The American military has been kicking ass and taking names for over 240 years. In all that time, it’s amassed a massive list of important victories and defeats. Below is a list of some that reshaped American history for better or worse.
The list is voteable, so click to advance your picks for most important battles and strike down ones you find less important.
Nine times out of 10, enlisted troops are glad that their lieutenant’s office is far, far away. However, it’s 1700 and everyone has been standing in formation for 40 minutes – where is he? What kind of boot-tenant sorcery is going on in there? Whoever gave him a map and compass needs to be hazed right now. This is what your lieutenant is really doing in his office.
1. They’re getting pranked
New lieutenants, also known as butter bars and boot-tenants, are at the bottom of the officer totem pole. They may not get hazed like enlisted do but they get messed with like they’re in a fraternity. This one time my Lt. and I were walking into his office discussing upcoming training when he suddenly stops.
This man’s whole office furniture is missing. Suddenly, a burst of laughter from down the hall and he gives chase. There’s giggling until moments later I hear Sergeant Major laying into them like they’re back at The Basic School. If your lieutenant is late and flustered, he may have been pranked.
2. They’re taking a nap
No judgement here, sneaking a little shut eye during ‘hurry up and wait’ never hurt anyone.
3. They’re stuck talking to the higher ups
When an enlisted troop avoids an officer it’s because they do not feel like giving a salute. When your lieutenant avoids officers it is because they do not want to get dragged into a long-winded conversation with the colonel. You only see the higher ups briefly; they’re stuck with them all day long. Lieutenants will try to interrupt and break contact but the salty ol’ major wants to finish his story about bass fishing first. Meanwhile, the company commander walks in and wants to share his two cents. It becomes an infinite feedback loop of small talk he cannot escape – because they’re in his office.
4. They’re texting
Yes, just like everyone else they own phones and play video games on them. That’s why your leave still isn’t approved.
5. They’re catching up on paperwork
Between getting messed with, held against their will and sitting in endless briefings they still need to do their job. The operations officer wants a roster of everybody who needs to qualify on the rifle range within the next three months, the company executive officer needs a map and five paragraph order for the upcoming field op, the S-4 needs a roster of how many MREs to order, etc. That’s why they’re a pain when it comes to turning information over to them.
6. They’re doing PT
They would rather be with the troops or go to gym but there may be time crunch. That’s why they’re always so eager to hover around the platoon, otherwise it’s burpee time.
7. They’re repacking their gear
Lieutenants have to set the example of how the gear should be packed — unless there is a company or battalion Stand Operating Procedure, guideline, on how thing should be squared away. He’ll likely be there with the platoon sergeant taping every strap, quadruple checking the packing list, and weighing the pack for good measure.
The right to keep and bear arms is a longstanding, often glorified right protected by the US Constitution.
Americans own nearly half of all the civilian-owned guns in the world, and on a per capita basis, the US has far more guns than any other nation.
Certainly, many countries are awash with guns. Among the nations with the most firearms are Serbia, Yemen, Switzerland, and Saudi Arabia.
There are only three countries, however, that have a constitutional right to keep and bear arms: Mexico, Guatemala, and the United States — here’s why.
Just south of the US border, the Mexican government has a strict hold over civilian gun ownership. Although Mexicans have a right to buy a gun, bureaucratic hurdles, long delays, and narrow restrictions make it extremely difficult to do so.
Article 10 of the 1857 Mexican Constitution guaranteed that “every man has the right to keep and to carry arms for his security and legitimate defense.” But 60 years later in 1917, lawmakers amended it following Mexico’s bloody revolution.
During the rewriting of the constitution, the government placed more severe restrictions on the right to buy guns. The law precluded citizens from buying firearms “reserved for use by the military” and forbid them from carrying “arms within inhabited places without complying with police regulations.”
Today, Mexicans still have a right to buy guns, but they must contend with a vague federal law that determines “the cases, conditions, requirements, and places in which the carrying of arms will be authorized.”
In 2012, The New York Times reported that only members of the police or military can buy the largest weapons in Mexico, such as semiautomatic rifles.
“Handgun permits for home protection allow only for the purchase of calibers no greater than .38,” the Times wrote. One man who wanted to buy a pistol had to pay $803.05 for a Smith Wesson revolver.
