Gunboat Democracy: U.S. Interventions in the Dominican Republic, Grenada, and Panama by Russell Crandall


In this balanced and thought-provoking study, Russell Crandall examines the American decision to intervene militarily in three key episodes in American foreign policy; the Dominican Republic, Grenada and Panama. Drawing upon previously classified intelligence sources and interviews with policymakers, Crandall analyzes the complex deliberations and motives behind military intervention in each case. He argues that in all three instances, the decision to intervene was driven by a perceived threat to American national security. Read and Reviewed by Jimmie A. Keple

Rangers at War: LRRPs in Viet-Nam by Shelby L. Stanton


Rangers at War: LRRPs in Viet-Nam by Shelby L. Stanton . The 9th Infantry Division LRRP (Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols) Platoon became the LRP Detachment which became E Company, 50th Infantry which became E Company, 75 Infantry (Rangers) which… Got all that? Don’t worry, Shelby Stanton sorts it all out for you. He not only presents the history of Rangers and LRRPs unit by unit, but also paints a vivid picture of the toughest of all jobs in Vietnam. Read and reviewed by Jimmie A. Kepler.

Flags of Our Fathers by James Bradley


Flags of Our Fathers by James Bradley is one of the best World War II books I have ever read and I have read many books on World War II. The book takes you past the split second that picture was taken and puts you into the lives of the men. You learn about more than just the few moments surrounding that infamous moment in Marine history, you learn about romance in the U.S., and you learn about their families, you learn about the men who served along side the flag raisers and you learn of the impact that one picture had on their lives, and its not quite what you thought.

I strongly recommend this book. It brought a whole new found respect for those who fought to preserve my freedom. It is about more than just the flag raisers, it is about all the wonderful servicemen who gave me the country I have today. I recently saw the movie based on the book. The book is much better than the movie. Skip the movie, read the book. Read and reviewed by Jimmie A. Kepler

Grant and Sherman: The Friendship That Won the Civil War by Charles Bracelen Flood


Grant and Sherman: The Friendship That Won the Civil War by Charles Bracelen Flood examines the relationship between the two great generals. It provides much information, but little of it new, on the two individuals. It shows as Sherman is quoted, “that we are as brothers.”

The book gives the background of each man and his family prior to the outbreak of the Civil War. I enjoyed the coverage given of Grant’s and Sherman’s relationships with friends, family members, and their wives. The book shows the chemistry and respect the two have for each other. The book depicts Grant as the commander and Sherman as the consummate subordinate who managed to achieve the ideal balance between loyalty and strong advice. It becomes clear that one would not have accomplished nearly as much without the other.

The book could have been titled from failure to success as it explains how each man came to his responsibilities in the US Army. I enjoyed seeing the relationship between the two develop. We see it grow as they had a nominal knowledge of each from their West Point days where Sherman was two years ahead of Grant to where Sherman’s presence encourages Grant while he is writing his memoirs.
The book achieves its point of showing they had a friendship. I remember examples at Fort Henry where Sherman was supplying Grant with what he needed even though Sherman had date of rank on Grant. Sherman and Grant talking at Shiloh were Sherman was ready to retreat and regroup and Grant to advance on the second day. Sherman encourages Grant not to leave after Major General Halleck takes field command of the Army from Grant following Shiloh. The Corinth Campaign, Military governorship of Memphis, Vicksburg Campaign, Grant in charge of the entire US Army, Chattanooga, Knoxville, Atlanta, Savannah, Columbia, and on to Raleigh for Sherman as well as the Wilderness, Petersburg, fall of Richmond and finally Appomattox for Grant. Their clear strategy in Sherman’s words: “He was to go for Lee and I was to go for Joe Johnston.”

The chapter on Sherman in trouble was very interesting as it gave the most in depth record I personally have read of the controversy surrounding Johnston’s surrender to Sherman. We see how Grant has Sherman’s back and helps him through this time.

It is a relatively short work of just over 400 pages. It was an enjoyable read. Read and reviewed by Jimmie A. Kepler.

With Nothing but Victory: The Army of the Tennessee, 1861-1865 Dr. Steven E. Woodworth

With Nothing but Victory: The Army of the Tennessee, 1861-1865 Dr. Steven E. Woodworth continues to show he is an excellent writer. This is a long book, 641 pages. It took me about thirty two days to read it. Woodworth’s writing is a refreshing, narrative style. His goal of giving attention to all levels of the army from private to general was accomplished. The thoughts, actions, and attitudes of the soldier he sought to communicate rang clear in his writing.

