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The School of Hard Knocks

Combat Leadership in the American Expeditionary Forces

Richard S. Faulkner

This important new history of the development of a leadership corps of officers during World War I opens with a gripping narrative of the battlefield heroism of Cpl. Alvin York, juxtaposed with the death of Pvt. Charles Clement less than two kilometers away. Clement had been a captain and an example of what a good officer should be in the years just before the beginning of the war. His subsequent failure as an officer and his redemption through death in combat embody the question that lies at the heart of this comprehensive and exhaustively researched book: What were the faults of US military policy regarding the training of officers during the Great War? In The School of Hard Knocks, Richard S. Faulkner carefully considers the selection and training process for officers during the years prior to and throughout the First World War. He then moves into the replacement of those officers due to attrition, ultimately discussing the relationship between the leadership corps and the men they commanded. Replete with primary documentary evidence including reports by the War Department during and subsequent to the war, letters from the officers detailing their concerns with the training methods, and communiqués from the leaders of the training facilities to the civilian leadership, The School of Hard Knocks makes a compelling case while presenting a clear, highly readable, no-nonsense account of the shortfalls in officer training that contributed to the high death toll suffered by the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I.

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To the Limit of Endurance

A Battalion of Marines in the Great War

By Peter F. Owen

Scholars and historians offer several theories for the crippling losses suffered by the American Expeditionary Forces on the battlefields of World War I: inexperience, poor leadership, hasty expansion of duties, and others. But until now, most of these studies have focused at the division level or higher. Now, with To the Limit of Endurance, Peter F. Owen offers a tautly worded, historically rigorous, and intensely human survey of the agonizing burden shouldered by the Second Battalion of the Sixth Regiment of U.S. Marines from its formation in Quantico, Virginia, in 1917 until the cessation of hostilities in November of the following year. In places like Belleau Wood and Soissons, these young men, led by dedicated officers, died in staggering numbers—primarily because of the outmoded tactics they had learned. Owen shows how the battalion regrouped after these campaigns, however, and embarked on a period of intense retraining. By the time of the closing weeks of the war, the adjustments they had made allowed them to mold themselves into a coldly efficient military machine. Drawing on a treasure trove of surviving first-hand accounts, Owen expertly combines these individual observations with military records and archival sources to create a mosaic that provides not only a case study of how one organization grappled with transformation but also a tightly focused, ground-level view of the lives—and deaths—of these courageous American military men. The grueling, ultimately triumphant odyssey of the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines will appeal to military historians, professional soldiers, and interested general readers.

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To the Line of Fire!

Mexican Texans and World War I

By José A. Ramírez

Winner of the 2009 Robert A. Calvert Prize In January 1917, German foreign minister Arthur Zimmermann sent a telegram to Germany’s Mexican ambassador, authorizing the offer of U.S. territory in exchange for Mexico’s alliance with Germany in the Great War. After the interception of this communication, U.S. intelligence intensified surveillance of the Mexican American community in Texas and elsewhere, vigilant for signs of subversive activity. Yet, even as this was transpiring, thousands of Tejanos (Mexican Texans) were serving in the American military during the war, with many other citizens of Mexican origin contributing to home front efforts. As author José A. Ramírez demonstrates in To the Line of Fire!, the events of World War I and its aftermath would decisively transform the Tejano community, as war-hardened veterans returned with new, broadened perspectives. They led their people in opposing prejudice and discrimination, founding several civil rights groups and eventually merging them into the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the largest and oldest surviving Hispanic civil rights organization in the United States. Ramírez also shows the diversity of reaction to the war on the part of the Tejano community: While some called enthusiastically for full participation in the war effort, others reacted coolly, or only out of fear of reprisal. Scholarly and general readers in Texas history, military history, and Mexican American studies will be richly rewarded by reading To the Line of Fire!  

