This was a decent book. It's the third book I've read about the Anbar Awakening in Ramadi, Iraq. The first book "The Sheriff of Ramadi" by Dick CouchThis was a decent book. It's the third book I've read about the Anbar Awakening in Ramadi, Iraq. The first book "The Sheriff of Ramadi" by Dick Couch was somewhat boring at times, but covered 3-5 years of US Military experience in Ramadi, Iraq and introduced us to all of the major players and the overall timeline leading toward the Anbar Awakening and its aftermath. The book focused on The Navy SEAL involvement and went into quite a bit of detail regarding the topography of the battlespace, establishment of the different American military bases, and the creation of the various combat outposts. There was a lot of good information which was not examined in the subsequent books, so I'm very glad I read it. I would read other books by Dick Couch as I enjoyed his thorough approach, however, I fear that he may go into the complete history of the Navy SEALS since Vietnam in every book. The second book "A Chance in Hell" by Jim Michaels was probably my favorite of the three although still not of the caliber of a "We Were Soldiers" or "Black Hawk Down." A Soldier's Dream was really great in that it provided some details lacking in the other books, and a lot of personal anecdotes pertaining to Travis Patriquin and his various mentors. I loved the background information at the beginning, and the last few chapters were really great. Unfortunately, somewhere in the middle it felt a lot like a children's book...maybe a sequel to Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves in which Ali Baba decides to work with the Thieves instead of against them. I think some of those chapters would translate well into an Epic tale that the Iraqi's could pass on to their children. Maybe it has been translated into Arabic and is being used in this way...although they probably tell it better. Several statements, giving Travis Patriquin credit for thinking up everything that occurred were kind of silly and annoying. I think the audience is capable of understanding that this book was written to memorialize Travis and his contribution to American success in Ramadi, made possible due to his unique and outgoing personality, without having to start every major section with the phrase "Travis thought...","Travis knew...", or "Travis hoped..." I feel that attributing some of these thoughts and beliefs to others, or the leadership as a whole would not diminish the significance of Travis' work. Really awesome book nonetheless. It's a good story and I'm glad it was told. It was easy and mostly enjoyable to read.
Added 3/23/13: I read on Amazon reviews that 'Scott' made the following comment: Scott said: "While the author claims that the Awakening might not have happened without Patriquin, he goes on to claim several events as the tipping point in Anbar, some of which Patriquin wasn't involved in...The book could have been great if it was written from a slightly different angle. Like how Patriquin is a model of how counter insurgencies should be fought. Or how he was very important and gave momentum to the Awakening. Or that he was the catalyst for the Awakening, and then prove it by making the writing more clear and concise and not point to different events as tipping points or the last straw."
I like the way he put this, and would like to add that I really enjoyed reading about Travis, and do believe that his role was very important...possibly critical, but the author seems very heavy handed in his attempt to make this point...while simultaneously being confusing. At one point I was thinking of taking out a long roll of paper and charting out the timeline of events because he kept going forward and backward in time. The sequence of 'cause and effect' that the author tried to claim, made no sense in several places. It seemed at times, that something would happen in say, August, and the author would claim it was caused by something Travis did in September. I think the author may have needed more time. I don't think he really had his mind fully wrapped around these events. He didn't "own" this story. I think he's a good writer and if he had taken a slightly different angle and put in a little more time, he could've nailed it....more
I really liked this book. I now see Hal Moore as more of a person with his own flaws and idiosyncracies, but still a great warrior and hero. When youI really liked this book. I now see Hal Moore as more of a person with his own flaws and idiosyncracies, but still a great warrior and hero. When you see the movie "We Were Soldiers" (starring Mel Gibson) you find yourself frequently saying "That wasn't in the book" (We were Soldiers once...and young,) and you wonder if once again Hollywood took 'Artistic License' with a great classic book. However, all of those moments are explained in this book. This book gives a more well rounded view of Hal Moore and Joe Galloway...and especially Sargeant Major Plumley, and other soldiers. Many of the humorous moments in the movie weren't in the original book, but are described in this book. I also really enjoyed reading Harold Moore's reflection on the events and his feelings and interactions with his "opposite number" from the North Vietnamese Army. Even though I was a little girl during the Vietnam War, like everyone else in America, I guess I needed some closure on this. It was soothing to read about Hal Moore's rainy night on the old battlefield with some of his old comrads and how the battlefield was largely the same as they remembered, but when one old soldier searched for fragments or momentos all he found were wild flowers that weren't there before, but now seemed to thrive on the soil fertilized by the blood of the fallen. It reminded me of Peter, Paul, and Mary's Anti-Vietnam War anthem "Where have all the flowers gone?" I guess they found them....more
