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The American Military: A Concise History.

The American Military: A Concise History. By Joseph T. Glatthaar. (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2018. Pp. x, 142. $18.95.)

Noted historian Joseph T. Glatthaar succeeds admirably in this concise history of America's military forces from colonial times to the twenty-first century. In such a short survey the author must, of necessity, leave out more than he can include. Glatthaar addresses four themes. America attempted to achieve "a balance between regular military forces and citizen soldiers and sailors" (ix). Second, he covers the "concept of military professionalism" as it developed through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (ix). Third, selections of "technological change and its ramifications" (x) merit attention. And last, he describes how, since 1945, America has struggled with limits on its power.

America's army and its soldiers receive the lion's share of Glatthaar's attention. In the first chapter, the author mentions its colonial beginnings and then moves quickly into the American Revolution and the War of 1812. The U.S. Navy receives minimal attention throughout, as this has already been accorded its own Oxford Concise History, authored by Craig Symonds. In the second chapter, Glatthaar lays the groundwork regarding American military professionalism, albeit as a parsimonious Congress financed a small army and a few ships while the United States expanded across North America. U.S. plans to seize California collided with Mexican nationalism, which resulted in war in 1846. The Mexicans fielded a larger army than America and intended to regain Texas, which had been annexed by the United States in 1845. Temporary U.S. volunteers filled the army's gaps, and professional officers led American forces to victory. In his discussion of the Civil War, the author treats his readers to an extensive comparison and contrast of the composition and leadership of the opposing forces. Most Union and Confederate officers found it challenging to manage and supply the conflict's huge armies. Maturing professional Federal leaders and effective logistics won key battles, and these, in turn, contributed significantly to the Union's triumph.

Glatthaar's best chapter addresses the world wars and their attendant technological advances. Although U.S. General John Pershing demonstrated certain shortcomings, in World War I America responded with more troops, supplies, and ships than the Allies or Germany had anticipated. The author concludes that American contributions of men and materiel gave the Allies the necessary edge over Germany. Stressing advancements in airpower, Glatthaar deals with technological change after 1919. Upon entry into World War II, America and the Allies created a potent combination, as they obtained crucial intelligence and their industries supplied troops around the globe. America fielded flexible officers and a variety of army units, supported by the Army Air Force, sufficiently to conduct major campaigns, ultimately allowing the Allies to defeat the Axis. Following such a resounding victory, U.S. leaders found that, in contrast to its previous history, America possessed great military power, and yet, Glatthaar concludes, the deployment of substantial, modern, and professional military forces of all types did not automatically produce victory in Korea, Vietnam, or the Middle East.

Due to the limitations on books in this series, the author includes only a short bibliography. Nevertheless, Glatthaar personalizes his narrative with evocative episodes and annotates each quotation. His is a book well suited as an introduction for all general readers and for use in college courses.

Texas A&M University, College Station

Joseph G. Dawson
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Title Annotation:THE AMERICAS
Author:Dawson, Joseph G.
Publication:The Historian
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jun 22, 2019
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