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History > Military History > Biographies and Memoirs
July 3, 1880--May 22, 1881
John Gregory Bourke kept a monumental set of diaries beginning as a young cavalry lieutenant in Arizona in 1872, and ending the evening before his death in 1896. As aide-de-camp to Brigadier General George Crook, he had an insider's view of the early Apache campaigns, the Great Sioux War, the Cheyenne Outbreak, and the Geronimo War. Bourke's writings reveal much about military life on the western frontier, but he also was a noted ethnologist, writing extensive descriptions of American Indian civilization and illustrating his diaries with sketches and photographs. Previously, researchers could consult only a small part of Bourke’s diary material in various publications, or else take a research trip to the archive and microfilm housed at West Point. Now, for the first time, the 124 manuscript volumes of the Bourke diaries are being compiled, edited, and annotated by Charles M. Robinson III, in a planned set of eight books easily accessible to the modern researcher. Volume 4 chronicles the political and managerial affairs in Crook’s Department of the Platte. A large portion centers on the continuing controversy concerning the forced relocation of the Ponca Indians from their ancient homeland along the Dakota-Nebraska line to a new reservation in the Indian Territory. An equally large portion concerns Bourke’s ethnological work under official sanction from the army and the Bureau of Ethnology, work which would make a profound change in his life and his place in history. Aside from a summary of the entire Ponca affair in approximately two pages, virtually none of this material appears in Bourke’s classic On the Border with Crook. Bourke’s staff duties bring him into contact with many prominent individuals. He is particularly unimpressed with the commander of the army, General W.T. Sherman, who, he wrote, “is largely made up of the demagogue and will not survive in history.” He also is harsh on President Rutherford B. Hayes, now finishing out his term. This volume contains detailed descriptions of several tours, including those to Yellowstone National Park and the Santa Fe regions. Bourke reveals the profound changes that have overtaken the Indians in only a few years of settlement on reservations. At the new Spotted Tail, or Rosebud, Agency, he found a conference in progress, where the Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad was attempting to buy right of way across the reservation. The leaders Spotted Tail and Red Cloud had wasted little time in determining what was valuable to the whites—they astutely bargained for a high price. Extensively annotated and with a biographical appendix on Indians, civilians, and military personnel named in the diaries, this book will appeal to western and military historians, students of American Indian life and culture, and to anyone interested in the development of the American West.
May 23, 1881--August 26, 1881
John Gregory Bourke kept a monumental set of diaries as aide-de-camp to Brigadier General George Crook. This fifth volume opens at Fort Wingate as Bourke prepares to visit the Navajos. Next, at the Pine River Agency, he is witness to the Sun Dance, where despite his discomfort at what he saw, he noted that during the Sun Dance piles of food and clothing were contributed by the Indians themselves, to relieve the poor among their people. Bourke continued his travels among the Zunis, the Rio Grande pueblos, and finally, with the Hopis to attend the Hopi Snake dance. The volume concludes at Fort Apache, Arizona, which is stirring with excitement over the activities of the Apache medicine man, Nakai’-dokli’ni, which Bourke spelled Na Kay do Klinni. This would erupt into bloodshed less than a week later. Volume Five is particularly important because it deals almost exclusively with Bourke’s ethnological research. Bourke’s account of the Sun Dance is particularly significant because it was the last one held by the Oglalas. The volume is extensively annotated and contains a biographical appendix on Indians, civilians, and military personnel named.
A Boy's Life in a Japanese Labor Camp
In this moving memoir a young man comes of age in an age of violence, brutality, and war. Recounting his experiences during the Japanese occupation of the Dutch East Indies, this account brings to life the shocking day-to-day conditions in a Japanese labor camp and provides an intimate look at the collapse of Dutch colonial rule.As a boy growing up on the island of Java, John Stutterheim spent hours exploring his exotic surroundings, taking walks with his younger brother and dachshund along winding jungle roads. His father, a government accountant, would grumble at the pro-German newspaper and from time to time entertain the family with his singing. It was a fairly typical life for a colonial family in the Dutch East Indies, and a peaceful and happy childhood for young John. But at the age of 14 it would all be irrevocably shattered by the Japanese invasion.With the surrender of Java in 1942, John's father was taken prisoner. For over three years the family would not know if he was alive or dead. Soon thereafter, John, his younger brother, and his mother were imprisoned. A year later he and his brother were moved to a forced labor camp for boys, where they toiled under the fierce sun while disease and starvation slowly took their toll, all the while suspecting they would soon be killed.Throughout all of these travails, John kept a secret diary hidden in his handmade mattress, and his memories now offer a unique perspective on an often overlooked episode of World War II. What emerges is a compelling story of a young man caught up in the machinations of a global war-struggling to survive in the face of horrible brutality, struggling to care for his disease-wracked brother, and struggling to put his family back together. It is a story that must not be forgotten.
Memories of a Medical Service Corps Officer in Vietnam
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.
The Life of General Lucian K. Truscott, Jr.
An American Red Cross Girl's War in Vietnam
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.
The Letters of Sailor and Soldier Edward W. Bacon
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.
An American Merchant Seaman at War
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.
An American Airman behind Enemy Lines
"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.
American Pursuit Pilots in the Defense of Java, 1941-1942
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.