June 2022 Book Reviews

June 2022 Book Reviews

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Occupation Duty Requires Discipline

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The American Army in Germany, 1918–1923: Success Against the Odds. Dean Nowowiejski. University Press of Kansas. 376 pages. $49.95

By Col. Gregory Fontenot, U.S. Army retired

The American Army in Germany, 1918–1923: Success Against the Odds, by Dean Nowowiejski, makes an important contribution to the historiography of the U.S. Army and is a useful addition to every professional soldier’s library for several reasons. Nowowiejski’s analysis of the Army’s occupation of the Rhine bridgehead in the years after World War I illustrates the importance of end-of-war planning and actions, what is now called “consolidating gains.” For example, Maj. Gen. Henry Allen, in concert with the U. S. ambassador, stymied the efforts of revanchist France and Rhenish politicians to hive off the Rhineland from Germany. Also, the author illustrates the importance of maintaining a disciplined force in postwar transition operations.

There were several discrete phases in postwar operations. To assure that Germany complied with the Armistice of Nov. 11, 1918, arrangements, the Allies followed the Germans back to their homeland. Maj. Gen. Joseph Dickman’s newly organized Third Army led the U. S. contingent of 230,000 troops, organized in eight divisions, commanded by three corps. Moving this large force nearly 250 miles to the Rhine River in less than a month demonstrated the maturation of the U.S. Army. But getting to the Rhine was only the first task. Crossing the Rhine and occupying a bridgehead, prepared to continue east if Germany did not comply with the Armistice and eventual treaty, was the next mission. Finally, controlling and governing the U.S. sector did not conclude until 1923.

By May 1919, Third Army had drawn down to a single corps headquarters and four divisions. Yet the potential for war remained. Thankfully, that potential passed when the German government signed the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919. It took effect in January 1920.

The second phase of the Army’s work in Germany began with the deactivation of Third Army and the reassignment of most of its staff to what became American Forces in Germany (AFG). Allen trained and led the 90th Division in France, VIII Corps and finally the AFG. The author makes a compelling case that Allen was an inspired and inspiring leader who exhibited “the qualities that American generals still strive to master today.”

Allen was an effective chief executive and military governor. He worked effectively with the U.S. ambassador, his Allied counterparts and Rhenish officials. He understood how to train and believed the Army had an obligation to educate its soldiers and develop officers. Finally, he demonstrated flexibility. These are desirable traits for a general officer of any era.

Allen believed that only a professional, highly trained and disciplined force could perform the duties expected of the AFG. He transformed the force from “the rough-and-tumble days of the exhausted and homesick Third Army” to a combat-ready, well-respected contingent of the Allied occupying forces. Allen reorganized around remaining forces, but the bulk of the AFG from the end of 1919 on were recruits sent from the U.S., some of whom arrived “largely untrained.” Allen got a robust training program underway in late 1919 that he maintained until the AFG withdrew in 1923.

The American Army in Germany, 1918–1923 shows how Allen’s work as a military-diplomat turned the AFG into a first-rate organization that provided a working example on which to build in World War II. It should be on the bookshelf of all soldiers who think beyond guns and guidons.

Col. Gregory Fontenot, U.S. Army retired, commanded a tank battalion in Operation Desert Storm and an armor brigade in Bosnia. A former director of the School of Advanced Military Studies, his most recent book is Loss and Redemption at St. Vith: The Seventh Armored Division in the Battle of the Bulge.

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Turn the Pages for These Staff Rides

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Accomplishing the Impossible: Leadership That Launched Revolutionary Change. William Rapp. Knox Press. 256 pages. $28

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Battle Tested!: Gettysburg Leadership Lessons for 21st Century Leaders. Jeffrey McCausland and Tom Vossler. Post Hill Press. 272 pages. $27

By Col. Seanegan Sculley

Staff rides have been an integral part of education programs for military professionals for over a century. Utilizing both primary sources and the terrain upon which historic events occurred, staff rides involve active participation by students to teach leadership tenets and inspire the pursuit of lifelong learning.

Two recent books attempt to bring the concept of the staff ride to life through the study of both the early American Revolution and the Civil War.

