Skjam!'s Reviews > George W. Hamilton, USMC: America's Greatest World War I Hero

George W. Hamilton, USMC by Mark Mortensen
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's review
Apr 20, 2012

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bookshelves: adventure, firstreads, history, military-and-war, published-2011-2020, author-m
Read from April 27 to May 08, 2012

Disclosure: I received this book through a Firstreads giveaway, on the premise that I would review it.

Everyone who served in a military in World War One is dead, and we're rapidly coming up on the centennial of the Great War itself. I expect we'll be seeing a flood of books, TV series and films on the subject. So it's no surprise that someone decided to do a biography of George W. Hamilton, one of the most impressive people involved in the war.

It's not as good a book as it could be, however. The problems start with the introductory material, which overdoes trying to sell the reader on why this book should be written about this person. Some of the famous Marine terseness would have served well here.

Major Hamilton did not keep a journal and did not get around to writing his memoirs, and very few of his letters are still in existence. To cover for this lack of primary source material, particularly in the earlier chapters, the author lists various historical timeline events that Hamilton might have heard about or been in the vicinity of. There's also a fair amount of attempted mindreading. "Hamilton would surely have been interested in..."

Once the book gets to Hamilton's war service, the book gets more solid--probably both because of the extensive documentation of events, and because it's the meat of the story. I'll just say that the subtitle of the book is well supported.

The disappointing and short post-war years are covered, followed by a "where are they now" segment for people George W. Hamilton was close to. There's a postscript that sounds like the author's attempt to start another attempt to get Hamilton the Medal of Honor (arguably, he was robbed.) Extensive footnotes, a fine bibliography and an index round out the volume.

The book is primarily intended for schools and libraries, and is retailing at $45 a pop; I'd suggest checking your local library for a copy and skipping straight to the war chapters.

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