Thursday, July 12, 2007

Books: Tell it to the Marines.

As of this morning, I'm absolutely engrossed in American Spartans, by James A. Warren. It's a history of the United States Marine Corps that runs from the beaches of Iwo Jima in 1945 to the streets of Baghdad in 2003. Great stuff.

The battle for Iwo Jima is one of the most epic battles of all time. 30,000 Marines went ashore on D-Day, hitting the beaches of an island defended by over 21,000 Japanese troops. For those who are not students of military science or military history, it is accepted as a general maxim that at least 3:1 odds are preferred when attacking an enemy in prepared positions. When all was said and done, the Marines had suffered more than 25,000 KIA and WIA, seeing 75% casualties in many infantry units. Of the 21,000 Japanese defenders, 250 surrendered. The rest fell in combat. Again for the unfamiliar, the standard rule of thumb is that a unit is rendered hors d' combat when it has taken 30% casualties. Twenty-seven Medals of Honor were awarded to American fighting men on Iwo in slightly over one month. The island had a total area of eight square miles. This is out of a total of 464 for the entire US Armed Forces in WWII over the entire globe between 12/41 and 8/45.

I'm only about a third of the way into it, but this is definitely a great read.

5 comments:

BobG said...

Have you gotten to the Korean War yet?
A friend of the family that used to go backpacking and camping with my dad and me not only fought in the Pacific during WWII, he was also a veteran of Chosin; that had to be one of the most amazing examples of the best of the Marine Corp.

Tam said...

The best book I've read on the Chosin Reservoir thus far is Retreat, Hell!

If you haven't read it, I doubleplus recommend!

Ben said...

American Spartans sounds like a good one. Right up my alley. I'll have to give it a try.

I've been re-reading David Anderton's History of the US Air Force as I do from time to time. It's not only very informative, but also illustrated with great photos and tech drawings, covering everything from the observation balloons of the Civil War up through the final air campaigns of Vietnam. Great reference material. It also looks ahead to what was the future when it was written in the early 80s. Some of that is fun for what came to be as predicted and what did not.

Phreeq said...

For those who don't have the book yet, ignore the link to Amazon (sorry, Tam, I just don't want to give them my money). I found that Barnes & Noble has the book on clearance sale for $5.00 (at least on their website).

Carl said...

Here's a tip of the old campaign hat to my great uncle Jake, and to actor Lee Marvin. Two of the marines who took Iwo Jima.