Memorial Day Book List (May 31, 2010)
Learning about past and present wars is one way of honoring those who sacrificed so much in those conflicts.
Today we honor those citizens who made sacrifices that are incomprehensible to those of us who have not experienced combat or the horrors of being prisoners of war.
Despite the senselessness and waste of war, it seems that the capacity to wage war is innate in humanity; even usually peaceful chimpanzees will eradicate a weaker nearby troop which is competing for limited resources.
Within any society there is always a latent class of warriors--sometimes reluctant, sometimes not. When there is no war, these citizens must divert their talents into other pursuits; in peace their warrior natures are often under-appreciated or even scorned. And then when war comes, we turn to these citizens.
As incomprehensible as it may be to others, the warrior is not just drawn to war; it is not in his/her nature to miss it for anything in the world.
Even if we hate war with every fiber of our beings, the history of our nation (and most other nations) pivots on wars and even specific battles. Over the years, knowledgeable readers have recommended a variety of books on war, and those who have fought them.
Learning their stories is one way of honoring our warriors, eager and reluctant alike. To know nothing of them and their sacrifices is not just ignorance, it is an insult. With that solemn thought, I offer this list of recommended books.
Like most people, my own interests and family have guided my reading. I read Prisoners of the Japanese: Pows of World War II in the Pacific because it was written by my friend (and eminent historian) Gavan Daws. My father served in the Pacific Theater in World War Two, my uncle served in the European Theater (8th Air Force, B-17s) and my grandfather had served in a "4-stack" destroyer just after World War One, so these eras are naturally engaging. I know so many combat veterans of the Vietnam War that my interest in their stories is also natural.
My wife's uncle Jackson Tsue served in the storied amd much decorated 442nd Combat Regiment Team--his name is on the monument to the 442nd in downtown Los Angeles, at the "Go For Broke" National Education Center which we visited in 2007.
As for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, a number of readers of this blog, as well as our friends and family members in the Marine Corps and U.S. Army, have served active duty in those conflicts, and it is our obligation as citizens to try to understand what they have experienced and sacrificed, and what memories will remain with them for the rest of their days.
Here are the lists. There are thousands of books on these topics and this is but a tiny selection, but it is a start.
The Rhythm of War
Big Story: How the American Press and Television Reported and Interpreted the Crisis of Tet 1968 in Vietnam and Washington
About Face/the Odyssey of an American Warrior
Prisoner of War: Six Years in Hanoi
Through Our Enemies' Eyes: Osama bin Laden, Radical Islam, and the Future of America by Michael Scheuer
The Occupation of Iraq: Winning the War, Losing the Peace by Ali A. Allawi
Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq by Thomas E. Ricks
Licensed to Kill: Hired Guns in the War on Terror by Robert Young Pelton
World War II
Goodbye, Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War
The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill (two volumes)
American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur
With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa
Prisoners of the Japanese: Pows of World War II in the Pacific
The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors: The U.S. Navy's Finest Hour
James D. Hornfischer
Miracle at Midway
Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway
Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully
Winds of War\War and Remembrance
Unlikely Liberators: The Men of the 100th and 442nd
Masayo Duus and Peter Duus
The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II
Stones from the River
by Ursula Hegi
The Collapse of the Third Republic: An Inquiry into the Fall of France in 1940
World War One:
Recommended by John U.
The Guns of August
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