Perhaps the biggest hurdle of all is that there is only one shop in the entire country where Mexicans can go to buy guns, and it’s located on a heavily guarded army base in Mexico City.
Like Mexico, Guatemala permits gun ownership, but with severe restrictions. The right to bear arms is recognized and regulated by article 38 of the current constitution, which was established in 1985.
“The right to own weapons for personal use, not prohibited by the law, in the place of in habitation, is recognized,” the document says. “There will not be an obligation to hand them over, except in cases ordered by a competent judge.”
Although Guatemalans are not allowed to own fully automatic weapons, they are allowed to buy semi-automatic weapons, handguns, rifles, and shotguns if they obtain a permit. Still, that can be difficult.
For example, individuals who want to purchase a gun for private security purposes need approval from the government. They are also limited in how much ammunition they can own, and they must re-apply and re-qualify for their firearm licenses every one to three years, according to GunPolicy.org.
Despite the restrictions, guns are widely available in Guatemala. In fact, it has one of the highest gun ownership rates per capita in Latin America, according to Insight Crime. The same organization also noted that 75% of homicides in Guatemala involve a gun.
Although Mexico and Guatemala both have a constitutional right to bear arms, the US is in a league of its own simply because it is the only country without restrictions on gun ownership in its constitution.
The second amendment states: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Those words were adopted in 1791 and have since inspired other countries around the world to provide their citizens with the right to own guns. Only 15 constitutions (in nine countries) “ever included an explicit right to bear arms,” according to The New York Times.
They are Bolivia, Costa Rica, Colombia, Honduras, Nicaragua, Liberia, Guatemala, Mexico, and the US. All of those countries, excluding Mexico, the US, and Guatemala, have since rescinded the constitutional right to bear arms.
GI Joe is a national treasure and the doll that has made red-blooded American males tough for decades. But not all GI Joes are created equal once the shooting starts. Here are the 10 most useless among them:
Altitude’s special abilities include making quick sketches while skydiving. It may or may not be relevant that he’s a full-blooded Apache. After the failure of syndicated cartoons, he joined the military. His photographic memory helps his sketches be as accurate as possible. According to his official filecard, he’s the first Joe ever to combine two totally different specialties – Reconnaissance and Combat Artistry.
Once the “baddest, hottest disc jockey in Boston,” Dee-Jay is a Communications expert who can work “complicated sound equipment… and coax strange sounds out of it with an infectious beat.” The only person more useless would be Cobra’s Falconer, but at least he knew how to dodge tax laws.
Metalhead is from the short-lived GI Joe EXTREME series. His specialty is computer communications and playing loud rock music in battle. He also has an “in-your-face attitude” (aka “being an asshole”).
Also, a leather vest and peace symbol necklace aren’t intimidating anyone, least of all Cobra Commander.
GI Joe’s hostage negotiator, Bullhorn is an “intervention specialist… an extremely calm individual, possessing an open and compassionate personality.” He “has the looks of a choirboy and is a good listener!”
5. Colonel Courage
The Colonel whose military specialty is “administrative strategist,” his filecard quotes him as saying “I’ll never surrender when I’m wearing a tie ’cause I can’t be beat when I’m neat!” His skills include organization and an efficient work ethic.
Colonel Courage’s filecard even says he rides a desk. Colonel Courage seems like the kind of Colonel who would deny Gung-Ho a promotion because his mustache was out of regs. Also I can’t take him seriously with a name like that.
6. Ice Cream Soldier
I don’t understand why he’s not just called “Ice Cream.” They don’t call Leatherneck “Leatherneck Marine.” Anyway, this seems like a bet between some Hasbro execs to see if they could just sell anything. Ice Cream Soldier is a Fire Operations Expert and BBQ Chef. His filecard says his name is designed to make Cobra underestimate him, but his filecard quote makes that seem like a dodge: “Eating ice cream without hot fudge is like fighting without ammunition!”
His card specifically states Sci-Fi “lives in a slow-motion world. He takes everything real easy and is never in a hurry to get anywhere or do anything.” It sounds like Sci-Fi is the biggest Blue Falcon in the whole Joe organization. Also, his specialty is shooting a laser. Forget that everyone shoots lasers, Sci-Fi’s laser takes much longer to be effective so he shoots it miles away from the battlefield.
