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  • The Echo of Battle: The U.S. Army's Way of War
  • Douglas V. Johnson II
The Echo of Battle: The U.S. Army's Way of War. By Brian McAllister Linn . Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2007. ISBN 978-0-674-02651-3. Notes. Index. Pp. 298. $27.95.

My only grouse with the goal of the work is the title – this is only tangentially about war— it is far broader than mere combat. While not as catchy, a better subtitle might be Explaining The Army because the Army is a product of the interplay of the three communities Linn has identified and he uses them as a mirror with which to view our past. [End Page 589]

Linn has given us a new tool, a mirror of sorts, with which to view the American military profession, and the view is not particularly flattering. His paradigm of three communities – Guardians, Managers, and Heroes – works quite well for explaining how we have become what we are, and having been in this business all my life, I identify personally with each community at some stage in my professional life. The intended effect, causing the profession to view itself more honestly, could be the first step to significant improvement.

Using a broad range of materials, Linn has demonstrated his mastery of first person source material – he employs relatively few documents, but has judiciously selected those that have really mattered to the professional soldier. The 1911 Infantry Drill Regulations were indeed the soul of the Army before doctrine crept onto the scene.

Linn's reflection of American military history in this triple mirror is unique and challenging. He questions many long accepted verities demanding honest reappraisals ranging from national policy to tactics.

I expect this book to stir considerable controversy and healthy debate. Younger officers may well come to view it as a Bible of sorts. I expect it to sell very well at the Army's educational institutions where I have been recommending it since reading the first chapter. It has the potential to transform professional thinking in the most positive way.

This book demonstrates Linn's mastery of the language of the profession in readable English, something all too rarely seen.

As noted, I expect large sales within the profession and would not be at all surprised to see the larger defense community pick it up, too. It should be marketed aggressively to civilian academia as well as there is much in it to generate deeper research by graduate students and plenty to provoke debate. Because it will provoke debate I would hope that senior officers would at least become aware of its existence, requiring their aides-de-camp to read and report on it as I was required to do with General Hackett's Third World War.



Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 589-590
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Archived 2010
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