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1998 Current Issues Reading List

The current issues reading list contains books that address issues of topical interest to all Marines as well as those that represent significant new works on warfighting and the profession of arms. The current issues list has been restructured to reflect two primary categories: "Making Marines" and "Winning Battles." This list was published in ALMAR 152/98.


"ACHILLES IN VIETNAM: COMBAT TRAUMA AND THE UNDOING OF CHARACTER" BY JONATHAN SHAY - This book cleverly compares the story of Achilles in the Trojan War (as told by Homer in the "Iliad") to the experience of the American fighting man in Vietnam, demonstrating what happens to warriors when leadership and purpose fail to reinforce "what is right." The author contends that when betrayal of "what is right" is followed by severe combat stress, the undoing of character begins. Shay deals with the effect that war has on people -- the profound changes in cognition, emotions, and behavior that take place in war -- and how a lack of leadership and sense of purpose can serve to compound and accelerate those changes. The parallels between Achilles and Vietnam veterans illustrate that this is a centuries-old problem. The author theorizes that the greater the leadership failure, the greater the moral decline of the fighting man.

"SHE WENT TO WAR: THE RHONDA CORNUM STORY" BY RHONDA CORNUM AS TOLD TO PETER COPELAND - This is an inspirational story about one woman who became a heroine in a world where women have never been previously allowed. It is a remarkable account of the courage, determination and pride of a female Army flight surgeon captured by the Iraqis during the Gulf War. Not only does it deal with the values that were fostered and displayed by Major Cornum and other U.S. prisoners during their period of captivity, but it also sheds some interesting light on the capabilities of women to survive in a combat environment as the debate continues over the role women will play in combat.

"MILITARY LEADERSHIP; IN PURSUIT OF EXCELLENCE" BY TAYLOR AND ROSENBACH - This work is a compilation of articles organized into four parts covering leaders and leadership, followers and followship, leaders and followers, and contemporary perspectives. This is the second edition of this popular text which examines the elements of leadership -- military leadership in particular -- from many different perspectives.

"VICE AND VIRTUE IN EVERYDAY LIFE" BY SOMMERS AND SOMMERS - This book is used extensively as a resource book by the character development division of the U. S. Naval Academy in teaching values, ethics and character development to midshipmen. The book contains a compilation of essays on these topics, and brings together classical and contemporary writings on courage, pride, wisdom, compassion, generosity, honor, and self-respect. It also covers topics such as moral conduct and education, and contemporary social issues.

"THE MORAL COMPASS: STORIES FOR A LIFE'S JOURNEY" EDITED BY WILLIAM BENNETT - This book is a follow-on to two other books that Bennett has edited entitled "The Book of Virtues" and "The Children's Book of Virtues." Like the other two, this book contains hundreds of stories, poems, and essays that defend or illustrate virtue and family and faith in God not emphasized in other works. Recognizing the Commandant's desire to ultimately return a better citizen to society, all Marines should be encouraged to read this book.

"MAKING THE CORPS" BY THOMAS RICKS - Non-fictional account of USMC recruit training. The book follows a recruit platoon through Parris Island and tracks them for their first year of service, highlighting the transformation of civilians into Marines. The book provides good insights into both sides of the recruit training equation. It will be especially valuable to Marine leaders in their efforts to "sustain the transformation." New to the list.

"THE WESTERN WAY OF WAR: INFANTRY BATTLES IN CLASSICAL GREECE" BY VICTOR D. HANSON - Hanson argues that the human condition at the beginning of the 21st century has not changed greatly since the Greco-Persian Wars (600-419 B.C.). There are direct lessons from ancient war that impact on the building of a warrior ethos. Those lessons address some of the problems the Marine Corps may confront in turning civilians into the military professionals of the next century. Hanson's work examines fundamental issues in human conflict at the tactical level of war. It focuses on the motives and human drives that raise combat power and offers a close look at the psychological factors that influence military organizations and individuals in war. New to the list.

"DERELICTION OF DUTY: JOHNSON, MCNAMARA, THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF, AND THE LIES THAT LED TO VIETNAM" BY H.R. MCMASTER - McMaster, U.S. Army Major, Persian Gulf Vet, historian, West Point instructor, waded through every memo and report concerning Vietnam from every meeting of the JCS to build a comprehensive picture of a house divided against itself: a President and his advisors obsessed with keeping Vietnam from becoming a political issue versus the JCS mired in inter-service rivalries and unable to reach unified goals or conclusions about the country's conduct of the war. New to the list.

