Hell’s Highway by George Koskimaki

George Koskimaki was 101st Airborne Division Commanding General, Major General Maxwell Taylor’s radio operator. He wrote the three-book history of the 101st Airborne during World War Two. Hell’s Highway: Chronicle of the 101st Airborne Division in the Holland Campaign, September – November 1944 is the second book in the series. The book focuses on Operation Market Garden which began on 17 September 1944 and concluded in the month of November 1944.

I had previously read Cornelius Ryan’s “A Bridge Too Far”, Stephen Ambrose’s “Band of Brothers” and “Citizen Soldiers”, Robert Kershaw’s “It Never Snows in September: The German View of Market-Garden and the Battle of Arnhem, September 1944”, Martin Middlebrooks’s “Arnhem 1944: The Airborne Battle” (focusing on the British specifically at the Arnhem sector), and the 82nd Airborne Commanding General, Major General James Gavin’s “On to Berlin.” All of the books gave good presentations and different points of view of Operation Market Garden. George Koskimaki’s book is based on interviews with more than six hundred paratroopers journals the soldiers’ intense personal accounts. It gives the vivid previously untold versions of the Screaming Eagles’ valiant struggle.

Hell’s Highway gives us something not covered in the other books. It tells of the Dutch people and members of the underground and their liberation after five years of oppression by the Nazis. It shares how they have never forgotten America’s airborne heroes and how the 101st endangered and even sacrificed their lives for the freedom of the Netherlands and Europe.

While some readers may find the book hard or even tedious to get through because of the detail, I did not. The personal accounts gave vitality to the story. It kept it flowing instead of reading like a military after action report. Mr. Koskimaki did a superb job of telling the history the 101st Airborne Division during Operation Market Garden.

The book is just right for beginners and experts of the 101st Airborne Division. The three books George Koskimaki wrote on the 101stAirborne Division are 1) D-Day with the Screaming Eagles, 2) Hell’s Highway: Chronicle of the 101st Airborne Division in the Holland Campaign, September – November 1944, and 3) Battered Bastards of Bastogne.

I highly recommend the book.

A Life in a Year: The American Infantryman in Vietnam, 1965-1972 by James R. Ebert

Wisconsin high school teacher James R. Ebert does a masterful job as he combines interviews and printed primary sources in this remarkable telling of the infantryman’s experience during the Vietnam War. Ebert tells the story of the US Army and a few US Marine infantrymen during the Vietnam War. He takes their story from induction into the service through basic and advanced individual training, arrival in Vietnam, their first combat experiences, the first killed in action they experience, in some cases the soldier’s death, and the freedom birds that take them back to the world. Ebert points out while infantryman accounted for less than 10% of the American troops in Vietnam, the infantry suffered more than 80% of the losses.

Ebert uses an interesting technique starting every chapter with a letter by Leonard Dutcher to his parents. Dutcher just wanted to do his part for God and country and go home at the end of his 12-month tour (13 for Marines). In the last chapter, we find out that Dutcher was killed. It caught me off guard and really added to the impact of the book. Ebert takes many of the soldiers and Marines experiences word for word from the individual himself through interviews or letters. It is a collective look at similarities of the many infantry soldiers and Marines in the war. It is a very personal account from many points of view.

This is an important book in Vietnam War literature. This is what the grunts really went through. I was left with somewhat of feeling of guilt from reading the book. Why? I graduated high school in 1971. Some of my high classmates went to Vietnam and fought. Everett Maxwell was killed in action. I went to college and was ultimately commissioned a second lieutenant in the infantry, went through airborne school and served three years active duty. My becoming an officer deferred my entry on active duty from 1971 to 1975. This is the reason for my reflective thoughts. Read by Jimmie A. Kepler in August 2004.

On to Berlin: Battles of an Airborne Commander 1943-1946 by General James M. Gavin


General James M. Gavin tells the story of the 82d Airborne Division during World War II. Gavin began training at the Airborne School in Fort Benning in July 1941 and graduated in August 1941. After graduating, he served in an experimental unit. His first command was Commanding Officer of C Company of the newly established 503rd Parachute Infantry Battalion. Gavin’s friends William Ryder — Commander of Airborne training – and William Yarborough – Communications officer of the Provisional Airborne Group – convinced General William C. Lee to let Gavin develop the tactics and basic rules of Airborne combat. Lee followed up on this recommendation and made Gavin his Operations and Training Officer (S-3). On October 16, 1941, he was promoted to Major.

One of his first priorities was determining how airborne troops could be used most effectively. His first action was writing FM 31-30: Tactics and Technique of Air-Borne Troops. He used information about Soviet and German experiences with Paratroopers and Glider troops, and also used his own experience about tactics and warfare. The manual contained information about tactics, but also about the organization of the paratroopers, what kind of operations they could execute, and what they would need to perform their task efficiently.

