In the School of War

In the School of War

In the School of War

In the School of War

Synopsis

Fort Leavenworth, where Roger J. Spiller taught the army's finest for twenty-five years, is indeed a "school of war." There, among military professionals who had experienced war firsthand, Spiller honed his remarkable skills as an analyst and historian, scholar and teacher- skills that have made him one of the best-known and respected military historians of our day. This volume brings together Spiller's original and thought-provoking explorations of wars big and small and armies glorified and ignored. For each of these essays- whether on urban warfare or the Vietnam syndrome, battlefield psychology or the making of military history, and underrated vs. overrated generals- Spiller revisits his topic and his thinking, bringing fresh insight and a new context to an incomparable body of work.In the School of Warfurther reveals the complex relationship between past and present in an understanding of the nature of war.

Excerpt

The field of military history has many worthy, assiduous, honest workers, historians who dig hard in the written record to re-create as accurately as possible the wars and military affairs that have inevitably been a central feature of the human experience. But imagination and originality are not qualities usually associated with military history and may appear to be subversive of the ideals of accuracy and objectivity, highly valued by all historians. Yet the history of war and military affairs is replete with great gaps and distortions in the evidential record, even for recent wars, when participants can be interviewed, and those gaps and distortions raise questions that can be answered only by informed speculation; in short, a few military historians with imaginative, skeptical minds are an invaluable asset if we seek to understand the aspects of war left murky or contested by the available evidence.

Roger Spiller has such a mind. I cannot now recall the time and circumstances of our first meeting, probably at the annual convention of the Society for Military History, but I do recall my early impression that he had a very sharp mind and was not afraid to use it and to say what he thought. Getting to know him and his work over the following decades, I saw that he was what might be called a “constructive contrarian,” a historian who tends to look skeptically at the “official” version and at the generally accepted consensus on any aspect of military history that he considered important enough to question. and there was something more, something difficult to define, because it deals with stereotypes. Roger is a Texan, born and raised. He did his graduate study at Louisiana State University with a bold, stimulating teacher, T. Harry Williams. Fairly early in our acquaintance . . .

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