Neon green is obviously the go-to color to wear in any small arms situation.
Chuckles, with maybe the least threatening name of any GI Joe (keeping in mind that Ice Cream Soldier still has the word “soldier” in his name), is a former insurance investigator whose greatest skill is “likeability.” He works criminal investigations, in case any Joes violate the UCMJ. No one is really sure who Chuckles works for, but he shows up every day in his Hawaiian shirt, “grinning, cracking jokes, and punching Cobras in the shoulders.”
An environmental health specialist, Ozone cleans up dangerous chemicals while fixing the holes in Earth’s Ozone layer. “Yo Joe! Ozone is here!” said no Joe ever.
“Hey, Ozone, buddy… we’re gonna need that Napalm back.”
Hardball is a failed minor league baseball player who still dresses like he’s going to play baseball at any moment, as if he just can’t accept the fact that he couldn’t make it to the big leagues and joined the military instead. His specialties include being able to judge distances quickly and his ability to be a team player.
I mean, come on man, let it go. It’s time to move on.
Sure, most people end up in one nice, consolidated grave. But these five generals were not “most people”:
1. Gen. “Mad” Anthony Wayne’s skeleton and flesh were buried 400 miles apart.
When Isaac Wayne arrived at the Army blockhouse in Erie, Pennsylvania, he expected to exhume his father’s bones and take them the 400 miles back to his hometown of Radnor, Pennsylvania for re-burial. His father was Gen. “Mad” Anthony Wayne, a Revolutionary War and Northwest Indian War hero.
When the remains were exhumed, the body was found to be in good condition despite 12 years having passed since Gen. Wayne’s death in 1796. Isaac’s cart was too small to move a complete body though, and so Isaac had the body dismembered and the flesh boiled off of it. Then, he took the bones the 400 miles back to Radnor. The boiled flesh and the tools used in the “operation” were reburied in Erie.
2. Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell was buried 640 miles from his leg.
A Confederate leader in the Civil War, Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell was seriously injured at the Second Battle of Manassas. His leg was amputated and buried in a local garden. Ewell returned to combat after a one-year convalescence and was taken prisoner near the end of the war.
3. Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Sickles’ leg is in the Smithsonian.
Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Sickles led his men to their doom at the Battle of Gettysburg when he ignored his orders and marched forward of his designated positions. Exposed, he and his men were brutally attacked and Sickles himself was wounded by a cannonball to the leg.
After his amputation, he decided against having his leg buried and instead sent it to the Army Medical Museum where Sickles visited it every year. It now resides at the Smithsonian Museum while Sickles rests in Arlington National Cemetery.
4. Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood’s leg was buried somewhere by an army private.
Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood lost his right leg after it was struck by a Minie ball during the Battle of Chickamagua in Georgia. His condition after the surgery was so bad that his physician, assuming he would die, ordered Pvt. Arthur H. Collier to take the leg to a nearby town where the general was being treated.
5. Stonewall Jackson’s left arm has a famous grave.
The grave of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s left arm is well known. Jackson was returning from a reconnaissance of Union positions in 1863 when his own soldiers mistook him for the enemy. Pickets fired on him and injured his left arm which was later amputated.
Stonewall’s chaplain buried the arm near Chancellorsville while Jackson was taken to Fairfield Plantation, Virginia. Jackson was expected to make a recovery, but he died of pneumonia eight days after his injury. He is buried in Lexington, Virginia, 44 miles from his arm.
We’ve all been lectured about what parts of military life are most relevant in the civilian world — things like showing up on time and being respectful. Those things are mostly nonsense and ingredients in a recipe for disaster when you make the transition. Here’s WATM’s list of 7 skills you learned that got you by during your time in uniform — military “life hacks” — that’ll make life on the outside easier and more productive:
1. Doing more with less
Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (in)famously said, “You go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want.” But that reality isn’t an excuse for failure. The American people still expect their military to win the war. (They don’t always act like it, but they do.) Same deal in civilian life. You won’t have all the resources you need to make the sale or close the campaign, but the company still expects you to get it done.
2. Embracing the suck
Remember how you started each deployment with optimism and enthusiasm? Remember how those things were crushed by the end of the first month in theater? But about that same time you realized that sitting around and complaining about it wasn’t going to make the rest of the time any easier. The same thing is true in civilian life. Every job has its suck. You want to play golf for a living? Get ready to spend ninety percent of your time away from home. But don’t sit around the clubhouse bitching about it.