My initial thought was this may be the definitive work on the Civil War in the west. My undergraduate degree in history included course work in US Military History, Antebellum History, Civil War and Reconstruction. I am well read in the area of personal memoirs and definitive biographies of key persons in the US Civil War. My point in sharing my background is this – Dr. Woodworth certainly heavily leaned on the Personal Memoirs of US Grant. I had read that book recently so it was very fresh in my memory. It would have been interesting to see more sources from the southern soldiers who fought the Army of the Tennessee. In some battles I found that some of the other Union Armies’ contributions or lack of contribution were not covered in the detail I would have enjoyed. I believe this is a definitive work on the Civil War in the west.

With the above opinion stated, I still strongly recommend the book and will read it again. Steven Woodworth’s writing style is so enjoyable that I fear academic historians may be jealous of him as has happened with other best selling historians.

The story of how the army develops is shared with many sources. I was distracted initially by all the footnoting, but after a while ignored most unless I was curious about the statement. It was interesting to learn of the training and the logistical skills of the leadership – Grant and Sherman.

Some may think there is too much focus on General Grant prior to the fall of 1863. Grant was such a key figure that the coverage is merited. At times the author seems like a Grant apologist. Maybe some writers have diminished Grant’s contribution. Having a great, great, grandfather who served and died in the Army of the Tennessee I have had interest in learning what I can of the grand army. I learned new information on Grant. So my time was well spent.

I found the treatment of General Henry Halleck leadership role over Grant enlightening. I was previously unaware of General John A. McClernand and his never ending politicking and rumor spreading. Seeing the roles of General like Dodge, Hampton, McPherson and Logan sowed the seeds for further reading on some of these men.

The narrative made feel like I was there with the army as the moved from Cairo to Fort Henry and Fort Donaldson, to Shiloh, to Corinth, to Vicksburg and that whole complex campaign including Port Gibson, Jackson, Champions Hill and Vicksburg and Meridian.

The battles around Chattanooga were as clearly explained as I have every read. The coverage of the Atlanta campaign and movement through Georgia were excellent. I would love to see a book by him on just this campaign. It had points of view and information I have not encountered. I twice have lived in Georgia (mid 1970’s as a new second lieutenant and early 1980’s fresh with Master’s in hand living in Atlanta). I was always amazed at how Georgia natives acted as if Atlanta fell last week and the foraging was still happening. His narrative on the march across Georgia was enlightening. Woodworth’s account of the movement from Savannah through South Carolina is rich in detail that rivals any other resources known. We understand why South Carolina was divested by the Sherman’s army. Then the march through North Carolina, the way Logan keeps Raleigh from being burned and then ultimate the movement to Washington, DC and the May 24th pass in review was well done.

I did not find just another retelling of the history of the Army of the Tennessee. It is a fun to read narrative written by a good story teller. Thank goodness this is not just another dry lengthy, dry historical paper. History can be well written and interesting. He made it interesting by sharing the soldier’s thoughts, emotions, and victories through the liberal use of diaries. We learned the heart of the Army of the Tennessee. We understand why and how it fought and how it developed esprit de corps.

I recommend adding this book to every library of those with an interest in the US Civil War. Read and reviewed by Jimmie A. Kepler.

Omaha Beach: D-Day, June 6, 1944 by Joseph Balkoski


Joseph Balkoski’s book on Omaha Beach is a great historical resource like his book Utah Beach. Omaha Beach tells the story of when largely untested American troops assaulted the German army’s Atlantic wall. This is a great read covering the events of the day almost minute by minute. It reads like a great documentary. This is not written in the format of a memoir. Balkoski relies mainly on primary sources such as after action reports, unit journals, and citations to create his blow by blow narrative. He includes the invasion’s diplomatic and strategic context. Omaha Beach is the closest the modern reader can get to experiencing the Normandy landings firsthand.

Sprinkled throughout the battle account are the accounts of those in the battle. It is a classic. It is a must for any D-day library. It also included comprehensive lists of all Medal of Honor and Distinguished Service Cross winners at Omaha Beach. It has: the Order of Battle, unit casualty list for the first twenty-four hours, unit organization of a 30man assault boat unit weapons, and equipment carried in the assault by a typical soldier, and a series of detailed maps allowing the reader unparalleled insight into the minute-by-minute combat on Omaha Beach. Read by Jimmie A. Kepler in November 2005.

Utah Beach: The Amphibious Landing And Airborne Operations On D-Day, June 6, 1944 by Joseph Balkoski


Joseph Balkoski’s book on Utah Beach is a great historical resource. This is a very good read covering the events of the day almost minute by minute. It reads like a great documentary. This is not written in the format of a memoir. Readers who love first person hubris memoirs may find it lacking action.

Balkoski relies mainly on primary sources such as after action reports, unit journals, and citations to create his blow by blow narrative. Sprinkled throughout the battle account are the accounts of those in the battle. It is a classic. It is a must for any D-day library. Read in October 2005 by Jimmie A. Kepler.