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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on August 15, 2004
This is an extremely interesting book. First, to clear up some things for people considering purchasing the book, the complaints. People have complained here that he doesn't explain certain failures in Afghanistan and Iraq. Well why should he? This is his AUTOBIOGRAPHY! It's not about the War on Terror! One poster said he stopped reading halfway through because certain things weren't addressed. How would you know they were NEVER addressed if you stopped reading halfway through? Rediculous partisan stupidity.

I gave this book 4-stars because there is a LOT of army talk and language that wouldn't make sense to people without that kind of background. There is a little glossary in the back of what most of the acronyms mean, but it is a bit hard to visualize at times. However, this guy has been around. He has seen a lot. I highly recommend this book. It is a page turner and it gives you incredible insight and respect for our armed men and women in the service.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on August 25, 2004
"A commander must never permit himself to know more than he knows", says General Tommy Franks in his book "American Soldier", so only what he knows is what he writes about, but that is still plentiful. I packed "American Soldier" for reading at the pool on my recent vacation, and left Bob Woodward and Stephen King at home for later. I did not miss out at all. "American Soldier" is every bit as informative as it is captivating.

It is not only a soldier's diary, but also a treasure trove for anyone who has followed the military events since September 11 and wants to know what went on behind the scenes: what decisions were made, how they were made, by whom, and why. Those who have been mesmerized by Franks' personality will find insights into what shaped his character over the decades.

"American Soldier" is a book that's hard to put down, even though we already know how the story ends. This facts-only story told honestly from a warrior's heart might actually help to heal this nation and help calm the waves between supporters and opponents of the war.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on August 17, 2004
Frank's autobiography is a great read about an American story that is all to familiar for many of us - an adopted child growing up with two dedicated parents - someone who was not the best at anything growing up and who made mistakes - but who later found his calling and excelled.

Franks does not pull any punches when describing his mistakes - and lets in on how he matured and grew beyond his impetuosity - from his drinking and carousing in college ( he flunked out ), his insubordination in the Army ( countermanded his CO's order ), to his fling with the Australian Beach Sheilas ( broke his engagement )- to become an innovative, but disciplined officer destined for Flag rank who was also a dedicated husband and father.

Franks provides a broad overview of each of his major periods of his life and then describes a few moments in each period in detail to illustrate his points - both listing his mistakes and his successes. Unlike many writers he does not belabor his guilt or his pride, but describes the events and lets the reader feel his embarassment or joy that most certainly exists between the lines.

For instance, he captures the pain and the enormity of 9/11 when his jet crosses the Atlantic from Greece to Florida when he is tells his is only plane in the air in the whole wide Atlantic.

Of great interest is his description of the decision making process in the White House and Centcom for Afghanistan and Iraq as well as the planning and execution of each war. Another thing that is striking is the enormous mental and operational flexibility Franks brought to his job. For example, the top of his Hotel in Greece became his command post right after 9/11.

The only General I can think of to compare Franks to is Patton in terms of his openness to new ideas and his willingness to experiment while having the drive and focus to execute well. Indeed, Franks discusses the Lousiana Manuevers of the early 1940s where Patton ( and others ) annihilated normal US Army units thereby giving Marshall and the US Army an understanding of how the Germans defeated the French.

Franks also alludes to many of the major issues of the day - he got three Purple Hearts in Vietnam but only for wounds he was hospitalized for, Richard Clarke is all Hat and no Cow, Rumsfeld is innovative, but controlling, Bush is emotionally insightful and steadfast, the Pentagon is a mess, and the Press and talking heads are Buffoons. ( The part on how they dealt with the Fedayeen is particularly riveting. )

Its a great read that will keep you up at night.
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34 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on August 4, 2004
stayed up most of the night reading this story. very inspiring material. general franks makes me proud to be an american - and proud of our armed services. what a disgrace that, like the "gentleman" from Colonial Heights, Va, most who rate this book poorly will never actually read it. those folks, will return to their comics and anti war propaganda for entertainment and education, or worse yet follow the pied piper of lies, mikhail moore. this book is fast moving and extraordinarily interesting. written from a soldier's perspective, it certainly touched the heart of this ex-soldier.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on October 12, 2004
This is a must read for military buffs and will give you an enjoyable experience in a book that is fun reading. I had a little trouble with all the acronyms but there is a glossary in the back that gets you through. I was in the Air Force 21 years and although not at the high rank that makes the tactical and stratigic decisions, I could relate to Gen. Franks remarks about GIs and warfare. He comes across as a leader having a mind that thinks outside the envelope. I would be proud to follow someone like Gen. Franks. It is a shame that he did not take the job as Chief Of Joint Chiefs of Staff but it is apparent that that this not his bag. He is definitly a hands on leader who relishes innovation and will not fight the "last war" should hostilities break out. He thinks about the newer technology and the advantages that most generals would shun basing their ideas on old thinking. This explains the arm chair generals disputing what we did in Iraq on national TV. More is not necessarily better as demonstrated by the Soviet army that was decimated in Afghanistan. Franks did not lose and for good reason
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on September 18, 2004
Tommy Franks' story is exciting from beginning to end. General Franks will go down in history as one of the greatest military commanders of all time. The book is educational on several levels because it helps the outsider see how the military works from the enlisted soldier to the President. It is also educational because it provides an honest, non-biased evaluation of how decisions were made in the Afganistan and Iraq War. Maybe more important, this is a book about leadership, humility, and hard work. General Franks' starts his career as a college drop-out, enlisted soldier, and continues to improve himself. It is a tremendous example of how we can all improve ourselves, overcome great challenges, and accomplish great things. The book was a fast read because I couldn't put it down.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on April 25, 2012
I will admit up front that I am not a huge Franks fan. However, it is my intent to give a review of the book rather than make judgments upon the War in Iraq, the Bush administration, the politics involved, etc, as there is no shortage of this commentary.

