Wars and rumors of war, small clashes and major conflicts—the long catalog of man's belligerence runs on with no end in sight. Historians mine the past for new insights into old battles; novelists reconstruct past fights and speculate about future confrontations; scientists and engineers collaborate in the production of ever-more devastating weapons. All the while, politicians and military leaders fantasize about defensive technology in deep space and surgical missile strikes so accurate that there will be few civilian casualties no matter how fierce the fight.
Year after year the quarrels continue, and a spate of books—memoirs, scholarly tomes, histories, novels, coffee-table picture albums—adds to the record of military adventures. Some, not worth an inch of space on a library shelf, appear and disappear unnoticed. But the number of worthwhile and readable volumes is always a welcome surprise. The profession of arms may lose public support in times of peace, but books about practitioners of that profession—their triumphs and their disasters, on land and at sea—are produced at an impressive pace. No segment of the armed forces escapes scrutiny.