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History > Military History > Biographies and Memoirs

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A Different Face of War

Memories of a Medical Service Corps Officer in Vietnam

James G. Van Straten

A Different Face of War is a riveting account of a Medical Service Corps officer’s activities during the early years of the Vietnam War. Assigned as the senior medical advisor to the Army of the Republic of Vietnam in I Corps, an area close to the DMZ, James G. Van Straten traveled extensively and interacted with military officers and non-commissioned officers, peasant-class farmers, Buddhist bonzes, shopkeepers, scribes, physicians, nurses, the mentally ill, and even political operatives. He sent his wife daily letters from July 1966 through June 1967, describing in impressive detail his experiences, and those letters became the primary source for his memoir. The author describes with great clarity and poignancy the anguish among the survivors when an American cargo plane in bad weather lands short of the Da Nang Air Base runway on Christmas Eve and crashes into a Vietnamese coastal village, killing more than 100 people and destroying their village; the heart-wrenching pleadings of a teenage girl that her shrapnel-ravaged leg not be amputated; and the anger of an American helicopter pilot who made repeated trips into a hot landing zone to evacuate the wounded, only to have the Vietnamese insist that the dead be given a higher priority.

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Dogface Soldier

The Life of General Lucian K. Truscott, Jr.

Wilson A. Heefner

On July 11, 1943, General Lucian Truscott received the Army's second-highest decoration, the Distinguished Service Cross, for valor in action in Sicily. During his career he also received the Army Distinguished Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, and the Purple Heart. Truscott was one of the most significant of all U.S. Army generals in World War II, pioneering new combat training methods—including the famous “Truscott Trot”— and excelling as a combat commander, turning the Third Infantry Division into one of the finest divisions in the U.S. Army. He was instrumental in winning many of the most important battles of the war, participating in the invasions of North Africa, Sicily, Anzio, and southern France. Truscott was not only respected by his peers and “dogfaces”—common soldiers—alike but also ranked by President Eisenhower as second only to Patton, whose command he took over on October 8, 1945, and led until April 1946.

 

            Yet no definitive history of his life has been compiled. Wilson Heefner corrects that with the first authoritative biography of this distinguished American military leader. Heefner has undertaken impressive research in primary sources—as well as interviews with family members and former associates—to shed new light on this overlooked hero. He presents Truscott as a soldier who was shaped by his upbringing, civilian and military education, family life, friendships, and evolving experiences as a commander both in and out of combat.

 

Heefner’s brisk narrative explores Truscott’s career through his three decades in the Army and defines his roles in key operations. It also examines Truscott’s postwar role as military governor of Bavaria, particularly in improving living conditions for Jewish displaced persons, removing Nazis from civil government, and assisting in the trials of German war criminals. And it offers the first comprehensive examination of his subsequent career in the Central Intelligence Agency, where he served as senior CIA representative in West Germany during the early days of the Cold War, and later as CIA Director Allen Dulles’s deputy director for coordination in Washington.

 

Dogface Soldier is a portrait of a man who earned a reputation for being honest, forthright, fearless, and aggressive, both as a military officer and in his personal life—a man who, at the dedication ceremony for the Anzio-Nettuno American cemetery in 1945, turned away from the crowd and to the thousands of crosses stretching before him to address those buried there. Heefner has written a definitive biography of a great soldier and patriot.

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Donut Dolly

An American Red Cross Girl's War in Vietnam

Joann Puffer Kotcher

Donut Dolly puts you in the Vietnam War face down in the dirt under a sniper attack, inside a helicopter being struck by lightning, at dinner next to a commanding general, and slogging through the mud along a line of foxholes. You see the war through the eyes of one of the first women officially allowed in the combat zone. When Joann Puffer Kotcher left for Vietnam in 1966, she was fresh out of the University of Michigan with a year of teaching, and a year as an American Red Cross Donut Dolly in Korea. All she wanted was to go someplace exciting. In Vietnam, she visited troops from the Central Highlands to the Mekong Delta, from the South China Sea to the Cambodian border. At four duty stations, she set up recreation centers and made mobile visits wherever commanders requested. That included Special Forces Teams in remote combat zone jungles. She brought reminders of home, thoughts of a sister or the girl next door. Officers asked her to take risks because they believed her visits to the front lines were important to the men. Every Vietnam veteran who meets her thinks of her as a brother-at-arms. Donut Dolly is Kotcher’s personal view of the war, recorded in a journal kept during her tour, day by day as she experienced it. It is a faithful representation of the twists and turns of the turbulent, controversial time. While in Vietnam, Kotcher was once abducted; dodged an ambush in the Delta; talked with a true war hero in a hospital who had charged a machine gun; and had a conversation with a prostitute. A rare account of an American Red Cross volunteer in Vietnam, Donut Dolly will appeal to those interested in the Vietnam War, to those who have interest in the military, and to women aspiring to go beyond the ordinary.

