriors today. He correctly points out that individual equipment—weapons, body armor, clothing, etc.—has seen nothing near the investment that has characterized the more-complex weapon systems.

Colonel Hackworth's second, larger point is that the U.S. armed forces are in the grips of a dangerous "Military Industrial Congressional Complex." I am not persuaded here either. The reader also will be disappointed with Hackworth's solutions to the problems he identifies. There is indeed much that needs to change within the U.S. military, but Hackworth needs to devote more time -and study to understanding how the defense establishment works today, before his analysis of this theme can rise to the inspiring heights of his combat prose.

Every soldier should read this book; you will be swept up vicariously into the world of war in a way that will serve as preparation for the real thing. Every military leader—including the Commander-in-Chief—should read this book; you will be provoked into self-examination of your own leadership, even though you ultimately may conclude that the shoe does not fit.

Dr. Blackwell is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy and a retired Army officer. He is a military consultant for CNN, and is the author of On Brave Old Army Team: The Cheating Scandal That Rocked a Nation (Novato, CA: Presidio Press, 1996).

 

 
 

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