Accomplishing the Impossible: Leadership That Launched Revolutionary Change, written by retired Maj. Gen. William Rapp, investigates the beginning of the War of Independence to tease out leadership lessons that can be derived from actions taken during both the Imperial Crisis and the first battles fought outside Boston in 1775. Battle Tested!: Gettysburg Leadership Lessons for 21st Century Leaders, by Jeffrey McCausland and retired Col. Tom Vossler, explores the three-day Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to accomplish the same goal.

The books take different approaches. Accomplishing the Impossible presents lessons learned on leadership, while Battle Tested! utilizes an active learning methodology to encourage further discussions.

In his introduction, Rapp explains that Accomplishing the Impossible is meant to be a written staff ride, using history to derive leadership lessons for business and public leaders. The chapters of the book are organized chronologically, starting with the Imperial Crisis of 1763–74, as Britain tried to tighten its controls over the American Colonies; continuing with Lexington and Concord and the Battle of Bunker Hill, all in Massachusetts; George Washington taking command of the Continental Army; and concluding with the strategy that forced the British out of Boston in March 1776.

Each chapter starts with historical context, then delves into leadership lessons Rapp believes most important for the reader to learn from the events. While the bibliography is rather brief—the author explicitly states that this is not meant to be a new military history of 1775—Rapp’s expertise on leadership is on full display, and the second appendix provides over 30 pages of useful primary documents.

Battle Tested! is written in a format more closely aligned with how staff rides are conducted. Where Rapp presents the lessons, McCausland and Vossler provide questions that encourage readers to engage with the history.

In their introduction, the authors use a brief definition of leadership attributed to President Dwight Eisenhower—“the ability to decide what has to be done and get people to want to do it”—then present 12 chapters that focus on key events during the Battle of Gettysburg, concluding with President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

Each chapter is organized around a leadership vignette, first giving context, then asking a central question for the reader to consider, followed by a discussion on certain leadership tenets. Combined with modern maps depicting tactical situations at the time of decision-making, each chapter promotes active learning and could serve as a guide for anyone wishing to take students on a staff ride.

Both books succeed in their primary goal of educating readers on the importance of studying the past to learn leadership lessons for the present. Accomplishing the Impossible provides those lessons as a stand-alone study on leadership. For those looking to learn about leadership (or impart leadership lessons to groups of students) in an active way, Battle Tested! provides an effective guide.

Col. Seanegan Sculley is an associate professor at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York, teaching Colonial and frontier American history. He holds a doctorate in history from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

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Tracing the Lives of Valorous Soldiers From the 3rd ID

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Against All Odds: A True Story of Ultimate Courage and Survival in World War II. Alex Kershaw. Dutton Caliber. 368 pages. $30

By Lt. Col. Tim Stoy, U.S. Army retired

Against All Odds: A True Story of Ultimate Courage and Survival in World War II is the masterfully written, exhaustively researched story of four Medal of Honor recipients: Capt. Maurice Britt, Lt. Audie Murphy, Lt. Col. Keith Ware and Lt. Michael Daly. Their stories are placed within the impressive combat narrative of the famous 3rd Infantry Division, which fought in 10 campaigns in the Mediterranean and European Theaters of World War II, beginning with Operation Torch on Nov. 8, 1942, at Fedala, French Morocco. The division executed four more amphibious landings—at Sicily, Salerno and Anzio in Italy, and in southern France—the last on Aug. 15, 1944. It spent 531 days in combat, suffered 25,977 casualties, and had 44 Medal of Honor recipients, the most of any division in the Army.

This story begins with Britt, who participated in Operation Torch as a lieutenant. From a poor family in Arkansas, he worked hard as a teenager to support his family and became a standout athlete in high school before attending the University of Arkansas, starring on the football team and earning the nickname “Footsie.” He was signed by the Detroit Lions and was a solid starter before he was drafted into the Army near the end of the 1941 season. Author Alex Kershaw describes Britt’s baptism by fire in Morocco, setting the stage for Britt’s future exploits.

Readers meet Murphy during the Sicily campaign, where he faced his first combat. Although Murphy’s hardscrabble youth is well known, Kershaw makes the material fresh and interesting. The reader follows Murphy’s development as a combat soldier in Sicily, then meets his company commander—Capt. Keith Ware. Ware had started the war as a draftee but attended Officer Training School and was commissioned. He also endured a difficult youth, forced by his father’s early death when Ware was 12 to work to support his family. 