As an Army professional, I found this book fascinating from an institutional perspective. Not to say fascinating in a good way but more in the manner of reading a case study on how a really bad thing came to pass and coming to understand "how the heck did this happen."

I am really torn up about how I rated this book (I gave it a three). If you are not into the Army as an institution or the pathology of the Iraq war, you will think I am nuts as the story itself is painfully dull and hidiously long. What makes this book compelling (for lack of a better word) is how it reveals the manner in which a guy becomes CENTCOM commander and the consequences of such a system.

Tommy Franks basically got to be CENTCOM commander by being a good commander of tactical units, period. What the book shows is that formulative experiences one recieves in such a career progression do not necessarily make for a good CENTCOM commander. As one reads the book, one sees over and over that Franks was great at getting people and things to do what they were supposed to do, where they were supposed to do them, when they were supposed to do them. No kidding, this is not easy and few people do it well. Franks spends his whole career more or less progressing from one such assignment to the next.

However, the book also inadvertently shows the drawbacks of this path. One example is experience with the media. Franks had a bad experience with the media during Desert Storm and got yelled at by his boss. The solution? He avoided talking to the media. A sound plan as most Army commanders don't have to talk to the national media much. Unfortunately this plan becomes less sound real fast when you become the CENTCOM commander. Ultimately, Franks outsourced talking to the media to his subordinates and the result was a public far less assured and comfortable as to what was happening than they were during Desert Storm and now we know why.

Being a perennial commander (or staff guy working for tactical commanders) leaves little room for what people in the trade call "career broadening assignments" (i.e. working geo-political jobs, advanced civilian studies, etc...). The closest dealings Franks had with foreigners prior to pinning on three or four stars was probably when he was flying over them as a spotter and coordinating the dropping of artillery and bombs on them in Vietnam. This reflected in the pride he takes when elaborating on the Western bubble he brought with him when visiting foreign places as CENTCOM commander (e.g. his tredmill). It is easy to see how unrealistic it is to expect Franks would have any idea what might need to happen after you defeat a foreign military.

His interest in critical thinking is also on display when explaining his approach to Afghanistan, to paraphrase - some people wanted to go in heavy. This was not a good idea. It did not work for the Russians and it would not work for us. I am certainly glad he devoted a lot of thought to the question. No kidding, less than half a page devoted to formulation of Afghanistan strategy in a very long book.

Yet another example of his baggage is his overt distain for the service chiefs. Franks fumes at their concerns about the impact operations will have on the service institutions (i.e. over extension of people, equipment, etc...). Having spent little time in institutional positions, he cannot get past what has been his paradigm all along as a commander of tactical units - I ask for stuff, you give it to me. What's so complicated about that?

Without beating a dead horse or engaging in more painting with broad strokes (which I admit I do) this book will tell you a lot about the mindset of GEN Franks as he executed the wars of the early 21st century. Not an indictment of the person but perhaps of a system that put an obviously smart man in a position for which he probably was not well-prepared.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on October 4, 2004
I picked this book by chance on my way out of Costco (sorry Amazon) and I am glad I did. Tommy Franks takes you inside CENTCOM and gives you a look on how the operations in Afganistan and Iraq were fought. I didn't realize how different the reality of what I saw on the news was compared to General Frank's experiance. This book also illustrates good traits in leadership, every young military officer should read this book. I won't go into details on the book as this has been done numerous times in other reviews. I will finish with that this was a page turner from front to back and anyone with an inkling of interest in modern military operations will not be disappointed.
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57 of 74 people found the following review helpful
This is an incredible book about a remarkable man. Don't believe the garbage that comes out of the mouths of Democratic Party mouthpieces that pan this book. Go take a look at the other reviews that people who slam books like this have given. You will find they have rated the Clintons' books, and any books that attack President Bush very highly, and are critical of any books written by conservatives. Ten to one says they never even read the book they are criticizing!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on September 1, 2004
General Franks offers an insight into not only his life, but the events that unfolded following September 11, 2001. General Franks led the attack on the Taliban and Al Qaeda networks shortly after 9/11. In his book, he gives us a glimpse into the daily happenings of the Pentagon, the White House, and his house immediately after those catastrophic events. It's a fascinating story.

He starts the book reminiscing about his life as a child and the impressions his father left on him. He describes his life as a boy moving from Oklahoma to Texas and the lessons he learned from his family. He does a good job of tying those lessons into how he commanded the world's most powerful military force later on in life.

He shares his story of making the decision to leave UT Austin because he needed a little discipline and joining the Army. He then talks about meeting and marrying his wife and promising to get out of the Army after the first hitch. He describes how there was a pull to keep him in after every reenlistment and how his wife stood there with him every step of the way.

He speaks of a time in Vietnam, being surrounded and making the decision to save the last bullet for himself if they were overtaken. He tells of his hospital stays, and encouragement from movie stars and Bob Hope. He shares his feeling of love for his soon to be wife when he gets back home.

He then tells his story of 9/11 and how he was given the responsibility to defend America. That's a heavy burden to carry, but he did it and did it well in Afghanistan. It was so well the story tells us how he was tapped to lead America against the next country that wanted to harm America - Iraq.

This book speaks of loyalty, bravery, honesty, character, and strength. Not just of him, but of his wife, the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines he commanded. He speaks of the lifelong friendships he forged with heads of state all the way to the grunt on the ground. This was a fascinating look into the life of an American Soldier.
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