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History > Military History > Biographies and Memoirs

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In Hostile Skies Cover

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In Hostile Skies

An American B-24 Pilot in World War II

James M. Davis, and edited by David L. Snead

James “Jim” Davis lived what he considered “an impossible dream” as he piloted a B-24, as part of the 8th Air Force, on nearly thirty missions in the European Theatre during World War II. In this memoir, Davis offers heart-wrenching detail concerning the difficulties of qualifying for the U.S. Army Air Forces pilot program, the strenuous nature of the pilot training program, the anxiety caused by a wartime marriage, and the dangers of flying combat missions over Nazi Germany. Few, if any, other memoirs provide the genuineness and honesty of his story. From his struggles to become a pilot, to seeing death up close on his first mission, to his expected deployment to the Pacific Theatre in the fall of 1945, Davis takes the reader through a fast-paced and exciting narrative adventure. Davis and his crew flew support missions for Operations Cobra and Market Garden and numerous bombing missions over occupied Europe in the summer and fall of 1944. He piloted his B-24 on missions over twenty German cities, including Cologne, Hamburg, Metz, and Munich, and attacked enemy airfields, airplane factories, railroad marshalling yards, ship yards, oil refineries, and chemical plants. While he and his crew survived without serious injuries, they witnessed the destruction of many of their friends’ planes and experienced serious damage to their own plane on several occasions. Readers of his memoir will come away with a much greater appreciation for the difficulties and dangers of the air war in World War II. David Snead happened upon the memoir and its author during his time at Texas Tech University. He was immediately hooked and began the process of preparing it for publication. Snead met with Davis on several occasions, examined his military records, researched in detail at the National Archives, and investigated numerous published sources in order to corroborate the account and add explanatory notes for context.

Inside Reagan's Navy Cover

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Inside Reagan's Navy

The Pentagon Journals

Chase Untermeyer

While serving as an assistant to Vice Pres. George H. W. Bush, Chase Untermeyer concluded that the only way to learn how the US government really works was to leave the silken cocoon of the White House and seek a position in one of the departments or agencies.

In March 1983, when offered an appointment as a deputy assistant secretary of the navy, he jumped at the opportunity. After only a year as a “DASN,” he was named by Pres. Ronald Reagan as assistant secretary for Manpower & Reserve Affairs, in charge of all personnel issues affecting nearly one million sailors and Marines and a third of a million civilian workers.

Inside Reagan’s Navy offers an engaging, up-close narrative of Untermeyer’s experiences in the Pentagon, interwoven with descriptions of events and people, humorous anecdotes, and telling quotations.
As in his earlier book, When Things Went Right: The Dawn of the Reagan-Bush Administration, Inside Reagan’s Navy paints a portrait of official Washington during the Reagan years, with its politics, parties, and personalities.

Jack Toffey's War Cover

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Jack Toffey's War

A Son's Memoir

John Toffey

I see this book as the story my father never got to tell,John Toffey writes. And what a remarkable story it is that Lt. Col. Jack Toffey never got to tell.In this moving account of a young man's journey to know a father who went to war in 1942 and never came back, John Toffey weaves memory, history, and his father's vivid letters home into a fascinating tale of a family, a war, and the threads that connect them.John Toffey was nine when his father's National Guard outfit was mobilized. For two years Toffey, his mother, and his sister moved from post to post before his dad shipped out-to North Africa, fighting the Vichy French in Morocco, then the Germans in Tunisia, where he was wounded. In July 1943 he went back to war, leading an infantry battalion in the invasions of Sicily and southern Italy. In January 1944 he landed his battalion at Anzio and was wounded again. After a long, bitter stalemate, Toffey's regiment led Mark Clark's push on Rome. On June 3, 1944, Jack Toffey was killed in the hill town of Palestrina, one day before the Allies marched intoRome. In a brutal campaign, Jack Toffey had commanded a combat battalion longer than any other officer in the Mediterranean theater.Only in 1996, when his father's letters were discovered, did John Toffey begin to piece together what happened to his father. And he tells this contested story of Allied success and failure with drama, steely reserve, and balance, adding an invaluable perspective to the portrait of Jack Toffey created by Rick Atkinson in his bestselling Day of Battle. This book is also a lovingly crafted portrait of home front Ohio, and how a young boy, his sister, and his mother waited out their war, scanning newspapers and magazines for news of Dad and devouring letters full of easy humor and expressions of love for and pride in his family and dreams of a good life after the war.

