Mark Mortensen's Reviews > Men at War

Men at War by Various
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Jul 16, 12

bookshelves: favorites, military
Read from May 04 to July 16, 2012

Ernest Hemingway was a unique character and it is interesting to note that among all of his accomplishments he was the proud editor of “MEN AT WAR: The Best War Stories of All Time”, a smorgasbord of 82 prominent short historical war stories from around the world from the Biblical days of David and Goliath to Pear Harbor and World War II tales prior to the book publication date of 1942. Included within the book is Stephen Crane’s unabridged “Red Badge of Courage”. The events are not told in chronological order, but rather randomly, as Hemmingway shuffled the deck. Hemingway also penned the introduction and three of the individual war chapters. A few of the other notable authors with a story or more are Julius Caesar, Theodore Roosevelt, William Faulkner, John W. Thomason Jr., Count Leo Tolstoy, Rudyard Kipling and Winston Churchill. It was a true educational experience to be afforded to sample the writing style of so many authors within one volume. The introduction of some authors, whom I was totally unfamiliar with, encouraged me to read more of their works in the future. This book is a great addition to any library shelf.

Through the ages many military officers have carried a book or two with them in the midst of war and I have always been intrigued by the selection of some individuals. I was initially drawn to “Men at War” as WWII USMC Capt. Andrew A. “Ack Ack” Haldane chose to pack this hardcover 2 ½ lb. book with over 1,000 pages on his mission to the South Pacific islands. Author E. B. Sledge mentioned in his book “With the Old Breed” that Haldane, his company CO, who was KIA at Peleliu, had inscribed A. A. Haldane in his copy of “MEN AT WAR”.

A few of the historical stories are a bit dry, some contain a touch of humor and many are priceless leaving lasting impressions. I appreciated the chapter “At All Costs” by Richard Aldington where, under dire conditions, he mentioned a WWI English officer stating: “But no, the N.C.O.’s could be relied on to hold out to the last. They were done for, napoo. No après la guerre for them – bon soir, toodle-oo, good-byeeee.

It’s interesting to note how the chronicles of war have evolved through the ages and if the book was published today, certainly one could also include stories of women into the mix. In some chapters I found myself reading well into the first few pages before I grasped the time period of the particular battle. Although war can at times be an amazing adventure, the culminating death and destruction is a devastating time for all parties directly involved as well as overall society. “MEN AT WAR” will temporarily fill the tank of any military historian to the full capacity, however upon completion one might find them self in need of a brief breather and searching to switch to some lighter genre reading material.


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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Logan (new)

Logan Beirne this sounds excellent! I am adding it to my "to read" list - thank you.


Mark Mortensen Thanks John. I have seen only a few parts of the mini-series "The Pacific" and did not know the Sledge garbage scene was in it. Thanks also for your service.


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