3. Being resourceful on the road
Even at the combat outpost in Paktika Province – without running water or air conditioning – you managed to whip up your favorite tuna slider recipe, figure out that Jason Aldean song, and keep your Facebook status updated. Those mad skills will come in handy when the company sends you on that client roadshow or to that training seminar. The complimentary wifi won’t work. The treadmill in the hotel gym will be broken. The conference room will run out of electrical outlets. Tough luck. Get it done, soldier. And keep your toes tapping.
4. Stepping up to solve problems beyond your billet description
It was a party foul to say “that’s not my job” during your time in uniform. Many times you had to come out of your lane to make sure things got done in the face of others inadvertently overlooking their responsibilities. Same thing happens on the outside. Somebody’s about to forget the glossy brochures for that key client presentation. Somebody forgot to do Item No. Three on the “Night Shift Shipping Procedures” checklist. If you see it, solve it.
5. Realizing that everyone above your paygrade is dangerously clueless
At times it seemed like the sole purpose of the chain of command was to try and kill you. Your watch section tried to wash you overboard. Your flight lead tried to fly you into the ground. Your skipper assigned you for a mission with no real idea of what it was going to take to get you safely back. Welcome to the business world. While the consequences of ineptitude might be less life threatening, that same healthy paranoia regarding those in charge is a good idea.
6. Knowing the value of a good wingman
The buds got you back to the ship after a big night of liberty. They kept you out of jail in Turkey. They gave you that timely heads up when the Gunny was about to come down on you with both feet. Those same kinds of folks will come in handy in civilian life. (And your regional manager might have gunny-like tendencies from time-to-time).
7. KEEPING YOUR SENSE OF HUMOR WHEN THINGS GET BAD
You know how you stayed sane in the military by laughing stuff off? Don’t lose your sense of humor when you trade multicam for mufti. You’re going to need it for the same reasons you needed it when things got rough in uniform.
Numerous scams often target military members due to their consistent paychecks and many troops being young and financially inexperienced. From predatory lending to online scams, it’s important for service members to learn how to protect themselves from being taken advantage of. Here are 9 scams every military service member needs to be aware of.
1. Social Media Scams (Card Popping)
Fake accounts are being created on social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter, where scammers often impersonate military personnel. They will then friend military troops and begin building a relationship through direct messaging. Eventually they will claim they can make you quick money by depositing money in to your account and in exchange you just send them a fee. They will ask for personal banking information such as your username, password, bank card number, and pin. Once the information is exchanged they deposit fraudulent checks and withdraw the cash, leaving you without money and possibly liable for the losses.
2. Rental Housing Scams
Scammers will post fake rental properties on classified websites in areas around military bases and communities targeting troops. Service members moving in to the area will be offered fake military discounts and be asked for a security deposit by wiring money to the landlord.
3. Military Loans
Military car and personal loans that require no credit check, have instant approval, upfront fees, or promise guarantees are highly likely to have hidden fees and terms that take advantage of service members, leaving them with crippling debt.
4. Veterans’ Benefits Buyout Scam
Military veterans hard pressed for cash may be lured into this buyout plan offering a cash payment in exchange for their future disability pension payments and benefits. However, these payouts are only about 30 to 40 percent of what their value is and structured in ways harmful to veterans’ finances.
5. Car Purchase Scams
Using websites that offer classified ads, scammers will create car ads targeting military members. They will pretend they are a service member who is being deployed or moving because they are being stationed somewhere else and need to get rid of their car quickly. They will ask for wire transfers or up front fees and will offer fake claims such as free shipping or discounts.
6. Employment Scams
Veterans and active duty members searching for jobs may come across employers who offer special consideration for their military service. Be wary of employers asking for personal information such as bank account numbers or that want to conduct a credit or background check. Some are scams that use your personal information to steal your identity and/or expose you to fraud.
7. Jury Duty Scam
Military members will be targeted by callers who claim they work with the court system and tell the service member has a warrant out for their arrest due to not showing up for jury duty. Fearing they can get in trouble by their command, the caller says it can be taken care of by providing personal information such as a social security or credit card number.