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Double Duty in the Civil War

The Letters of Sailor and Soldier Edward W. Bacon

Edited by George S. Burkhardt

Editor George Burkhardt has brought together letters and diary entries of Edward W. Bacon, a Union sailor and soldier who served as a captain’s clerk in the navy and as a captain in the 29th Connecticut Infantry (Colored). The correspondence gives a unique view of ship and camp life and makes evident the close-knit family life Bacon enjoyed, particularly with his father, Leonard Bacon, a prominent minister who spoke against slavery.

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Escape from Archangel

An American Merchant Seaman at War

Thomas E. Simmons

During World War II, merchant marine tankers in convoys plied the frozen North Atlantic through the flaming wreckage of torpedoed ships. Working to keep sea lanes open, valiant merchant seamen supplied food, fuel, and goods to the Allies in the last pockets of European resistance to the Nazis.

This exciting book acknowledges that the merchant marines, all volunteers, are among the unsung heroes of the war. One of these was Jac Smith, an ordinary seamen on the Cedar Creek, a new civilian tanker lend-leased to the U.S.S.R. and in the merchantman convoy running from Scotland to Murmansk. Smith's riveting adventures at sea and in the frozen taigas and tundra are a story of valor that underlines the essential role of merchant marines in the war against the Axis powers.

This gripping narrative tells of a cruel blow that fate dealt Smith when, after volunteering to serve on the tanker headed for Murmansk, he was arrested and interned in a Soviet work camp near Arkhangelsk.

Escape from Archangel recounts how this American happened to be imprisoned in an Allied country and how he planned and managed his escape. In his arduous 900-mile trek to freedom, he encountered the remarkable Laplanders of the far north and brave Norwegian resistance fighters. While telling this astonishing story of Jac Smith and of the awesome dangers merchant seamen endured while keeping commerce alive on the seascape of war, Escape from Archangel brings long-deserved attention to the role of the merchant marine and their sacrifices during wartime.

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Escape from Hitler's Europe

An American Airman behind Enemy Lines

George Watt

"A hell of an adventure story." -- Ring Lardner Jr. "A story of what is best in human beings triumphing over what is worst." -- John Sayles November 1943: American flyer George Watt parachutes out of his burning warplane and lands in rural Nazi-occupied Belgium. Escape from Hitler's Europe is the incredible story of his getaway -- how brave villagers spirited him to Brussels to connect with the Comet Line, a rescue arm of the Belgian resistance. This was a gravely dangerous mission, especially for a Jewish soldier who had fought against Franco in the Spanish Civil War. Watt recounts dodging the Gestapo, entering Paris via the underground, and finally, crossing the treacherous Pyrenees into Spain. In 1985, he returned to Belgium and discovered an astonishing postscript to his wartime experiences.

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Every Day a Nightmare

American Pursuit Pilots in the Defense of Java, 1941-1942

William H. Bartsch; Foreword by Anthony Weller

In December 1941, the War Department sent two transports and a freighter carrying 103 P-40 fighters and their pilots to the Philipines to bolster Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s Far East Air Force. They were then diverted to Australia, with new orders to ferry the P-40s to the Philippines from Australia through the Dutch East Indies. But on the same day as the second transport reached its destination on January 12, 1942, the first of the key refueling stops in the East Indies fell to rapidly advancing Japanese forces, resulting in a break in their ferry route and another change in their orders.   This time the pilots would fly their aircraft to Java to participate in the desperate Allied defense of that ultimate Japanese objective. Except for the pilots from the Philippines, almost all of the other pilots eventually assigned to the five provisional pursuit squadrons ordered to Java were recent graduates of flying school with just a few hours on the P-40. Only forty-three of them made it to their assigned destination; the rest suffered accidents in Australia, were shot down over Bali and Darwin, or were lost in the sinking of the USS Langley as it carried thirty-two of them to Java. Even those who did reach the secret field on Java wondered if they had been sacrificed for no purpose. As the Japanese air assault intensified daily, the Allied defense collapsed. Only eleven Japanese aircraft fell to the P-40s.   Author William H. Bartsch has pored through personal diaries and memoirs of the participants, cross-checking these primary sources against Japanese aerial combat records of the period and supplementing them with official records and other American, Dutch, and Australian accounts. Bartsch’s thorough and meticulous research yields a narrative that situates the Java pursuit pilots’ experiences within the context of the overall strategic situation in the early days of the Pacific theater.  