Gavin is best suited to provide this history since he served with the Division during its entire participation in the European Campaign, starting as a Regimental Commander with the 505th to eventually command the division.

General Gavin gives a detailed description of all the operations the 82d participated in during World War II. He adds his analysis of why certain things went well for his unit, while other things were a struggle. He provides insight into the Allied command structure and the challenges it faced.

This is an enjoyable and informative book that provides a unique perspective of the war, much different than other general officers. Gavin personally experienced the harshness and challenges of WWII combat because of the nature of airborne operations. Gavin, also he participated in numerous high-level planning sessions with other well-known leaders of the Allied Command. This participation allows him to connect the planning and the execution of how strategic decisions influenced the actual combat operations in the European Theater of Operations.

For me, the most insightful and entertaining part of the book was General Gavin’s analysis of General Eisenhower’s decision to concede Berlin to the Russians. The last chapter reflects back on the war and Berlin question with a discussion of the decisions made and their impact and implications thirty years later. It is kind of interesting stuff, especially given the long-term implications that these decisions had on world events.

I strongly recommend this book. For those wanting to learn more about the 82d or airborne operations, this is required reading. Read and reviewed by Jimmie A. Kepler.

One Soldier’s Story: A Memoir by Robert Dole


I found “One Soldier’s Story” by Robert Dole in the new book section of The Colony Public Library. The book tells the story of former US Senator and Republican presidential candidate Robert Dole, of Kansas. It shares tales of his growing up in Russell, Kansas. We learn of his running track, attending high school, working as a soda jerk, and attending Kansas University (KU). He opens the window to his experiences at KU where we see him running track, joining a fraternity, working odd jobs to help pay for his college, buying a phonograph, and experiencing the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

His story continues where he struggles with the choice of joining the US Army Air Corps or the US Army infantry. He joins the Army, goes to Officer Candidate School, and ultimately becomes an infantry officer. His tour of duty in World War II takes him to the Italian theater of the war. In Italy, his life is forever altered. He receives a critical wound while on a combat mission.

The remainder of “One Soldier’s Story” tells of his struggles through hospitalization, evacuation, and transport to the USA, rehabilitation, depression, learning to walk again, falling in love and his first marriage, return to Russell, Kansas and his daily challenges. We follow Bob Dole through his return to complete his college degree and his decision to attend law school. We experience his building a career as a young lawyer, the decision to run for political office, and his service as a US Senator, and being both a vice presidential candidate (1976) and presidential candidate (1996).

Whether you like Bob Dole’s conservative politics or not, you will find his story very inspirational. This extremely well-written memoir is hard to put down.

Crusade in Europe by Dwight David Eisenhower

Crusade in Europe is General Dwight David Eisenhower’s memoir from the early days of World War II through the early post-war. His story and observations are crucial to an understanding of the Great Crusade. Among memoirs, this is a gem.

General Eisenhower takes the reader along with him through each stage of the Crusade. Having attracted attention for his performance in Army maneuvers in Louisiana in 1940, General Eisenhower was called to Washington immediately after Pearl Harbor because of his recent experience in the Philippines. He was first assigned to work on plans for the Pacific. At this point, the reader is reminded that, in contrast to the later Germany First Policy, the American public, for a time, screamed for revenge on Japan before dealing with Germany.

Assigned to command Operation Torch, the invasion of French North Africa in 1942, General Eisenhower was charged with obtaining Allied Cooperation. He was plunged into the quagmire of French politics. The disappointing involvement with General Giraud presented an intra-allied problem, as did cooperation of Admiral Darlan, who while too helpful to rebuff, brought with him the stigma of association with a collaborator. The age-old Arab-Jewish hostility further complicated the administration of the liberated territory.

With North Africa cleared out, General Eisenhower was charged with the conquest of Sicily. Management of the Patton-Montgomery rivalry was a major challenge of the campaign. Success having been achieved, the Patton slapping incident in Sicily forced General Eisenhower to reprimand a close friend while threatening to deprive him of one of his most effective Army commanders.

Speculation that General Eisenhower would return to the Washington as Chief Of Staff while General Marshall commanded Overlord, the invasion of Europe, distracted General Eisenhower’s attention from problems at hand. General Eisenhower’s eventual appointment to command Overlord forced him to leave the Mediterranean while the Italian campaign was still in doubt. Upon arrival in England, he immediately switched gears to plan the size, timing, supply and location of the invasion of France.

With the invasion ashore, General Eisenhower skillfully managed his coalition of impetuous commanders in their march across Europe. General Eisenhower brings the reader into the thought processes and conferences leading to decisions on the liberation of Paris, Operation Market-Garden, and the Battle of The Bulge.

