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History > Military History > Biographies and Memoirs

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Orlando M. Poe Cover

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Orlando M. Poe

Civil War General and Great Lakes Engineer

Paul Taylor with a foreword by Phil Shiman

Recipient of the Library of Michigan's 2010 Notable Books award

The first biography of Sherman’s chief engineer and the man whose post–Civil War engineering work changed Great Lakes navigation forever

Orlando M. Poe chronicles the life of one of the most influential yet underrated and overlooked soldiers during the Civil War. After joining the Union Army in 1861, Poe commanded the 2nd Michigan Infantry in the Peninsula Campaign and led brigades at Second Bull Run and Fredericksburg. He was then sent west and became one of the Union heroes in the defense of Knoxville. Poe served under several of the war’s greatest generals, including George McClellan and William T. Sherman, who appointed him chief engineer to oversee the burning of Atlanta and Sherman’s March to the Sea. Though technically only a captain in the regular army at the war’s end, Poe was one of Sherman’s most valued subordinates, and he was ultimately appointed brevet brigadier general for his bravery and service.

After the war, Poe supervised the design and construction of numerous Great Lakes lighthouses, all of which are still in service. He rejoined Sherman’s staff in 1873 as engineer aide-de-camp and continued his role as trusted advisor until the general’s retirement in 1884. Poe then returned to his adopted home in Detroit where he began planning his ultimate post–Civil War engineering achievement: the design and construction of what would become the largest shipping lock in the world at Sault St. Marie, Michigan.

Mining an extensive collection of Poe’s unpublished personal papers that span his entire civil and military career, and illustrating the narrative with many previously unpublished photographs, Paul Taylor brings to life for the first time the story of one of the nineteenth century’s most overlooked war heroes.

Outpost Kelly Cover

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Outpost Kelly

A Tanker's Story

Written by Jack R. Siewert and foreword by Paul M Edwards

In the second year of the Korean War, Jack Siewert commanded a platoon of five M-46 tanks. Temporarily assigned to provide fire support for an infantry battalion on the front, he eventually found himself in the midst of intense fighting for a relatively unknown and unimportant hill, code named Outpost Kelly.
 
Those four days of battle against Chinese forces form the heart of this memoir, which is unique in its focus on the hill fighting that dominated two thirds of the Korean War. Trained to take advantage of his tanks’ mobility, his orders—to provide direct fire support for advancing infantry—along with the mountainous terrain and the torrential monsoon rains that created shin-deep fields of impenetrable mud, forced him to abandon doctrine and improvise.
 
At the height of the fighting, Siewert was able to bring to bear the guns from only one of his five tanks against the enemy. Nevertheless, his platoon played a key role in allowing members of the 15th Infantry to retake Outpost Kelly, and he offers an excellent analysis of how theory and experience come together in a point-of-the-spear military situation.
 
Siewert's platoon played a key role in allowing members of the 15th Infantry to retake Outpost Kelly, and he offers an excellent analysis of how theory and experience come together in a point-of-the-spear military situation. Outpost Kelly also paints a fascinating picture of the type of fighting, often overlooked, that characterized the second and third years of the Korean War. With truce talks proceeding in Panmunjom, both sides fought to claim incremental pieces of real estate along the demarcation line between North and South.
 
In the grand scheme of the war, the battle for Outpost Kelly might not ahce meant much. But for 3rd Infantry Division, and the men, like Jack Siewert, who fought there, it was the entire focal point of the war during the last four days of July, 1952.
 

Pacific Time on Target Cover

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Pacific Time on Target

Memoirs of a Marine Artillery Officer, 1943–1945

The gritty combat memoir of a Marine Corps artilleryman and forward observer

As a married man and Stanford graduate student nearing thirty, Christopher Donner would likely have qualified for an exemption from the draft. Like most of his generation, however, he responded promptly to the call to arms after Pearl Harbor. His wartime experiences in the Pacific Theater were seared into his consciousness, and in early 1946 he set out to preserve those memories while they were still fresh. Sixty-five years later, Donner’s memoir is now available to the public.

The Perfect Lion Cover

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The Perfect Lion

The Life and Death of Confederate Artillerist John Pelham

Written by Jerry H. Maxwell

The South has made much of J. E. B. Stuart and Stonewall Jackson, but no individual has had a greater elevation to divine status than John Pelham, remembered as the “Gallant Pelham.” An Alabama native, Pelham left West Point for service in the Confederacy and distinguished himself as an artillery commander in Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Lee is reported to have said of him, “It is glorious to see such courage in one so young!” Blond, blue-eyed, and handsome, Pelham’s modest demeanor charmed his contemporaries, and he was famously attractive to women. He was killed in action at the battle of Kelly’s Ford in March of 1863, at twenty-four years of age, and reportedly three young women of his acquaintance donned mourning at the loss of the South’s “beau ideal.”
 
Maxwell’s work provides the first complete, deeply researched biography of Pelham, perhaps Alabama’s most notable Civil War figure, and explains his enduring attraction.

Place the Headstones Where They Belong Cover

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Place the Headstones Where They Belong

Thomas Neibaur, World War 1 Soldier

Sherman L. Fleek

After a long journey from Sugar City, Idaho, to France’s Argonne Forest France during World War I,
young Thomas Neibaur found himself in the core of the American Expeditionary Force’s most important offensive.
After becoming separated in advance of his unit, he, despite serious wounds, single-handedly stopped a German
counterattack at a critical hill known as Côte de Châtillon. For this remarkable feat of valor, he received the Medal of
Honor and other awards, becoming the first Idaho and first Mormon recipient of the nation’s highest combat award.
But after a heroic return and brief celebrity, his life followed a tragic downward arc, culminating in his attempt to return
his medal because, as he put it, it could not feed his family.

