Book Review Twenty-Seven
May 25, 2009
The last Monday in May provides us with much more than a three-day weekend. It gives us an opportunity to do something unselfish: to take a moment and honor those men and women who have given their lives while on active duty in our armed forces. These five books represent the major American wars of the twentieth century.
Most books on the World War I are too large and detailed for the average reader. In this long essay of 226 pages, Norman Stone addresses the major military and political battles of the world war that was supposed to make it "safe for democracy." D-Day, June 6, 1944 by Stephen Ambrose is probably one of the most recognized titles dealing with World War II. June 6 and D Day are so intertwined that they have overshadowed the military meaning of the unnamed day on which any operation or offensive is to be launched. Ambrose writes in the prologue to D-Day that "The literature they read as youngsters was anti-war, cynical, portraying patriots as suckers, slackers as heroes. None of them wanted to be part of another war.... But when the test came, when freedom had to be fought or abandoned, they fought." D-Day represents all of the unnamed and less famous "days" when uncommon valor truly was a common virtue. The Coldest Winter by the Pulitzer Prize winning author, David Halberstam, is one of the unrivaled books on what has often been called the "forgotten war" of Korea. Halberstam considered Coldest Winter his best work. As you read the stories of bravery and sacrifice, it is easy to understand why. The title, We Were Soldiers Once and Young, provides both the innocence and in some ways the confusion of the Vietnam War. We Were Soldiers describes the events of the fighting in the Ia Drang Valley in 1965, one of the most significant battles of what became one of America's least wanted war. A Time of Our Choosing by Todd Purdum and the staff of the New York Times writes a well balanced and easy to comprehend book on the war in Iraq.
While you are enjoying your time off from work this Memorial Day, do yourself and your family a favor; visit a local or national cemetery. Find a serviceperson's final resting place and quietly remember the sacrifice he or she and their family gave on that particular day. The words of Lt. Colonel John McCrae from World War I still echo in their truth:
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.