Jacob L. Devers Cover

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Jacob L. Devers

A General's Life

James Scott Wheeler. foreword by Rick Atkinson

General Jacob L. "Jake" Devers (1897--1979) was one of only two officers -- the other was Omar C. Bradley -- to command an army group during the decisive campaigns of 1944--1945 that liberated Europe and ended the war with Nazi Germany. After the war, Devers led the Army Ground Forces in the United States and eventually retired in 1949 after forty years of service. Despite incredible successes on the battlefield, General George C. Marshall's "dependable man" remains one of the most underrated and overlooked figures of his generation.

In this definitive biography, James Scott Wheeler delivers a groundbreaking reassessment of the American commander whose contributions to victory in Europe are topped only by General Dwight D. Eisenhower's. Wheeler's exhaustively researched chronicle of Devers's life and career reveals a leader who demonstrated an extraordinary ability to cut through red tape and solve complex problems. Nevertheless, Eisenhower disliked Devers -- a fact laid bare when he ordered Devers's Sixth Army Group to halt at the Rhine. After the war, Eisenhower's and Bradley's accounts of the generals' disagreements over strategy and tactics became received wisdom, to the detriment of Devers's reputation.

An essential contribution to twentieth-century history, Jacob L. Devers provides a fresh and nuanced interpretation of the senior command during World War II and offers a new perspective on a highly accomplished soldier.

A Just and Righteous Cause Cover

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A Just and Righteous Cause

Benjamin H. Grierson's Civil War Memoir

Edited by Bruce J. Dinges and Shirley A. Leckie

General Benjamin H. Grierson is most widely known as the brilliant cavalryman whose actions in the Civil War's Mississippi Valley campaign facilitated Ulysses S. Grant's capture of Vicksburg. There is, however, much more to this key Union officer than a successful raid into Confederate-held Mississippi. In A Just and Righteous Cause: Benjamin H. Grierson's Civil War Memoir, edited by Bruce J. Dinges and Shirley A. Leckie, Grierson tells his story in forceful, direct, and highly engaging prose.

A Just and Righteous Cause paints a vivid picture of Grierson's prewar and Civil War career, touching on his antislavery views, Republican Party principles, and military strategy and tactics. His story begins with his parents' immigration to the United States and follows his childhood, youth, and career as a musician; the early years of his arriage; his business failures prior to becoming a cavalry officer in an Illinois regiment; his experiences in battle; and his Reconstruction appointment. Grierson also provides intimate accounts of his relationships with such prominent politicians and Union leaders as Abraham Lincoln, Richard Yates, Andrew Johnson, William T. Sherman, Ulysses S.

Grant, John C. Frémont, and Benjamin Prentiss.

Because Grierson wrote the memoir mainly with his family as the intended audience, he manages to avoid the self-promotion that plagues many of his contemporaries' chronicles. His reliance on military records and correspondence, along with family letters, lends an immediacy rarely found in military memoirs. His reminiscences also add fuel to a reemerging debate on soldiers' motivations for enlisting—in Grierson's case, patriotism and ideology—and shed new light on the Western theater of the Civil War, which has seen a recent surge in interest among Civil War enthusiasts.

A non-West Point officer, Grierson owed his developing career to his independent studies of the military and his connections to political figures in his home state of Illinois and later to important Union leaders. Dinges and Leckie provide a helpful introduction, which gives background on the memoir and places Grierson's career into historical context. Aided by fourteen photos and two maps, as well as the editors' superb annotations, A Just and Righteous Cause is a valuable addition to Civil War history.


