Academic journal article Military Review

13 Soldiers: A Personal History of Americans at War

Academic journal article Military Review

13 Soldiers: A Personal History of Americans at War

Article excerpt

13 SOLDIERS: A Personal History of Americans at War

John McCain and Mark Salter, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2014, 384 pages

When an author decides to write a biography or collection of biographies, he or she will always face a number of obstacles to overcome. One of the biggest obstacles is trying to convey to an audience the importance of the deeds committed that are being discussed by the person. It is easy to write of the deeds of well-known soldiers. All one has to do is look at the military history section of a library to see the truth in this. Where the true difficulty begins is finding worthiness in the telling of the tale of a lesser-known individual.

Arizona Sen. John McCain and Mark Salter, the authors of the historical biography collection, 13 Soldiers: A Personal History of Americans at War, do an incredible job of bringing to life not only the experiences and stories of the individuals being examined, but also of those who served around them. The book begins with the experiences of little-known Revolutionary War soldier Pvt. Joseph Plumb Martin. The authors hammer on the consistent privations of Martin throughout the course of the war. This hammering produces a silver thread that stretches throughout the entire text, and was summed up very early in the work when the two authors asked the question, "What is it soldiers expect from those whose lives and liberty they defend?" McCain and Salter answer this question by saying these soldiers only ever expected "not fame and no more in compensation than the modest benefits they are promised'! In short, they were willing to give it all for next to nothing in return.

McCain and Salter cover soldiers from a wide variety of social classes and ethnicities, which helps produce a diversely unique work. …

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