8. Veterans Affairs Scam
Military veterans are being targeted by phone scammers who call claiming they work for Veterans Affairs and say they need to update their information with the VA. The VA never calls and asks for your private information by phone.
9. Military Life Insurance Scams
Hard sales tactics are used by agents who target military members. They will make false and inflated claims about life insurance policy benefits which are expensive and most likely unnecessary.
Learn how to protect yourself!
To help military members and their families the Better Business Bureau has created a BBB Military Line to educate service members on how to protect themselves. Be sure to follow their Facebook page to keep up to date on all current scams and ways to protect yourselves.
(Note: The BBB has put out a warning about scammers trying to take advantage of the military and veteran community during Memorial Day weekend. Read how you can protect yourself.)
Marine Corps Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis is known for his aggressive tactics and his even more aggressive quotes.
While he embraced counter-insurgency tactics with the rest of the military, his quotes put a decidedly lethal spin on “low-intensity combat.” Check out these 15 great Mattis quotes — but be warned… they’ll make you want to charge into hordes of America’s enemies with nothing but a Ka-Bar:
11. “There are hunters and there are victims. By your discipline, cunning, obedience and alertness, you will decide if you are a hunter or a victim.” (Told to troops at Al Asad, Iraq)
12. “No war is over until the enemy says it’s over. We may think it over, we may declare it over, but in fact, the enemy gets a vote.”
13. “There is nothing better than getting shot at and missed. It’s really great.”
14. “You cannot allow any of your people to avoid the brutal facts. If they start living in a dream world, it’s going to be bad.”
15. “You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them. Actually it’s quite fun to fight them, you know. It’s a hell of a hoot. It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right up there with you. I like brawling.” (Said during a panel discussion in San Diego, via CNN)
Beside most members of the military is a spouse who keeps life going while a husband or wife serves.
While every military family serves their country with pride, some military spouses go above and beyond to help their communities.
Meet 10 inspiring military spouses are making a difference:
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Maj. Scott Hawks)
Taya Kyle, the widow of Navy SEAL and most lethal sniper in US history Chris Kyle, has been an advocate since her husband was killed in 2013.
In 2014, she started the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation with the goal of connecting military families and veterans, and providing interactive experiences to enrich family relationships.
Kyle and her husband’s story became the subject of the Academy Award-nominated film “American Sniper”.
Tiffany Smiley’s husband, Army Major Scott Smiley, served in Iraq for six months until a car bomb in Mosul sent shrapnel into his eyes that would leave him blind for the rest of his life.
As an advocate for the power of military spouses, Tiffany speaks around the country to raise awareness about issues surrounding military members and their spouses.
In 2010, Tiffany and her husband published a book, “Hope Unseen,” based on their experiences as a military family. She has met with Ivanka Trump to push for legislation supporting military families and spoke at a bank-run event about how and why companies should recruit veterans.
As the wife of an enlisted member of the Army, Kyrstel Spell had always wanted to share her experiences as a military spouse with others. Now, she has become a popular voice in the military blogging world.
Spell launched three sites: Army Wife 101, to cover military lifestyle, travel, and parenting; Retail Salute, to gather military discounts in one place; and SoFluential, to connect influencers from military families with businesses looking to hire them.
Crowe manages more than 40 chapters focused on career development and networking opportunities for military spouses in communities around the world. She also runs AMPLIFY, two-day career events for military spouses.
(The Rosie Network)
Stephanie Brown is the wife of retired Navy Admiral R. Thomas L. Brown, who was a SEAL.
Brown, who has spent over 20 years supporting military families, veterans, and wounded warriors, started The Rosie Network when she was trying to find a contractor to repair her family’s home.
Brown wanted to hire a veteran, but was having trouble finding one on existing search sites, so she decided to create a database for the public to access businesses owned by military families. And The Rosie Network doesn’t charge the businesses a fee.
In 15 years as a military spouse, Leigh Searl moved 11 times. Each time, she had to reinvent herself and find new jobs along the way.
So she created America’s Career Force, a program to help military spouses find long-term career opportunities that they can work remotely. That way, they can keep their jobs no matter where the location may be — as long as they have access to a phone and internet.
She started the National Military Spouse Network after spending much of her life volunteering in the military community instead of establishing her own career. The site provides military spouses with networking opportunities.
