Book Reviews

Reviews of books by MWSA members. Reviews appear in reverse chronological order, with the most recent review posted appearing first.
Note: Some older reviews are being reposted to this site and those will appear out of order.

Ghosts of Thua Thien, An American Soldier’s Memoir of Vietnam, The

Title: The Ghosts of Thua Thien, An American Soldier’s Memoir of Vietnam
Author: John A. Nesser
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Reviewer: Bill McDonald

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): 0786433248

Drafted in October 1968, John A. Nesser left behind his wife and young son to fight in the controversial Vietnam War. Like many in his generation, he was deeply at odds with himself over the U.S. involvement in Vietnam, instilled with a strong sense of duty to his country but uncertain about its mission and his role in it.

Nesser was deployed to the Ashau Valley, site of some of the war's heaviest fighting, and served eight months as an infantry rifleman before transferring to become a door gunner for a Chinook helicopter. In this stirring memoir, he recalls in detail the exhausting missions in the mountainous jungle, the terror of walking into an ambush, the dull-edged anxiety that filled quiet days, and the steady fear of being shot out of the sky. The accounts are richly illustrated with Nesser's own photographs of the military firebases and aircraft, the landscapes, and the people he encountered.

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Nesser, John A.

Slaughter at Goliad: The Mexican Massacre of 400 Texas Volunteers

Title: Slaughter at Goliad: The Mexican Massacre of 400 Texas Volunteers
Author: Jay Stout
Genre: Non-Fiction, History, Military
Reviewer: Andrew Lubin

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): 159114843X

Texas lost many volunteers during its hard-won fight for independence from Mexico, but one harrowing episode stands out. Following a one-sided battle on the prairie near Coleto Creek, 250 mostly American prisoners were marched back to the presidio at Goliad where they were joined by more than 200 others. Subsequently, on orders from President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, they were brutally slaughtered on Palm Sunday, March 27, 1836. The loss of so many fighting men in a single day was, at the time, one of the largest in U.S. history. The reaction in Texas was one of horror, fear, and, for some, a lust for revenge. The revulsion felt throughout the United States turned American sympathies against Mexico and its efforts to preserve its territorial integrity. Based on extensive research, this book offers a powerful description of what happened and an astute analysis of why it happened. For historical background, it also presents an overview of Texas and Mexican history and the factors that led to the massacre.

As a career military officer, author Jay Stout offers insights not grasped by other writers on the subject. He pays particular attention to the leadership on both sides during the revolution and discusses why the massacre has been largely ignored in the years since. Stout deglamorizes the fight against Santa Anna and his army, while at the same time acknowledging the Mexican perspective and the motivations of Mexico's leaders. The author's dynamic writing style, combined with the compelling subject matter, makes this book attractive to everyone interested in the military, Texas, and American history.

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Stout, Jay

Leathernecks: An Illustrated History of the United States Marine Corps

Title: Leathernecks: An Illustrated History of the United States Marine Corps
Authors: Merrill Bartlett & Jack Sweetman
Genre: Non-Fiction, Military
Reviewer: Andrew Lubin

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): 159114020X

The authors of the highly regarded history The U.S. Marine Corps have written a new work that combines a lively, well-researched narrative with a generous selection of photographs and paintings, many in full color, and numerous maps to provide an illustrated history of the U.S. Marine Corps from its inception to the present day. The combination of a wealth of art, a substantial text, and a balanced perspective make the work unique in the literature of the Corps. Many of its illustrations have never before been published or have appeared only in black and white. Unlike other histories of the Corps, this one relies heavily on primary sources and original research.

The authors explain how and why a force that throughout the first century of its existence seldom exceeded the strength of an infantry regiment still managed to attain a strength greater than that of many armies, and developed what is arguably the world's most potent military mystique. Because the history of any institution is the product of the actions of the individuals contained within it, the book includes cameos of some of those who made exceptional contributions to the Corps' rich heritage. An introductory chapter outlines the evolution of marine forces from ancient times to the eve of the American Revolution. Neither a rehash of old histories nor a repeat of unsupported sea stories and fictional tales, this new study brings the Corps' history fully up to date.

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Sweetman, Jack
Bartlett, Merrill

Wounded Warriors: Those for Whom the War Never Ends

Title: Wounded Warriors: Those for Whom the War Never Ends
Author: Mike Sager
Genre: Non-Fiction, Anthology
Reviewer: Bill McDonald

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): 0306817357

Lt. Col. Tim Maxwell prided himself on being a hard-core Marine—a patriotic Devil Dog on his third tour of Iraq. Then his brain was shredded with mortar shrapnel.

Today, Maxwell has a large angry scar on the left side of his head. He forgets words, his wife has to read to him, and he drags one foot when he walks. Yet he works twelve-hour days as commander of the Wounded Warrior Barracks at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. For these warriors, Iraq and Afghanistan will never quite be in the past. And the struggle never ends.

Other stories in Wounded Warriors depict life inside an L.A. crack gang, ex-pat Vietnam War veterans in Thailand, and five days in Las Vegas with basketball anti-hero Kobe Bryant—all of it captured stylishly by the writer who has been called “the beat poet of American journalism.”

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Sager, Mike

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