Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Book Review: Pershing: Commander of the Great War by John Perry

Pershing: Commander of the Great War (The Generals)Pershing: Commander of the Great War by John Perry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Perry's bio of Pershing is well-written and, so far as I know, fairly thorough given the length of the book. The narrative is roughly at the young adult level, so it's in an excellent tone for what is supposed to be a brief introduction to a complicated life.

There are three main points about Pershing's life the author tries to bring out:

1) Excellence in the details will bring success in the big things. Pershing was a firm believer that if his men had the discipline to maintain small things like their appearance, their posture when standing at attention, and the condition of their equipment, then they could handle larger affairs like winning wars. Neglecting these little things was a sign that the soldiers were not ready for combat.

2) Respect for all people was the foundation of cooperation, whether they were Americans, Mexican bandits, or Muslim Filipino tribesmen.

3) The military (and the nation as a whole) must be flexible enough to fit itself to the changing conditions of modern warfare. Methods that worked in the Civil War and even in the Spanish-American War had no place on the battlefields of World War I, given the existence of the airplane, tank, poison gas, and machine gun.



Strengths:

Perry is an excellent writer and tells in a clear and engaging way the life story of an almost forgotten hero. This book highlights Pershing's strengths without ignoring or glossing over his faults.



Weaknesses:

I can't speak to the historical accuracy of the book, as this is the first Pershing bio I've read. I can, however, say that Perry skims World War I far too much. This war was easily the worst of the 20th century for those involved in the actual fighting, to the point where those who went through the trenches almost universally refused to talk about it. Not that Perry should have spent an extra hundred pages talking about the horrors of war, just that a clearer picture of what the American army was stepping into would have helped highlighted Pershing's leadership ability (and his faults as well).



I highly recommend this book.





Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255



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