Americans are familiar with Patton’s claim that, with supplies, he could capture Berlin and win the war. General Eisenhower relates that Monty bothered him with similarly impractical suggestions. He then explains why the proposals were doomed to failure. Spirited arguments with the British over Project Anvil (Invasion of Southern France) come within the reader’s vision through General Eisenhower’s eyes.

The greatest criticism of General Eisenhower’s wartime leadership is reserved for questions about whether the Western Allies should have advanced further to limit the Red Army’s area of occupation. General Eisenhower assesses the claims and presents support for his decisions.

After V-E Day, General Eisenhower’s role shifted more into that of a statesman as he attempted to obtain cooperation with the Russians over the administration of occupied Germany.

Some things come clearly through the pages of this book. The reader is constantly impressed with the importance of supplies, bringing to mind the adage that “Amateurs speak of tactics, professionals speak of logistics.” Despite later controversies, General Eisenhower’s admiration for General George Marshall is made clear on the pages of this book. Written in 1948, I find the statement that General Eisenhower disagreed with many of FDR’s domestic policies to be surprising and a hint of his later political initiatives.

Crusade in Europe is written in a very clear, easy to read and follow style. It never becomes bogged down in boring details. It does not have any mention of a relationship with his female English army driver.

A Soldier Reports by William Westmoreland

This book was found in The Colony, Texas Public Library. The book is the memoir of one of America’s most controversial military leaders. I found it refreshing to read about his background and upbringing. He briefly covers his days as a cadet at West Point where he graduated in 1936, the horse drew artillery days and his role in World War II where he fought with distinction in North Africa and Europe with the Ninth Division. We see his fast rise to a Brigadier General before thirty years of age and later (1952–53) in his role in the Korean War. He served as superintendent of West Point (1960–64), attained (1964) the rank of general and commanded (1964–68) U.S. military forces in Vietnam. He then assumed the position of army chief of staff, which he held until his retirement in 1972.

I was saddened as I read Westmoreland’s comments on one of the early killed in action lists that crossed his desk. It included 2LT John J. Pershing III, grandson of World War I supreme commanding General “Blackjack” Pershing. The book looks at the Viet-Nam war from Westmoreland’s point of view. It explains his decision-making process. It is more than an after action report. It is worth reading if you are a political or military history junkie. His relationship with Lyndon Johnson and Robert McNamara are not covered in detail as I would have liked. This is the story of a decent man, giving his best to his country in difficult times. Read and reviewed by Jimmie A. Kepler.

Sherman: Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman by William T. Sherman

Sherman: Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman by William T. Sherman is a must book for anyone serious in learning about the life and experiences of Union General William T. Sherman.

I have read numerous Civil War books, including the prominent historical volumes by the leading scholars. Reading these volumes led me to begin reading the memoirs and books of the significant people involved in the war – Grant, Longstreet, etc. Sherman’s memoirs have been the most fascinating.

Sherman is an interesting writer. His descriptions of early California life were beautiful. It paints a great picture of 1840’s San Francisco and northern California. In other places, the writing bogged down where it felt you were reading a military TO&E (table of organization and equipment).

Sherman was not a failure in anything that he did. On the contrary, I think he led a full and fascinating life that would be difficult to duplicate in the present times, even with our transportation abilities. Sherman was a brilliant military leader and you feel as though you are with him throughout his many marches and campaigns. He includes many letters and orders in the book that I believe substantiate his writing and give proof that he was one of a kind.

I was surprised to learn that he served as commanding general of the US Army from 1868 – 1884, longer than any other person. That would be like being US Army chief of staff today for 16 years!

Yes, the book did have some hubris and he did defend some of his actions. All in all, a must read.


Jimmie Aaron Kepler is a novelist, poet, book reviewer, and award-winning short story writer. His work has appeared in over twenty venues, including Bewildering Stories, Beyond Imagination, The Dead Mule School for Southern Literature, Poetry & Prose Magazine, and vox poetica. When not writing each morning at his favorite coffee house, he supports his literary habit working as an IT application support engineer. He is a former Captain in the US Army. Kepler’s Military History Book Reviews was named a 100 best blogs for history buffs.


Battle for the City of the Dead: In the Shadow of the Golden Dome, Najaf, August 2004 by Dick Camp

9757715The year was 2004. During the spring and summer the Iraqi nation was overwhelmed with violence. The nation’s Shiites and Sunnis headlined the sectarian fighting. The Army of Iraq had been disbanded by the United States Proconsul.

The results of his actions were infusing a large number of angry young men into the streets of the population centers in Iraq. These men had no jobs skills, no jobs, and no prospects for employment.

These men were literally angry in the streets. The clergy fueled their anger which developed into a rage and campaign for jihad against the United States and all “occupation forces”.