These are six reasons why we think Hollywood should make more war movies.
6. Veterans love well-made war movies
Every war movie has its flaws, but veterans deeply respect when films properly capture military life without going completely over the top. When we find one that we love, directors and actors earn new fans right away.
There’s an inexhaustible well of heroic stories created from the actions of brave men and women during their service. Hollywood hasn’t even scratched the surface. So, to all of you producers out there, get your interns to start reading those scripts from vets.
Troops watch a ton of films in their downtime while deployed. When someone pops a good war movie, filled to the brim with tons of explosions, into their laptop, we can’t help but celebrate and look forward to the next foot patrol.
We’re going on patrol! We’re going on patrol! (Image via GIPHY)
3. They keep fallen heroes’ memories alive
Everybody wants to be remembered for the good they’ve done in this world. Movies are one of the most compelling ways to immortalize a troop’s heroic deeds.
We know our words are beautiful but don’t cry, Toby. (Image via GIPHY)
2. They remind everyone what we go through
As time passes, the truth behind amazing stories tends to get buried under 50-feet of hypothetical crap. Solid war movies do a good job of showing you what life was actually like, they last for generations, and make veterans proud.
That was a good war movie. Holy sh*t! (Image via GIPHY)
Let’s face it, Hollywood has made some sh*tty war movies that do not represent what we do very well. We need to see a few more good ones before we can let go of our grudge. Hopefully, some producer will read this and be like, “these writers from WATM know what they’re talking about!”
We here at WATM love putting together lists and rankings, so it makes sense for us create one for non-fiction books. We read quite often, and not surprisingly considering we’re a bunch of military veterans, those books often deal with military topics.
These are our picks for best military non-fiction books of all-time. (If you’d like to see our picks for fiction, click here.) The books below are numbered but not in rank order. All of these are great reads.
If you want to gain an understanding of America’s war with radical Islamists, look no further than “The Forever War” by journalist Dexter Filkins. As a foreign correspondent for The New York Times, Filkins begins his book as the Taliban rises to power in Afghanistan, writes of the aftermath following the Sept. 11th attacks, and then continues through the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Told from ground level by the only American journalist who reported on all of these events, Filkins does not write a neat history lesson. Instead, he tells individual stories of people — from ordinary citizens to soldiers — and how they are affected by the incidents that happen around them. He does it using beautiful prose, and with little bias.
Former Air Force Col. James Burton gives the inside account of what it’s like when the Pentagon wants to develop a new weapons system. Having spent 14 years in weapons acquisition and testing, Burton details his struggle during the development of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle with those above him who were often more interested in supporting defense contractors instead of troops in the field.
Burton spends much of the book writing of the small band of military reformers who worked hard trying to fix the problems of Pentagon procurement from the 1960s to the 1980s, and he suffered professionally for “rocking the boat” as a result. For example, after suggesting that the Bradley’s armor should be tested against Soviet antitank weaponry, the Army — knowing it would never hold up — tried to get Burton transferred to Alaska. The very serious book also inspired a very funny movie made by HBO:
Most people have seen the movie, but this is one of those times when you should definitely read the book. This brilliant account by journalist Mark Bowden tells the story of the Oct. 3, 1993 battle of Mogadishu, Somalia, when hundreds of elite U.S. Army soldiers fought back against thousands of militants when a routine mission went wrong.
With remarkable access, research, and interviews, Bowden recreates the battle minute-by-minute and perfectly captures the brutality of the fight and the heroism of those who fought and died there.
This book gives an inside look at the transformation that takes place from civilian to Marine Corps officer. A classics major at Dartmouth, Fick joins the Marines in 1998 an idealistic young man and leaves a battle-hardened and skilled leader after serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.
At times very personal and unpleasant, Fick’s book recounts plenty of combat experiences. But that is not the real draw. His wonderful detailing of the training, mindset, and actions of Marine officers on today’s battlefields makes this a must-read.
Historian Stephen Ambrose’s account Easy Co. in “Band of Brothers” is quite simply, an account of ordinary men doing extraordinary things. The book — which later became a 10-part miniseries on HBO — takes readers from the unit’s tough training in 1942 all the way to its liberation of Hitler’s “Eagles Nest” in 1945.
