SOMALIA ON FIVE DOLLARS A DAY: A Soldier's Story

Martin Stanton, Author
Martin Stanton, Author . Presidio $24.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-89141-741-5
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A career army officer and a Gulf War vet, Stanton was familiar with combat pay, that extra something given to soldiers when facing "hostile fire or imminent danger" (currently $150 a month, or about $5 a day), when he sat on the roof of his Saudi Arabian headquarters in 1992 and read the "pink slip" that made him battalion operations officer of Task Force 2-87 infantry, 10th Mountain Division. By February 1993, his group was the first in Kismayu, beginning on the "squalid and puzzling little failure" that Operation Restore Hope turned out to be. Such sophisticated and contextualized observations are rife in this field memoir, one of the few to come out of the conflict and certainly in a class by itself in terms of the quality of the writing. Few army memoirs contain the solid, synthetic historical and day-to-day background to the conflict that Stanton includes throughout, and even fewer contain sentences like "It was quite a sight to see the tall, dignified [Ambassador Robert] Oakley, who towered over most of the elders, speaking to the old Somali men who sat uncomfortably on their chairs, with their carved, inlaid walking sticks beside them." Most of the book concerns firsthand observations of quotidian operations and analyses of what went wrong and why, which will limit its appeal, but it is certainly one of the finest books of its kind for the season. (July)

Forecast:As a Military Book Club selection and with a $75,000 promotion budget and radio tour "of the top 25 markets" behind it, this book will find its readership.

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