"RELUCTANT WARRIOR: A MARINE'S TRUE STORY OF DUTY AND HEROISM IN VIETNAM" BY M. HODGINS - Personal account of a platoon leader in Company C, 1st Recon Bn, during the pull out of troops in the Spring of 1970. This is a great book for young Marines which describes the trust that must be developed between new lieutenants and NCO's in a combat environment. New to the list.


"PEACEKEEPER: THE ROAD TO SARAJEVO" BY MGEN L. MCKENZIE - This book takes a candid look at the problems of modern peacekeeping operations and offers solutions for them. Mgen McKenzie examines UN peacekeeping policies and explains their impact on mission execution. The book summarizes his experiences as commander of the UN peacekeepers in the former Yugoslavia.

"WAR AND ANTIWAR" BY HEIDI AND ALVIN TOFFLER - Examines the future of warfare in the "third" or information age.

"BREAKING THE PHALANX: A NEW DESIGN FOR LANDPOWER IN THE 21ST CENTURY" BY D.A. MACGREGOR - Examines the impact of new information age and high tech weapons and argues that weapons alone won't win on the future battlefield. The book looks at different force structures and proposes transforming the army into a 21st Century "legion" that encourages initiative and is more flexible and adaptive in order to meet future strategic requirements. New to the list.

"NO BENDED KNEE: THE BATTLE FOR GUADALCANAL" BY GEN MERRILL B. TWINING, USMC (RET) - The memoir of Gen Twining based on his after-action report of the battle for Guadalcanal. As 1st Marine Division G-3, Gen Twining was personally involved in the decisions on training for, planning, and executing the Guadalcanal campaign. Based on his intimate knowledge, he may be the best individual to recall the tribulations and trials of the first major amphibious operation of WW II. All Marines will enjoy his first person accounts and oral histories of this storied battle. New to the list.

"UTMOST SAVAGERY: THE THREE DAYS OF TARAWA" BY COL J.H. ALEXANDER, USMC (RET) - Col Alexander once again offers a perceptive look at a great Marine battle of WWII. This book draws extensively from Marine Corps archives and personal memoirs of the Marines who fought the 72 hours of Tarawa. It includes some amazing oral histories and interviews of veterans of the battle. This book appeals to those studying the campaigns of the central Pacific and to those who want to see the battle from the front-line Marines' perspective. His detailed descriptions of Medal of Honor actions are superb. New to the list.

"HOODWINKING HITLER: THE NORMANDY DECEPTION" BY W.B. BREUER - An account of the intricate deception plans and operations that misled German intelligence and Hitler about the timing and locale of the Normandy Invasion; information warfare at its best. Every facet of the plan is treated in depth: diplomacy, codes and code- breaking, intelligence, counterintelligence, double agents, the French underground, camouflage, strategic feints, global whispering campaigns, and tactical sacrifices. The book is written in an easy-to-read, action-packed style. New to the list.

"A WORLD AT ARMS: A GLOBAL HISTORY OF WW II" BY G.L. WEINBERG - Relook at the general history of WW II focusing on the strategic "why" rather than the tactical "how." New to the list.

"INFANTRY COMBAT: THE RIFLE PLATOON, AN INTERACTIVE EXERCISE IN SMALL UNIT TACTICS" BY J.F. ANTAL - Interactive book that takes the reader through a number of realistic scenarios supported by maps, photos, and detailed specifications of hardware and units involved. The reader becomes the lead character in combat situations shortly after checking into his new unit. As readers progress through the chapters, decisions have to be made that determine what chapter they go to next. The command decisions the reader makes determine success and victory or defeat and death. Fate, good or bad, occasionally intervenes in the form of a roll of the dice. An interesting and unique way of practicing military decisionmaking. New to the list.

"THE LAST 100 YARDS: THE NCO'S CONTRIBUTION TO WARFARE" BY H.J. POOLE - Geared to NCO's and targeted to squad leaders. Helps build leadership and sense of responsibility. Poole served as both a Marine NCO and, following commissioning as a platoon and company commander in Vietnam. The book is easy to read and contains many helpful illustrations, maps, and diagrams. While some of the techniques described may be out of date, the book provides a wealth of practical knowledge for small unit leaders and especially new NCO's that can't be found in any other single volume. New to the list.