“Band of Brothers illustrates what one of Ambrose’s sources calls ‘the secret attractions of war … the delight in comradeship, the delight in destruction … war as spectacle,’ writes Tim Appelo in his review.
One of the first significant engagements between American and Vietnamese forces in 1965 was also one of the most savage. The Battle of the Ia Drang Valley is told by Lt. Col. Moore and Galloway, a reporter who was there, and it serves as both a testament to the bravery and perseverance of the 450 men who fought back after being surrounded by 2,000 enemy troops.
While the book was later made into a movie, it’s well-worth reading if only for the stories of Rick Rescorla, the platoon leader featured on the cover of the book whose nickname was “Hard Core.”
More than 2,000 years old and still relevant today, “The Art of War” is a must-read book on military theory and strategy. But its maxims can be applied by those far outside the combat arms. Tzu offers advice relevant to everyone from Army generals to CEOs.
“Absorb this book, and you can throw out all those contemporary books about management leadership,” wrote Newsweek.
There have been many contemporary accounts written of World War II, but “Flyboys” manages to bring to light something that had remained hidden for nearly 60 years. James Bradley tells the story of nine Americans who were shot down in the Pacific off the island of Chichi Jima.
One of them, George H.W. Bush, was rescued. But what happened to the eight others was covered up and kept secret from their families by both the U.S. and Japanese governments. Bradley, who wrote “Flags of our Fathers,” conducted extensive research and uncovered a story that has never been told before.
Written in a compelling narrative style, David McCullough’s “1776” retells the year of America’s birth in wonderful detail. McCullough is an incredible storyteller who puts you right there, feeling as if you are marching in the Continental Army.
From the Amazon description:
In this masterful book, David McCullough tells the intensely human story of those who marched with General George Washington in the year of the Declaration of Independence—when the whole American cause was riding on their success, without which all hope for independence would have been dashed and the noble ideals of the Declaration would have amounted to little more than words on paper.
As a reporter for Rolling Stone magazine, Evan Wright rode with the Marines of 1st Recon Battalion into Iraq in 2003. Embedded among the men, Wright captures the story of that first month of American invasion along with the grunt mindset, how the Marines interact, and captures the new generation of warriors that has emerged after 9/11.
Soldiers today are “on more intimate terms with the culture of the video games, reality TV shows and Internet porn than they are with their own families,” Wright told Booklist (One 19-year-old corporal compares driving into an ambush to a Grand Theft Auto video game: “It was fucking cool.”)
A monster of a book at 704 pages, journalist Jake Tapper tells a powerful story of an Afghan outpost that was doomed to fail even before soldiers built it. Beginning with the decision to build a combat outpost in Nuristan in 2006, Tapper reveals a series of bad decisions that would ultimately lead to a battle for survival at that outpost three years later — one that would see multiple soldiers earn the Medal of Honor for their heroism.
Known as Combat Outpost Keating, the story of the base is one that is worth reading. With its bestseller status, rave reviews by critics, and most importantly, the soldiers who fought there, it’s safe to say “The Outpost” gets it right.
Found on many military reading lists, Grossman’s “On Killing” is a landmark study of how soldiers face the reality of killing other humans in combat, and how military training overcomes their aversion to such an act.
A former West Point psychology professor, Grossman delves into the psychological costs of war and presents a compelling thesis that human beings have an instinctual aversion to killing. With this, he also shows how militaries overcome this central trait through conditioning and real-world training.
This Pulitzer-Prize winning book is a masterpiece of military history. Delivering an account of the first month of World War I in 1914, Tuchman tells not just a war story, but an event that would upend the modern world.
“This was the last gasp of the Gilded Age, of Kings and Kaisers and Czars, of pointed or plumed hats, colored uniforms, and all the pomp and romance that went along with war,” reads the publisher’s description. “How quickly it all changed, and how horrible it became. Tuchman is masterful at portraying this abrupt change from 19th to 20th Century.”
Embedded among the soldiers of 2-16 Infantry as part of President Bush’s last-chance “surge” in Iraq, journalist David Finkel captures the grim reality as troops face the chaotic, and often deadly, streets of Baghdad. The book often follows the overly-optimistic Col. Ralph Kauzlarich (motto: “It’s all good”).