Kershaw follows Britt, Murphy and Ware through the Sicilian and Italian campaigns. Each was committed to taking care of his soldiers, leading them in situations in which their exploits were recognized with multiple valor awards. The stories of their Medal of Honor actions will leave the reader slack-jawed, wondering how they survived the storm of steel they encountered while defeating enemy forces.

Daly was a young man from a prominent Connecticut family whose father was a decorated World War I veteran. Daly intentionally failed out of West Point as a plebe and enlisted as an infantryman, was assigned to the 1st Infantry Division and received a Silver Star fighting in Normandy, France, before being wounded in September 1944. His father was a good friend of U.S. Seventh Army commander Gen. Alexander Patch from their days in World War I. Patch pulled Daly up to work at his headquarters during Daly’s recovery, secured him a commission, and had him assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division.

Kershaw follows each man through their Medal of Honor actions and to war’s end, then continues to cover their postwar lives. He adds stories of other 3rd Infantry Division Medal of Honor recipients whose exploits match those of the four primary actors in the book.

Kershaw’s superb writing makes this book impossible to put down once one starts reading. It belongs in everyone’s library as a record of the heroism and combat excellence of American soldiers and the 3rd Infantry Division.

Lt. Col. Tim Stoy, U.S. Army retired, is a military historian. He served 31 years in the Army as an infantry and foreign area officer.

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General’s Career a Model of Excellence

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Danger Forward: The Forgotten Wars of General Paul F. Gorman. Mike Guardia. Magnum Books. 290 pages. $24.95

By Col. Steven Patarcity, U.S. Army retired

I did not know of Gen. Paul Gorman before receiving Mike Guardia’s Danger Forward: The Forgotten Wars of General Paul F. Gorman. Upon learning more about the general, it is clear Guardia’s decision to undertake this biography was an excellent one. Gorman’s accomplishments may have only been noted by those who served with him closely, as he retired almost 40 years ago, with his last assignment as commander of the U.S. Southern Command. However, when I read of this soldier’s deeds, it made me wonder why his name is not better known.

Gorman was a U.S. Military Academy graduate of the Class of 1950. His service, however, began as a sailor during World War II. His 35-year career as an Army officer took him from combat in Korea with the 32nd Infantry Regiment, where he was decorated with the Silver Star, to company command in Germany, then to combat again in Vietnam, where he commanded the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, in the pitched Battle of Bong Trang.

In this battle, Gorman was severely wounded, but he continued to encourage his soldiers, reorganize his defenses as needed, and call in artillery and air support. For his bravery under fire and his leadership of the battalion, Gorman received the Distinguished Service Cross. He would return to Vietnam as commander of the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, and he eventually would command the 8th Infantry Division in Germany.

Gorman’s service took him to many unlikely assignments, such as organizing the Vietnam Study Task Force, which produced the Pentagon Papers, serving with the U.S. contingent during the Paris Peace Talks and heading up the Board for Dynamic Training, which then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. William Westmoreland developed in an attempt to revitalize collective training.

This assignment proved prescient, as Gorman’s greatest contribution to the Army was almost certainly in training, both for developing the Army Training and Evaluation Program and for his persistence in embracing the integration of modern technology. Even after his retirement, Gorman continued his lifetime of service as a member of three White House commissions as well as a consultant for the Defense Science Board and the Institute for Defense Analyses. During that time, Gorman even found time with his wife to start a winery in Virginia, which their family runs to this day.

Danger Forward is a great story of a consummate soldier, a professional who strove for excellence in everything he did or was ordered to do. I highly recommend this book as a great example of inspired leadership and what can be accomplished when it is present. Guardia has done a service with his well-written and fascinating account of one of America’s almost-forgotten warriors.

Col. Steve Patarcity, U.S. Army retired, is a civilian strategic planner on the staff of the Office of the Chief of Army Reserve, the Pentagon. He retired in 2010 after 33 years of service in the active Army and the U.S. Army Reserve, which included military police and armor assignments in the U.S., Kuwait and Iraq.