Kentucky Marine Cover

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Kentucky Marine

Major General Logan Feland and the Making of the Modern USMC

David J. Bettez

A native of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, Major General Logan Feland (1869--1936) played a major role in the development of the modern Marine Corps. Highly decorated for his heroic actions during the battle of Belleau Wood in World War I, Feland led the hunt for rebel leader Augusto C�sar Sandino during the Nicaraguan revolution from 1927 to 1929 -- an operation that helped to establish the Marines' reputation in guerrilla warfare and search-and-capture missions. Yet, despite rising to become one of the USMC's most highly ranked and regarded officers, Feland has been largely ignored in the historical record.

In Kentucky Marine, David J. Bettez uncovers the forgotten story of this influential soldier of the sea. During Feland's tenure as an officer, the Corps expanded exponentially in power and prestige. Not only did his command in Nicaragua set the stage for similar twenty-first-century operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, but Feland was one of the first instructors in the USMC's Advanced Base Force, which served as the forerunner of the amphibious assault force mission the Marines adopted in World War II.

Kentucky Marine also illuminates Feland's private life, including his marriage to successful soprano singer and socialite Katherine Cordner Feland, and details his disappointment at being twice passed over for the position of commandant. Drawing from personal letters, contemporary news articles, official communications, and confidential correspondence, this long-overdue biography fills a significant gap in twentieth-century American military history.

Kentucky Maverick Cover

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Kentucky Maverick

The Life and Adventures of Colonel George M. Chinn

Carlton Jackson

Colonel George M. Chinn's (1902--1987) life story reads more like fiction than the biography of a Kentucky soldier. A smart and fun-loving character, Chinn attended Centre College and played on the famous "Praying Colonels" football team that won the 1921 national championship. After graduation, he returned to his home in Mercer County and partnered with munitions expert "Tunnel" Smith to dynamite a cliff. The resulting hole became Chinn's Cave House -- a diner that also functioned as an underground gambling operation during Prohibition. He even served as Governor A. B. "Happy" Chandler's bodyguard before joining the Marine Corps in 1943.

In Kentucky Maverick, Carlton Jackson details the life of a legendary and highly decorated Marine whose career spanned both world wars, the Korean War, and Vietnam. Chinn's service paired a love of history with a special kind of genius: he documented the history of military technology while designing innovative weapons such as the M-19 automatic grenade launcher, which is still used in the armed forces today. After leaving the Corps, Chinn leaned on his many connections to become the director of the Kentucky Historical Society.

Carlton Jackson's entertaining biography weaves together outrageous tales of gunplay and politics while revealing Chinn's sense of humor, unbending will, and a sense of destiny that could only be fulfilled by a true twentieth-century Renaissance man.

The Last Deployment Cover

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The Last Deployment

How a Gay, Hammer-Swinging Twentysomething Survived a Year in Iraq

Bronson Lemer

In 2003, after serving five and a half years as a carpenter in a North Dakota National Guard engineer unit, Bronson Lemer was ready to leave the military behind. But six months short of completing his commitment to the army, Lemer was deployed on a yearlong tour of duty to Iraq. Leaving college life behind in the Midwest, he yearns for a lost love and quietly dreams of a future as an openly gay man outside the military. He discovers that his father’s lifelong example of silent strength has taught him much about being a man, and these lessons help him survive in a war zone and to conceal his sexuality, as he is required to do by the U.S. military.

            The Last Deployment is a moving, provocative chronicle of one soldier’s struggle to reconcile military brotherhood with self-acceptance. Lemer captures the absurd nuances of a soldier’s daily life: growing a mustache to disguise his fear, wearing pantyhose to battle sand fleas, and exchanging barbs with Iraqis while driving through Baghdad. But most strikingly, he describes the poignant reality faced by gay servicemen and servicewomen, who must mask their identities while serving a country that disowns them. Often funny, sometimes anguished, The Last Deployment paints a deeply personal portrait of war in the twenty-first century.
A main selection of the InsightOut Book Club
Featured Title of Book of the Month Club 2

Lee's Tarnished Lieutenant Cover

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Lee's Tarnished Lieutenant

William Garrett Piston

In the South, one can find any number of bronze monuments to the Confederacy featuring heroic images of Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, J. E. B. Stuart, and many lesser commanders. But while the tarnish on such statues has done nothing to color the reputation of those great leaders, there remains one Confederate commander whose tarnished image has nothing to do with bronze monuments. Nowhere in the South does a memorial stand to Lee's intimate friend and second-in-command James Longstreet.