Rattler One-Seven Cover

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Rattler One-Seven

A Vietnam Helicopter Pilot's War Story

Chuck Gross

Rattler One-Seven puts you in the helicopter seat, to see the war in Vietnam through the eyes of an inexperienced pilot as he transforms himself into a seasoned combat veteran. When Chuck Gross left for Vietnam in 1970, he was a nineteen-year-old Army helicopter pilot fresh out of flight school. He spent his entire Vietnam tour with the 71st Assault Helicopter Company flying UH-1 Huey helicopters. Soon after the war he wrote down his adventures, while his memory was still fresh with the events. Rattler One-Seven (his call sign) is written as Gross experienced it, using these notes along with letters written home to accurately preserve the mindset he had while in Vietnam. During his tour Gross flew Special Operations for the MACV-SOG, inserting secret teams into Laos. He notes that Americans were left behind alive in Laos, when official policy at home stated that U.S. forces were never there. He also participated in Lam Son 719, a misbegotten attempt by the ARVN to assault and cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail with U.S. Army helicopter support. It was the largest airmobile campaign of the war and marked the first time that the helicopter was used in mid-intensity combat, with disastrous results. Pilots in their early twenties, with young gunners and a Huey full of ARVN soldiers, took on experienced North Vietnamese antiaircraft artillery gunners, with no meaningful intelligence briefings or a rational plan on how to cut the Trail. More than one hundred helicopters were lost and more than six hundred aircraft sustained combat damage. Gross himself was shot down and left in the field during one assault. Rattler One-Seven will appeal to those interested in the Vietnam War and to all armed forces, especially aviators, who have served for their country.

Reaching Past The Wire Cover

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Reaching Past The Wire

A Nurse at Abu Ghraib

Deanna Germain

On a frigid afternoon in February 2003, Deanna Germain, a nurse practitioner and new grandmother living in Blaine, Minnesota, received the registered letter she had hoped would never arrive. In six days she was to report for active duty as war loomed in Iraq. The purpose of mobilization: “For Enduring Freedom.” With startling detail, Lt. Col. Germain offers a clear-eyed account of life as a nursing supervisor behind the fortified gates of Abu Ghraib. Her duty: To treat Iraqi prisoners, U.S. soldiers, and Marines in need of medical attention. Shortly after she arrived, the notorious prison made headlines around the world for abuses that had stopped months before. Despite unbearable heat, frequent mortar attacks, medical supply shortages, substandard facilities, the relentless stench of war, and sleepless nights quartered in a tiny prison cell, Germain served the medical needs of each of her patients with remarkable humanity. In this crucible of wartime stress, workplace turmoil, and cultural uncertainty, Germain found herself forging powerful connections with colleagues and translators. She learned from translators about normal Iraqi families struggling to survive impossible conditions. And after vowing to avoid personal relationships with prisoners, she became a comfort to many. Duty and compassion, camaraderie and hope all helped to pull her through.

Reconciliation Road Cover

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Reconciliation Road

A Family Odyssey

by John Douglas Marshall

Red Sky, Black Death Cover

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Red Sky, Black Death

A Soviet Woman Pilot's Memoir of the Eastern Front

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Revered Commander, Maligned General Cover

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Revered Commander, Maligned General

The Life of Clarence Ransom Edwards, 1859-1931

Michael E. Shay

 

Major General Clarence Ransom Edwards is a vital figure in American military history, yet his contribution to the U.S. efforts in World War I has often been ignored or presented in unflattering terms. Most accounts focus on the disagreements he had with General John J. Pershing, who dismissed Edwards from the command of the 26th (“Yankee”) Division just weeks before the war's end. The notoriety of the Pershing incident has caused some to view Edwards as simply a “political general” with a controversial career. But Clarence Edwards, though often a divisive figure, was a greater man than that. A revered and admired officer whose men called him “Daddy,” Edwards attained an impressive forty-year career, one matched by few wartime leaders.

 

            Michael E. Shay presents a complete portrait of this notable American and his many merits in Revered Commander, Maligned General. This long-overdue first full-length biography of General Clarence Edwards opens with his early years in Cleveland, Ohio and his turbulent times at West Point. The book details the crucial roles Edwards filled in staff and field commands for the Army before the outbreak of World War I in 1917: Adjutant-General with General Henry Ware Lawton in the Philippine-American War, first chief of the Bureau of Insular Affairs, and commander of U.S. forces in the Panama Canal Zone. Revered Commander, Maligned General follows Edwards as he forms the famous Yankee Division and leads his men into France. The conflict between Edwards and Pershing is placed in context, illuminating the disputes that led to Edwards being relieved of command.

 

            This well-researched biography quotes a wealth of primary sources in recounting the life of an important American, a man of loyalty and service who is largely misunderstood. Photographs of Edwards, his troops, and his kin—many from Edwards’ own collection—complement the narrative.  In addition, several maps aid readers in following General Edwards as his career moves from the U.S. to Central America to Europe and back stateside. Shay’s portrayalof General Edwards finally provides a balanced account of this unique U.S. military leader.

 

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