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Exposing the Third Reich

Colonel Truman Smith in Hitler's Germany

Henry G. Gole. foreword by Edward M. Coffman

As World War II recedes from living memory, there remain untold stories of important behind-the-scenes operatives who provided vital support to the leaders celebrated in historical accounts. Colonel Truman Smith is one of the most compelling figures from this period, but there has never been a biography of this important and controversial man. In Exposing the Third Reich, Henry G. Gole tells this soldier's story for the first time.

An American aristocrat from a prominent New England family, Smith was first assigned to Germany in 1919 during the Allied occupation and soon became known as a regional expert. During his second assignment in the country as a military attach? in 1935, he arranged for his good friend Charles Lindbergh to inspect the Luftwaffe. The Germans were delighted to have the famous aviator view their planes, enabling Smith to gather key intelligence about their air capability. His savvy cultivation of relationships rendered him invaluable throughout his service, particularly as an aide to General George C. Marshall; however, the colonel's friendliness with Germany also aroused suspicion that he was a Nazi sympathizer.

Gole demonstrates that, far from condoning Hitler, Smith was among the first to raise the alarm: he predicted many of the Nazis' moves years in advance and feared that the international community would not act quickly enough. Featuring many firsthand observations of the critical changes in Germany between the world wars, this biography presents an indispensable look both at a fascinating figure and at the nuances of the interwar years.

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Fighting Fascism in Europe

The World War II Letters of an American Veteran of the Spanish Civil War

David Cane

On his first day in basic training in 1942, Lawrence Cane wrote his wife Grace from Fort Dix, New Jersey. I'm in the army now?really!he wrote, complaining, I don't have enough time to write a decent letter.Three years later, Capt. Lawrence Cane went home from World War II. He'd landed at Utah Beach on D-Day, helped liberate France and Belgium, and survived the Battle of the Bulge. He won a Silver Star for bravery. And he still managed to write 300 letters home to Grace. This book is a different kind of war story--both an powerful chronicle of life in battle and a unique portrait of courage fueled by a life-long passion for political justice.Cane's fight for freedom began well before D-Day. In 1937, joined the Abraham Lincoln Battalion and got wounded fighting for democracy in Spain. In 1942, at age 30, he enlisted in the new war against fascism, and as an officer with the 238th Combat Engineer Battalion, went ashore in Normandy to clear mines, destroy fortifications, and open roads from Normandy to the Siegfried Line. Of the 400 Spanish Civil War veterans in World War II, Cane was the only one to go ashore on D-Day.After the war, Lawrence Cane fought for civil rights and peace until his death in 1976. Discovered in 1995 by Cane's son David, his letters are not only classic accounts of war and unforgettable expressions of love for family. They are the fiercely patriotic words of a left-wing, working-class New York Jew (and one-time Communist Party member) who knew exactly why we fought---to create a better world by destroying all forms of fascism, one battle at a time.With a fascinating introduction by David Cane, detailed notes, and much additional material, these letters add a new dimension to the meaning of American patriotism and an invaluable chapter to the history of the greatest generation.

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Forrest

The Confederacy's Relentless Warrior

Browning, Robert M.

Revered by some, notorious to others, Nathan Bedford Forrest has long been considered one of the greatest soldiers of the American Civil War. Historian Robert Browning introduces readers to the facts and myths that surround this controversial man. Responsible for his family at a young age, Forrest scratched out a living on the frontier wilderness of Tennessee and Mississippi. He quickly developed traitsùself-reliance, decisiveness, and assertivenessùthat would later make him famous. Whether he was stalking a panther or challenging a gun-wielding assailant, Forrest realized that boldness was half the battle. In business the uneducated Forrest made a for-tune in various endeavors, including the slave trade. When the Civil War began, Forrest quickly became an adept recruiter and leader, despite his lack of training in military science. His cavalrymen became famous for the forced marches, deception, and audacious battlefield maneuvers they used to defeat forces that outnumbered them. Forrest also gained notoriety for his participation in the battle for Fort Pillow, Tennessee, in 1864. In a controversy that persists today, the high casualty rate among the UnionÆs African-American soldiers who surrendered there led to charges that ForrestÆs men had perpetrated a racially motivated massacre. After the war, Forrest became the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan while also preaching the gospel of reconciliation between North and South amid the chaos of Reconstruction. This penetrating and succinct analysis provides an introduction Forrest's life and his place in American history.

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