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Trench Knives and Mustard Gas

With the 42nd Rainbow Division in France

By Hugh S. Thompson; Edited by Robert H. Ferrell

Trench Knives and Mustard Gas: With the 42nd Rainbow Division in France is the memoir of a soldier on the front lines of World War I. Hugh Thompson’s memoirs of his time in France demonstrate a keen eye for detail and a penchant for philosophy. Thompson combines the fast-paced prose of the jazz age and the passionate observations of an engaged intellectual. Originally serialized in the Chattanooga Times in 1934, this newly edited version allows the author to tell his story to a whole new generation. Thomspon takes the reader on an intense journey with the 168th regiment of the 42nd Rainbow Division through the villages, towns, battlefields, and hospitals of France. He points out the sights along the way and has a knack for compressing a complex reflection on life into a single sentence. Severely wounded in his arm and back, Thompson reassesses his situation after visiting comrades who lost arms or legs. “I went back to my tent,” he recalls, “almost ashamed of my own lucky wounds.” Homesick for the States during his first months overseas, Thompson discovers that his platoon has become his second family. He becomes increasingly estranged from his old one and accustomed to the war’s distortion of time and values. Friendships form and disappear in the hour it takes a stranger to die. When he is wounded, Germans serve as his stretcher bearers. And things never happen when they take place, but later when one learns of them from a letter or from a soldier passing through. War does not destroy the physical man. It leads to strange experiences. Trench Knives and Mustard Gas brings the front lines of World War I, the Great War, to the hearts and minds of its readers. The book is an indispensable guide into the past, told by a man who was there.

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War Bird Ace

The Great War Exploits of Capt. Field E. Kindley

By Jack Stokes Ballard

Capt. Field E. Kindley, with the famous Eddie Rickenbacker, was one of America’s foremost World War I flying aces. Like Rickenbacker’s, Kindley’s story is one of fierce dogfights, daring aerial feats, and numerous brushes with death. Yet unlike Rickenbacker’s, Kindley’s story has not been fully told until now. Field Kindley gained experience with the RAF before providing leadership for the U.S. Air Service. Kindley was the fourth-ranking American air ace; his exploits earned him a Distinguished Service Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster from the United States and a Distinguished Flying Cross from the British government. In February 1920, during a practice drill Kindley led, some enlisted men unwittingly entered the bombing target area. “Buzzing” the troops to warn them off the field, Kindley somehow lost control of his plane and died in the ensuing crash. Using arduously gathered primary materials and accounts of Great War aces, Jack Ballard tells the story of this little-known hero from the glory days of aerial warfare. Through this tale, an era and a daring flyer live again.

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The World War I Diary of José de la Luz Sáenz

Emilio Zamora

“I am home, safe and sound, and reviewing all these memories as if in a dream. All of this pleases me. I have been faithful to my duty.” Thus José de la Luz Sáenz ends his account of his military service in France and Germany in 1918. Published in Spanish in 1933, his annotated book of diary entries and letters recounts not only his own war experiences but also those of his fellow Mexican Americans.
A skilled and dedicated teacher in South Texas before and after the war, Sáenz’s patriotism, his keen observation of the discrimination he and his friends faced both at home and in the field, and his unwavering dedication to the cause of equality have for years made this book a valuable resource for scholars, though only ten copies are known to exist and it has never before been available in English. Equally clear in these pages are the astute reflections and fierce pride that spurred Sáenz and others to pursue the postwar organization of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).
This English edition of one of only two known war diaries of a Mexican American in the Great War is translated with an introduction and annotation by noted Mexican American historian Emilio Zamora.

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Yankee Division in the First World War

In the Highest Tradition

By Michael E. Shay

Historians have been unkind to the 26th Division of the U.S. Army during World War I. Despite playing a significant role in all the major engagements of the American Expeditionary Force, the “Yankee Division,” as it was commonly known, and its beloved commanding officer, Maj. Gen. Clarence Edwards, were often at odds with Gen. John J. Pershing. Subsequently, the Yankee Division became the A.E.F.’s “whipping boy,” a reputation that has largely continued to the present day. In The Yankee Division in the First World War, author Michael E. Shay mines a voluminous body of first-person accounts to set forth an accurate record of the Yankee Division in France—a record that is, as he reports, “better than most.” Shay sheds new light on the ongoing conflict in leadership and notes that two of the division’s regiments received the coveted Croix de Guerre, the first ever awarded to an American unit. This first-rate study should find a welcome place on military history bookshelves, both for scholars and students of the Great War and for interested general readers.

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