Every time I read a book about a war, or a battle, or a military conflict which is written by someone who experienced the conflict first hand (AKA a cEvery time I read a book about a war, or a battle, or a military conflict which is written by someone who experienced the conflict first hand (AKA a combat veteran,) I feel the need to explain something before I begin my review. I have found that when a veteran of combat writes a book about a particular battle or incident, that they write from their perspective (AKA the rank they held) at the time as opposed to their current rank or status. Sometimes, they may add some more recently acquired wisdom, but for the most part they only know how they thought and felt and acted within the role that they held at that time. Therefore, if I refer to Hal Moore as a Lieutenant Colonel and not as a general, it is for this reason. Based on the above statement, I should state that for whatever reason, ignorance or stupidity or whatever, I have found that usually, I only understand War from a "Platoon or Company perspective." I have read, understood, appreciated and loved multiple books by Lieutenants, Sergeants, and even Captains, but I have a much more difficult time understanding higher ranking officers or larger military units. This book definitely fit that pattern at times. Colonel Moore described the battlefield, the perimeter, the strategy, the communication process, and administrative things in a way that sometimes left me flicking at my lips with my pointer finger. Frequently he went off on an LTC tangent which he would explain better in a subsequent chapter. Luckily for me, much of the story was told in short narratives by battle survivors. I really understood and enjoyed reading about small group interactions such as the experiences of the lost platoon or interactions that occurred in foxholes. I got a little lost when I read about the placement of companies around a perimeter, reserve units, command post operations, air strikes, artillery, and machine gun activity. Luckily he included maps. I did enjoy the tidbits of leadership insight despite the fact that I will never use them. I'd like to add here that I have a personal fondness for battle maps. Any maps will do really. Squiggly lines and arrows drawn hastily on a napkin are fine with me. I HATE books which attempt to explain a battle without providing any kind of visual clues whatsoever. Because frankly, verbal descriptions of "flanking manuevers, columns, and patrol formations" are pretty meaningless to me. Is the left flank on our left, or the enemies left? LOL. I guess I'm not really the target audience, anyway. I gave the book 5 stars because it is a classic and really quite wonderful despite my inadequacy as a reader....more
Michael Shaara's novel "The Killer Angels" was discovered and made into a movie after his death. After thMy thoughts at just past the half way point:
Michael Shaara's novel "The Killer Angels" was discovered and made into a movie after his death. After the posthumous success of the movie and novel, Michael's son Jeff, who was not even an author, was asked to write a screenplay (which became a novel) as a prequel to his father's story. This story has also achieved great success. I was able to hear Jeff Shaara speak at the 150th anniversary re-enactment of the battle of Antietem and he is an excellent speaker. If you ever have the opportunity to hear him, it would be well worth your while.
Jeff Shaara has become quite a prolific author of historic wartime novels and is now working on a Civil War western theater trilogy. After I read his civil war novels, I may consider several of his other books on other American wars. It is so helpful to look at history from the perspective of important live participants, instead of just in the past tense, theoretical fashion of most non-fiction efforts.
This is a novel exploring the actions and (hypothetical) conversations and inner thoughts of two confederate Generals (Lee and Jackson)and two Union officers (Hancock and Chamberlain) during the period from the late 1850's through the days leading up to the Battle of Gettysburg. I have been a big fan of Thomas Jackson and Robert E. Lee for several years and I do find it interesting that Shaara did not choose to contrast their stories with those of McClellan, Hooker, Burnside, Sumner, or Meade, but instead chose two less well known and lower ranking officers to express union sentiments. It was quite a brilliant strategy because while I am most sympathetic to the Confederate Generals, I would likely not find their yankee counterparts to be very compelling. Unlike the brilliance exhibited by the very moral, humble, and faithful Confederate Generals, the Union Gererals were mostly arrogant, whiny, and ultimately incompetent. Jeff Shaara, however, was able to find some yankee officers of substance. These men were not the great leaders that Lee and Jackson turned out to be, but they were complicated and strongly devoted to some aspect of their cause, and Shaara does a good job of fleshing this out.
I actually find myself more able to relate to Union Lieutenant Colonel Lawrence Chamberlain than to anyone else thus far. Chamberlain was a great acadamian and college professor who had worked his way up to a prestigious position at a young age. Unfortunately, he was not happy. He was restless and unfulfilled. When the Civil War broke out, he began asking himself a lot of questions and eventually volunteered to train young men for battle (figuring it would be a good fit since he was an educator.) At this point in the story he is notifying his wife that he has taken a leave of absense from teaching college in order to join the Army. She is of course, flabergasted; never saw this coming. On page #217 it describes their conversation and his thoughts: "He looked at her again, tried to see her face in the dark, said, "I had come to believe that I would grow old standing in front of students, reciting my lessons, and that it didn't matter if I was happy or not. If this is where I am supposed to be, then I would accept that. But...something changed. I look into their faces, and they expect answers, and I began to realize that the answers they want are the same ones I want. My colleagues...they stopped asking about anything a long time ago...they know all they need to know, and their lives are as complete as they will ever be, and that works for them. I am not ready to grow old, to accept that what I am today is what I will always be."
Most of the dialogue is not this eloquent, this deep, or this insightful, but there are these passages which make this book delightful and engaging. So far, I'll give it 4 stars. I find myself reading more slowly as I approach the Battle of Chancelorsville because I am still most fond of Stonewall and am already anticipating hours of sobbing ahead. So, more to come...
6/7/13: Since I began reading this book I have travelled to the 150th Anniversary celebrations of both the Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg) and Chancellorsville (as well as touring the Fredericksburg Battlefield.) I went on many long hikes of the important battle spaces and listened to many park rangers, authors, and historians give many talks. I am glad for all of the different perspectives and depth of knowledge of each of these experts. However, I have to say that this book by Jeff Shaara brought the stories together for me in a way that all of that other talking and walking did not. I truly believe that having done both enhanced my understanding, but even after reading many non-fictional accounts of Lee, Jackson, Stuart, Hancock, Chamberlain, Burnside, Hooker and others, reading the inscriptions on the monuments, visiting the museums, and walking in their footsteps, this book (accompanied with some battlefield park maps) enhanced my understanding, and more importantly my appreciation of those who fought and died, more than anything else. Thank you Mr. Shaara....more