The Hidden History of America at War

Kenneth C. Davis. Hachette, $30 (416p) ISBN 978-1-4013-3078-1
Davis, best known for his Don’t Know Much About series, has carved a niche for himself as a go-to guy for historical insight and analysis. Here, he turns his attention to six key battles that have had lasting impacts on U.S. history and culture. Illustrating the maxim that it’s “always easier to get into a war than out of one,” Davis begins with the 1781 Revolutionary War battle for Yorktown, Va., and ends in Iraq with the 2004 battles for Fallujah. His searing analyses and ability to see the forest as well as the trees make for an absorbing and infuriating read as he highlights the strategic missteps, bad decisions, needless loss of life, horrific war crimes, and political hubris that often accompany war. Davis displays his talent for contextualization, bridging seemingly disparate elements together to reach clear and coherent conclusions. Each chapter ends with an examination of the lasting effects of the relevant battle and how it informed the next, giving additional weight to his narrative. Davis is not one to pull punches—the way America treats its soldiers during and, especially, after battle clearly disgusts him—and his lucid, if depressing, assessment of key military engagements should be required reading for both the public and their elected officials. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/09/2015
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