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Michael Stephenson
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The Last Full Measure: How Soldiers Die in Battle

3.98  ·  Rating Details  ·  170 Ratings  ·  37 Reviews
In this brilliantly researched, deeply humane work of history, Michael Stephenson traces the paths that have led soldiers to their graves over the centuries, revealing a wealth of insight about the nature of combat, the differences among cultures, and the unchanging qualities of humanity itself.

Behind every soldier’s death lies a story, a tale not just of the cold mathema
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ebook, 480 pages
Published May 22nd 2012 by Crown
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Mikey B.
Nov 08, 2015 Mikey B. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, war
Despite the title and the subject matter (death in war) it is not as gloomy as I expected. And there is some gallows humour sprinkled about.

Over half the book is on the two World Wars. There are maybe one hundred pages on the U.S. Civil War and the modern era (Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq). It starts off with Greece, Rome, Carthage... which I was not that interested in. Overall the book is eloquent with a multitude of quotes from participants of war – and mostly from the English speaking world
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Waven
I don't know if I can add much that hasn't been covered in the blurb and other reviews, but this was a great book. While I devote little time to the genre, I think it would be difficult to find a better look at general warfare, weaponry, and the many ways in which soldiers have shuffled off the mortal coil. With such a massive supply of subject matter, the author narrowed the scope of the book to focus largely on the plight of "land soldiers" - infantry and mounted forces fighting on land. (Nava ...more
Mitchell
I received this book from Goodreads through their First-Reads program, and thoroughly enjoyed it, although it is somewhat morbid to say one enjoys reading a book about the death of soldiers. And, indeed, this book is a sobering one as it forces the reader (especially the reader who has never been a soldier) to consider the armaments, motives, and deaths of those who fight. This book aims to examine these topics through the ages, but tends to focus on American wars, as well as more recent wars. T ...more
Jennifer Taw
This book provides a very accessible overview of trends in how soldiers are killed in war and, in so doing, highlights lots of more general issues with regard to war: classism, ethics, the role of leadership, the changing nature of organization for war, the relationships between soldiers and civilians, the brutality of war, tension between heroism and professionalism, between heroism and mechanization, between heroism and stand-off capabilities, ideals of warfare, ideals of soldiery, and so fort ...more
Jenny
Jun 24, 2012 Jenny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I won this book from Goodreads.

The book did not read easy like a novel, but this was so informative and interesting I enjoyed reading it. The author starts as describing early methods of war as well as the social and personal expectations/experiences of a warrior and continues up to modern day. I would think that this could be a wonderful resource to add to our military's "must read" books. The research done is excellent and the book is easy to understand so I'd recommend it to anyone who loves
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Travis
Jul 14, 2015 Travis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
'The Last Full Measure' by Michael Stephenson is a sobering reminder of war-time dead, from the ancient age up to and including the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Stephenson has compiled a series of brutal accounts of war-time fatalities, in an effort to illustrate to we 'how soldiers die in battle'. His book is refreshingly objective and apolitical. This straight-forwardness is echoed within Stephenson's writing itself; a master of the English language, Stephenson's writing is both e ...more
astried
Sep 02, 2014 astried marked it as hummmm  ·  review of another edition
This quote from the book, I'd read it based only on this paragraph

The Last Full Measure is about how soldiers have died in combat. This exploration of the central truth of battle involves a recognition of a debt and an attempt to honor an obligation. But it is important to be clear about this. To pay respect to these dead is not at all the same thing as promoting militarism. (The braying of the war lovers and the shrill call of the chicken hawks, will always ensure that their voices are heard lo
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Caroline
Sep 13, 2015 Caroline rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-history
How soldiers approach not just the prospect of battle itself but the possibility (or inevitability) of their own death is something both unique and timeless. Each soldier faces death in his own individual way, and yet so much of battle and battlefield deaths are a result of a whole convergence of factors, only a few which may have anything to do with the man himself. The nature of the combat, the time and the place, the cultural impulses behind the conflict, the identity of the enemy, the weapon ...more
Scott Whitmore
Jun 06, 2015 Scott Whitmore rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A highly readable overview of the evolution of land warfare, The Last Full Measure: How Soldiers Die In Battle by Michael Stephenson covers some of the same ground as John Keegan’s The Face of Battle by focusing on war from the foot soldier’s perspective.

Stephenson’s scope is much broader, though, as he begins in the Stone Age, makes some predicable stops along the way — dawn of gunpowder, American Civil War, World Wars I and II — and finishes up in Iraq just a few years ago.