But Finkel excels at capturing everyone up and down the chain-of-command, and tells their stories incredibly well. His book is less about big-picture surge strategy, and more about the soldiers on the ground who fought it. That is a very good thing.
Those are our picks. Did we miss one that you loved? Leave a recommendation in the comments.
It is the year 69 BC. A Roman man stands before the state of an ancient conqueror. The Roman weeps, realizing that at his age this conqueror was master of the known world, while the Roman has accomplished nothing. The Roman’s name is Julius Caesar, and the statue is of Alexander III of Macedon, whose conquests changed the course of European and Middle Eastern history. Here are seven things to know about Alexander the Great.
1. His father conquered ancient Greece
In the middle of the fourth century BC, Macedon was a small kingdom north of classical Greece. City-states like Athens and Sparta looked down on their northern neighbors as barbarians. But for a hundred years the Greek cities had worn each other down through war, and King Philip II of Macedon knew the time was right to strike. He reformed his army and, through a series of diplomatic and military victories, came to dominate ancient Greece. The last resistance was crushed at the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC, uniting all of Greece under the king of Macedon.
2. He was tutored by Aristotle
In 343 BC, Philip hired the Greek philosopher Aristotle (who was Macedonian, but taught in Athens) to tutor then-thirteen Alexander. The prince studied everything from politics to philosophy to natural science, but he fell in love with Homer’s Iliad, the epic poem about the demigod Achilles and his struggle with pride. Aristotle even wrote an abridged version of the text for Alexander, who carried it with him during his campaigns. Alexander would also send rare plants and animals found on his campaigns to Greece for Aristotle to study. By all accounts, Alexander had an education fit for a king.
3. He fought to claim his father’s throne
Alexander’s mother Olympias, Philip’s fourth wife, was not Macedonian, but Alexander was still Philip’s heir. The prince even fought with Philip at the Battle of Chaeronea and proved himself a capable warrior. That same year, however, Philip married a Macedonian noblewoman named Cleopatra Eurydice, whose pure Macedonian offspring could challenge Alexander’s succession. When Philip was assassinated in 336 BC, Olympias had Cleopatra Eurydice and her daughter by Philip burned alive; Alexander was furious, but he also assassinated several of his relatives to prevent them from stealing his throne. There was a rebellion from several city-states, but Alexander suppressed it, proving himself the Macedonian king of Greece.
4. He conquered the Persian Empire
Alexander spent two years pacifying the Balkans and stabilizing his rule before turning eastward. In 334 he and his army crossed the Hellespont, the straits connecting Europe and Asia Minor (modern Turkey). He then conquered, in just four years, the Persian Empire which had controlled all the land between the Levant coast and the Iranian Plateau for centuries. Alexander chased the Persian king Darius III – one of the most powerful men in the world – through the empire until Darius was captured and executed by one of his own nobles. Throughout his conquests Alexander established many cities, all of them named Alexandria.
5. He pushed his troops to their limit
Alexander reached as far as the land the Greeks called India (modern Pakistan). In 327 BC Alexander left the Middle East for his Indian campaign, where he continued carving through kingdoms and founding cities named after himself – Alexander’s bread and butter. After defeating the Indian king Porus, Alexander’s Macedonian army mutinied and refused to march any further. The disappointed king was forced to turn back.
6. He died under mysterious circumstances
Alexander started marching his troops back to Persia. After dealing with unscrupulous governors and another rebellion from his troops, he arrived at the imperial capital of Susa, where he would spend the rest of his short life. The king contracted a fever in the city and died soon after. For thousands of years scholars have debated the cause of his death, from natural causes to poisonings. Alexander’s proclivity towards alcohol, many say, exacerbated whatever made him ill in the first place. In 323 BC, a mere thirteen years after his coronation, Alexander the Great was dead.
7. He changed the course of Western civilization
Alexander’s conquests established an empire from the Balkan Peninsula to the Indus River. Greek became the language of the upper class from Macedon to Persia, creating a new path for social advancement. After his death, Alexander’s empire was divided up between his generals, whose successor-states came to be known as the Hellenistic (or “Greek-ish”) kingdoms. In the coming centuries, those states would be swallowed up by the Romans and the Arabs, who were inspired by the greatness of Greek culture. It was Alexander whose conquests created the Greek-speaking world that would provide the foundation for the civilizations to come.