In Lee's Tarnished Lieutenant, William Garrett Piston examines the life of James Longstreet and explains how a man so revered during the course of the war could fall from grace so swiftly and completely. Unlike other generals in gray whose deeds are familiar to southerners and northerners alike, Longstreet has the image not of a hero but of an incompetent who lost the Battle of Gettysburg and, by extension, the war itself. Piston's reappraisal of the general's military record establishes Longstreet as an energetic corps commander with an unsurpassed ability to direct troops in combat, as a trustworthy subordinate willing to place the war effort above personal ambition. He made mistakes, but Piston shows that he did not commit the grave errors at Gettysburg and elsewhere of which he was so often accused after the war.

In discussing Longstreet's postwar fate, Piston analyzes the literature and public events of the time to show how the southern people, in reaction to defeat, evolved an image of themselves which bore little resemblance to reality. As a product of the Georgia backwoods, Longstreet failed to meet the popular cavalier image embodied by Lee, Stuart, and other Confederate heroes. When he joined the Republican party during Reconstruction, Longstreet forfeited his wartime reputation and quickly became a convenient target for those anxious to explain how a "superior people" could have lost the war. His new role as the villain of the Lost Cause was solidified by his own postwar writings. Embittered by years of social ostracism resulting from his Republican affiliation, resentful of the orchestrated deification of Lee and Stonewall Jackson, Longstreet exaggerated his own accomplishments and displayed a vanity that further alienated an already offended southern populace.

Beneath the layers of invective and vilification remains a general whose military record has been badly maligned. Lee's Tarnished Lieutenant explains how this reputation developed--how James Longstreet became, in the years after Appomattox, the scapegoat for the South's defeat, a Judas for the new religion of the Lost Cause.

Life and Death in the Central Highlands Cover

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Life and Death in the Central Highlands

An American Sergeant in the Vietnam War, 1968-1970

James T. Gillam

In 1968 James T. Gillam was a poorly focused college student at Ohio University who was dismissed and then drafted into the Army. Unlike most African Americans who entered the Army then, he became a Sergeant and an instructor at the Fort McClellan Alabama School of Infantry. In September 1968 he joined the First Battalion, 22nd Regiment of the 4th Infantry Division in Vietnam. Within a month he transformed from an uncertain sergeant—who tried to avoid combat—to an aggressive soldier, killing his first enemy and planning and executing successful ambushes in the jungle. Gillam was a regular point man and occasional tunnel rat who fought below ground, an arena that few people knew about until after the war ended. By January 1970 he had earned a Combat Infantry Badge and been promoted to Staff Sergeant. Then Washington’s politics and military strategy took his battalion to the border of Cambodia. Search-and-destroy missions became longer and deadlier. From January to May his unit hunted and killed the enemy in a series of intense firefights, some of them in close combat. In those months Gillam was shot twice and struck by shrapnel twice. He became a savage, strangling a soldier in hand-to-hand combat inside a lightless tunnel. As his mid-summer date to return home approached, Gillam became fiercely determined to come home alive. The ultimate test of that determination came during the Cambodian invasion. On his last night in Cambodia, the enemy got inside the wire of the firebase, and the killing became close range and brutal. Gillam left the Army in June 1970, and within two weeks of his last encounter with death, he was once again a college student and destined to become a university professor. The nightmares and guilt about killing are gone, and so is the callous on his soul. Life and Death in the Central Highlands is a gripping, personal account of one soldier’s war in Vietnam.

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