Academic journal article Military Review

HOMER LEA: American Soldier of Fortune

Academic journal article Military Review

HOMER LEA: American Soldier of Fortune

Article excerpt

HOMER LEA: American Soldier of Fortune, Lawrence M. Kaplan, The University Press of Kentucky, Lexington, 2010, 314 pages, $40.00.

Homer Lea: American Soldier of Fortune introduces General Homer Lea as "a five-foot three-inch hunchback" who became a worldrenowned military leader, general officer, and geopolitical strategist during the great transition period in China from 1899-1912. The book's title promises a soldier of fortune biography potentially at the level of a Charles "Chinese" Gordon and the Ever Victorious Army (1863-1864) or Claire Chennault and the Flying Tigers (1941).

Unfortunately, the biography does not live up to expectations. Homer Lea turns out to be a manipulator and unabashed schemer, who through subterfuge, half-truths, and raw ambition, sells himself as a military genius and strategist to various groups of Chinese reformers and revolutionaries at the turn of the century. Lea's deformity barred him from serving in the U.S. military, but his love for military history and science, his gift for self-promotion, and the inaccuracies of the media allowed Lea to gain a Chinese general's commission, the ear of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, and the command of a small cadet army of Chinese émigrés in California. Even so, his impact on the history of China is marginal, and the Chinese revolutionary movement would have had the same outcome with or without his involvement. …

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