Of course any one
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T. Robert
Jul 20, 2015 T. Robert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book about death and killing in combat is probably not a choice for many readers. It is however a real part of war and the author does an excellent job of covering it. He is very much a realist, not maudlin or leaning towards any poliltical agenda, analysing wars from ancient times to Vietnam and Iraq very well using a multitude of sources and memoirs. It helps a lot that he is an excellent writer with a very expressive style. He does have a point of view, which he emphasizes - that wars are u ...more
K8
Nov 19, 2014 K8 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Historians Interested in the Evolution of War
Too much history, not enough cultural analysis. Sorry, Last Full Measure- you're an excellent read for historians, not so much for anthropologists
Charles Gonzalez
Aug 14, 2015 Charles Gonzalez rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have been waiting for a year to read this book. It stood on my shelves and on my to read list patiently waiting for my hand to finally grab it and start. I wanted to read it, the theme of the book grabbed me in a meaningful way and I just hoped that I felt the same way after I was done with it. Well I have and I do, in fact more than I expected. Stephenson's work is extraordinary and gripping. I have read much war time literature, from Hanson's Greek and ancient efforts to McPherson's Civil Wa ...more
Kate
Aug 11, 2012 Kate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Stephenson tells great stories and tells them well. What fascinates is what men, people, do to one another in order to produce death by war. If you've read historical fiction about various battles, you know something of what's here. This description of battles, one after the other, makes for a compelling read. I would say I couldn't put it down, except sometimes I had to put it down. I couldn't stand to read one more story of the awfulness of enduring warfare, whether modern or ancient. This boo ...more
Sue
May 08, 2013 Sue rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, military
An unflinching glimpse into what soldiers on the ground really face when they make that ultimate sacrifice. The book attempts to cover the documented history of man and the methods used in war, and how advances in technology changed the very nature of how war was viewed but at the same time some things are timeless and universal. It breaks down that history into ancient, medieval, colonial, the US Civil War, the World Wars seperately, and finally the morphing and uncertain nature of insurgent fi ...more
Joy
Jul 12, 2012 Joy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is a certain morbidity that comes with reading 400 pages of unabated death--and not quiet death, but death in the midst of battle. And yet there is a quiet dignity to The Last Full Measure, one that manages to be neither clinical nor Rambo-esque, but rather, fundamentally compassionate. Stephenson is a consummate historian, tracing the evolution of war over the millennia--from prehistory to the modern day--with meticulous accuracy. Although there are moments where the writing falls short o ...more
Ross Ritchell
Feb 05, 2015 Ross Ritchell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Outstanding study of combat and its instrument from Ancient Greece to modem Afghanistan and Iraq. Readers will be happily surprised to see that this is not a technical read, but rather one comprised of endless personal anecdotes from the combatants throughout history. Reads like a diverse diary of numerous soldiers, brought together by a single narrator. Very well done and highly recommended. Sections from WW1-present day are unmatched.
Chris
Jul 18, 2012 Chris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: military
Very interesting and well written account. It's a melange of Grossman's "On Killing," English's "On Infantry," and any one of Victor Davis Hanson's books. It goes chronologically and is replete with quotes from soldiers through the ages-some well known, others not so. It's well balanced account and in his preface, which is profound and moving, Stephenson expertly and adroitly walks the tightrope between glorification of war and repulse at the gore. He pretty much covers everything. There's even ...more
Nordo
Feb 24, 2014 Nordo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: military
A historical look at the weapons used in war in the last 2000 years, including stats, tactics and first hand soldier accounts of war. Must read for any military history fans-
Chris
Jul 14, 2014 Chris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
I really enjoyed this book, and felt it was missing something. I initially went into it expecting something different - it was largely a review of how military technology has evolved over millennia, so as such, it was always going to be general. However, I felt it was both a bit brief in actually examining the revolutionary and evolution role of new technologies. On the other hand, Stephenson doesn't really examine how these technologies influenced the men and women on the receiving end.

That sa
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Kevin Summers
Oct 15, 2013 Kevin Summers rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is something of an amplified version of Chris Hedges' What Every Person Should Know About War, which is a great book itself.

Sample quote: "The Last Full Measure is about how soldiers have died in combat. This exploration of the central truth of battle involves a recognition of a debt and an attempt to honor an obligation. But it is important to be clear about this. To pay respect to these dead is not at all the same thing as promoting militarism. Nor is it to pretend that every slain s
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Deedee
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Tim
Dec 24, 2014 Tim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book about a very sad topic. Stephenson covers the dead in battle from ancient times to Iraq and Afghanistan. We see the progress of technology both in weaponry and medicine and how soldiers perish on the battle field. I found the writing style fluid and respectful, honest and forthright. I have read a lot about the Civil War and WWI, so the other parts of the book were more interesting to me, especially the section on ancient battles. Would recommend this for writers and historians.
Marcia
Jun 07, 2012 Marcia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
This is a fascinating history of warfare from ancient through modern times. It has extensive information about weaponery, literature, customs, tactics, and statistics. Stephenson's style is articulate, concise, and informative. The notes and bibliography in the back explain the sources for information. The author's own analyses add much to the information. This book should appeal to many groups of readers.
Carson
Aug 08, 2012 Carson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves:
I won this book on Goodreads. This was an amazing read. If you love reading about wars you will love this book. The only problem I had with the book is that it reads like a text book. It is more difficult to get through because of this, but it has very interesting facts that make up for this flaw.
Robert
Jul 03, 2013 Robert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An educational trip through battlefield injury and slaughter throughout the ages. At times, it achieves a fine informal and historical tone, and other chapters it can feel a bit "textbookish," but this is a minor gripe. It's not light reading, but it's worth the time.
Robert
Sep 29, 2012 Robert rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Worth reading, especially after recently finishing a history of WWII, in order to remember that war is not just tactics and battles and victories and defeats -- it is also bloody, unheroic, often anonymous death.
Blake
Jul 12, 2012 Blake rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very good book. Cant give it 5 stars, would give it 4.5, because sometimes it read to much like a text book. It really brought some very interesting thoughts to me, some having nothing to do with battle or death.
Erick
Apr 12, 2015 Erick rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very interesting niche of military history - namely, reviewing the different eras of warfare and how soldiers perished. Not fun - but with knowing.
Steve
Nov 08, 2014 Steve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Excellent. A lot of first person accounts of the reality of war. The
weapons and ethics from Greeks, middle ages and the Civil war and on.
Timothy
I received this book in a Goodreads giveaway. It was interesting but repetitive after awhile.
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"In addition to his writing, Stephenson spent more than twenty-five years as a professional book editor, for much of that time with a particular focus on military publishing."

"Stephenson is the former editor of the Military Book Club and the editor of National Geographic's Battlegrounds: Geography and the History of Warfare. He is also the author of Patriot Battles: How the War of Independence Was
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