Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Men of War by Alexander Rose

book cover
Men of War:
The American Soldier in Combat at Bunker Hill, Gettysburg, and Iwo Jima
by Alexander Rose

ISBN-13: 9780553805185
Hardcover: 496 pages
Publisher: Random House
Released: June 2, 2015

Source: Review copy from the publisher through Amazon Vine.

Book Description, Modified from Amazon:
In the grand tradition of John Keegan’s enduring classic The Face of Battle comes a searing, unforgettable chronicle of war through the eyes of the American soldiers who fought in three of our most iconic battles: Bunker Hill, Gettysburg, and Iwo Jima. This is not a book about how great generals won their battles, nor is it a study in grand strategy. Men of War is instead a riveting, visceral look at ordinary soldiers under fire.

Drawing on an immense range of firsthand sources from the battlefield, Rose begins by re-creating the lost and alien world of eighteenth-century warfare at Bunker Hill, the bloodiest clash of the War of Independence—and reveals why the American militiamen were so lethally effective against the oncoming waves of British troops. Then, focusing on Gettysburg, Rose describes a typical Civil War infantry action, vividly explaining what Union and Confederate soldiers experienced before, during, and after combat. Finally, he shows how in 1945 the Marine Corps hurled itself with the greatest possible violence at the island of Iwo Jima, where nearly a third of all Marines killed in World War II would die.

To an unprecedented degree, Men of War brings home the reality of combat and, just as important, its aftermath in the form of the psychological and medical effects on veterans.

My Review:
"Men of War" details what battle was like for soldiers at Bunker Hill, Gettysburg, and Iwo Jima. The book came across as extensively researched, and the author quoted from many diaries and letters written by those who actually lived through these battles. He gave an overview of the battle then went into detail about what weapons the soldiers had, what damage those weapons did, what the battle experience was at various locations or in various situations (like for the defending infantry and for the attacking infantry), what the experience of the wounded was like (including the medical care of the time), and how they coped after the battle. Though I understand why the author included this level of detail, I could have lived with a "the mortar pulverized the body" description rather than the graphic, detailed blood-and-guts version we got. This was not a book I could read before going to sleep.

I felt that the author gave a balanced view of the battles and tried to present the attitudes they had toward the experience of battle at each time period rather than imposing our modern views on them. I freely grant that I haven't read every battle book out there, but this is the first time I've read a good, reasonable explanation for why the British acted as they did at Bunker Hill.

Overall, I found this book very worth the time of reading it. And it's dense, so it took some time. I'd recommend this informative book to anyone interested in what the experience of battle was like in these battles.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

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