By August 2004, Muqtada Al-Sadr, a Shiite cleric, called upon thousands of Mahdi Militia, his armed followers and de facto private army, to resist the occupation. Fighting would break out in several locations. The holy city of Najaf, the site of the largest Moslem cemetery in the world, and the Imam Ali Mosque were major sites of fighting. U.S. forces found themselves fighting in 120-degree heat. The battleground was through a tangle of crypts, mausoleums, and crumbling graves. The fight was rough. It had the religious zealots against the motivated and disciplined United States Army and Marine Corps troopers. It makes for a spellbinding account of Americans in battle.

The book itself is excellent. Dick Camp tells an excellent story. The quality of the book is remarkable. I am referring to everything from the writing, the large amount of high quality color pictures, and even quality of the paper the book on which the book is printed.


Jimmie Aaron Kepler is a novelist, poet, book reviewer, and award-winning short story writer. His work has appeared in over twenty venues, including Bewildering Stories and Beyond Imagination. When not writing each morning at his favorite coffee house, he supports his writing, reading, and book reviewing habit working as an IT application support analyst. He is a former Captain in the US Army. Kepler’s Military History Book Reviews was named a 100 best blogs for history buffs.

Never Surrender: A Soldier’s Journey to the Crossroads of Faith and Freedom by LTG (Ret.) William G. Boykin and Lynn Vincent

Few people have been involved in as many significant US military operations over the past three decades as has LTG (ret.) William G. “Jerry” Boykin. From being a founding member of the Delta Force to commanding all US Army Special Forces he shows that a person can be a committed Christian and a soldier.

Co-written by New York Times best-selling author Lynn Vincent, Never Surrender: A Soldier’s Journey to the Crossroads of Faith and Freedom gets your interest on page one and keeps it through the entire book. The book’s structure helps with the presentation. It is has thirteen sections. Each part covers one of the stages of Jerry Boykin’s life or a major US operation where he had involvement. Each section is divided into short, action-packed chapters.

The book tells story after story of how important military operations went down. The Iran Hostage Crisis, Sudan, Grenada, Panama, Waco and the Branch Davidians, Columbia, Somalia, the Balkans and more give great insight into contemporary US military history.

Jerry Boykin is a born-again Christian. The role of his faith is very tastefully woven into each story. You will not feel preached at, but rather have an appreciation of how his belief in God sustained and directed him through the years.

One of my favorite stories in the book involved Panama, the playing of loud, rock music and Manuel Noriega. The media thought the US Army was using the loud music as a psychological weapon against Noriega. The original intent of the music was to keep the media from being able to eavesdrop on the conversations between Boykin and the Vatican embassy where Noriega was hold-up.

The most insightful section was in Mogadishu, Somalia. It gives the real story that the movie Blackhawk Down omits. Boykin was the leader of the mission. He had to make the tough decision of leaving a man down to save others. He said that was the worst thing he has ever experienced.

Boykin has never been afraid to admit he is a Christian. Some things he said during the most recent war in Iraq upset people. He stated that he believed God put George Bush in the White House. The news media quoted that statement. What the media didn’t quote was that he continued by saying God put Bill Clinton and every other American leader in their positions. Boykin was beaten up in the press over this. He was completely exonerated by internal military investigations.

I highly recommend the book. It provides some fascinating insight into military tactics and life behind the scenes of Delta Force.

Company Commander: The Classic Infantry Memoir of World War II by Charles B. MacDonald

Company Commander: The Classic Infantry Memoir of World War II by Charles B. MacDonald. I highly recommend Company Commander: The Classic Infantry Memoir of World War II by Charles B. MacDonald. At just 21 years of age, Captain Charles B. MacDonald first commanded I Company, 3 Battalion 23rd Infantry, 2nd Infantry Division from October 1944 to January 1945 and later G Company, 2 Battalion 23rd Infantry, 2nd Infantry Division from March to May 1945. This memoir was written in 1947 when recollections were still sharp. It resulted in a very detailed account of what it was like to take command of a line infantry company and lead it into battle. The book is a template for writing a personal military memoir.

It is by far the finest memoir of any junior officer in World War II. Charles MacDonald does a great job of keeping his focus on his own experiences. He does not speculate or waste my time by giving conjecture on the big picture. We only have first-hand information from the events of his personal participation. He sticks to what life was like for a junior officer in command of an infantry company, sleepless, hungry, dirty, stressful, and very dangerous. He takes us from the Siegfried Line in the Ardennes, through the Battle of the Bulge, and to the end of the war in the Czechoslovakia.

This book is a must-read for all army officers who seek to command at company-level and it is informative for military historians as well. It is still required reading at West Point and on the company level officer (second lieutenant, first lieutenant, and captain) recommended reading list by the U.S. Army today. Upon this book’s publication in 1947, Charles B. MacDonald was invited to join the U.S. Army Center of Military History as a civilian historian, the start of a career during which he wrote three of the official histories of World War II in Europe and supervised the preparation of others. The book is simply the best. Read and reviewed by Jimmie A. Kepler.