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The Hidden History of America at War: Untold…
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The Hidden History of America at War: Untold Tales from Yorktown to…

by Kenneth C. Davis

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Kenneth C. Davis , the author of the popular “Don’t Know Much About….” series, attempts to illuminate readers about some of the “hidden history” that we should have learned in school but didn’t. He is a popular historian with a keen sense of detail and a lucid and engaging writing style. If you have read a lot about the period of history or science that is his topic, you aren’t likely to learn much new, but you will enjoy his retelling. If you are unfamiliar with the topic at hand, you will find his treatment full of interesting factoids.

In this book, Davis provides an in-depth examination of six landmark battles:

Yorktown, Virginia – October 1781
Petersburg, Virginia – June 1864
Balangiga, Philippines – September 1901
Berlin, Germany – April 1945
Hué, South Vietnam – February 1968
Fallujah, Iraq – March 2004

He argues that it is “nearly a moral imperative to understand war.” He discusses not only why these battles were fought, but who participated, how combat seemed to them, and how the conflicts affected America’s national identity. Although super patriots may be disappointed to learn that the American military has not always been perfect, Davis avoids either a pacifist or totally negative outlook.

His format here is to begin each chapter with several relevant quotes from prominent people, then take us into the midst of the battle, then fill in details of the “back story” that adds context and analysis to his narration. This technique occasionally leaves the reader with the feeling that he had an “Oops, I forgot to tell you that…” moment, and the story begins all over again. In the process, he sometimes repeats some very basic fact, which can be mildly annoying. Nonetheless, this book would make an appropriate text for a survey course on American military history at many colleges.

Evaluation: This is an enjoyable tour of select aspects of American history, and would make good reading for the many, many American citizens who have no idea what actually happened in the past but are nevertheless not loathe to pontificate about it. (See, for example, the recent statements by presidential candidate Mike Huckabee about what Lincoln thought and did - statements that are totally wrong, and surely have Lincoln doing somersaults of despair in his grave.) All those who think they know history would do well to learn something from Kenneth C. Davis.

(JAB) ( )
  nbmars | Sep 13, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 140132410X, Hardcover)

Multi-million-copy bestselling historian Kenneth C. Davis sets his sights on war stories in The Hidden History of America at War. In prose that will remind you of "the best teacher you ever had" (People Magazine), Davis brings to life six emblematic battles, revealing untold tales that span our nation's history, from the Revolutionary War to Iraq. Along the way, he illuminates why we go to war, who fights, the grunt's-eye view of combat, and how these conflicts reshaped our military and national identity.

From the Battle of Yorktown (1781), where a fledgling America learned hard lessons about what kind of military it would need to survive, to Fallujah (2004), which epitomized the dawn of the privatization of war, The Hidden History of America at War takes readers inside the battlefield, introducing them to key characters and events that will shatter myths, misconceptions, and romanticism, replacing them with rich insight.

(retrieved from Amazon Fri, 10 Jul 2015 20:38:54 -0400)

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Combat tales have come to form an essential piece of our identity as Americans. But as some war stories have been repackaged and embellished, the truth behind the conflicts--the lives of the average soldiers and civilians involved and the lasting significance of the battles on American history--often lies buried. Kenneth C. Davis aims to change that. Here, he takes readers inside six landmark battles that offer crucial insights. From the Battle of Yorktown (1781), where a fledgling America learned hard lessons about what kind of military it would need to survive; to 1945 Berlin, when the downfall of the Third Reich set the stage for decades of Cold War tension; to Fallujah (2004), which epitomized the dawn of privatized war, Davis explores the key battlefield characters and events, shattering myths and misconceptions. Revelations include: the unacknowledged role that enslaved people and free African Americans played in the Revolution and Civil War; the grave miscalculations and cruelty that took place at Petersburg, Virginia, site of the longest siege of an American city; the scandalous use of water torture and civilian atrocities that shook Theodore Roosevelt's White House; the secret reasons why Stalin was desperate to take Berlin in the closing days of World War II--and why General Eisenhower let him; and the epic battle that changed how reporters covered--and Americans viewed--the Vietnam War. With this book, Davis illuminates why we go to war, who fights, the grunt's-eye view of combat, and how these conflicts shaped our military and national identity.--From publisher description.… (more)

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