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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon August 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover
My father was a sergeant in the army and flew 63 missions in WWII. To the end of his long career when anyone raised their eyebrows in awe at his decorations and wanted to hear tales of glory; he said we just helped the ground pounders win the war - always has been them - always will.
John McManus illustrates and reiterates this philosophy throughout Grunts; he gives, many times the examples of how the infantry moves, occupies, touches and influences the population. Yet with any improved weaponry, even as far back as chariots and the longbows of England the thought has been that the new technology would sweep the need for foot soldiers off of the battlefield. Time and time again, even in the battles of today it has been shown that victory comes from the ground pounders not machines.

`Grunts' describes 10 battles: Guam, Peleliu, Aachen, the Bulge, Operation Masher- Vietnam, Marine Combined Action Patrols, Dak To, Infantry in the Gulf War, Fallujah, counterinsurgency in Iraq. It is a selected history; these are specific battles and units that sometime miss the big picture, but does give good examples once you have read through them. The mistakes, of higher command, which are many and sometimes infuriating are told. There are many truths that are usually overlooked in historical accounts, such as the fact that naval bombardments do not really kill the enemy waiting for the invasion force.

Much of what has been told to and investigated by McManus should be fascinating to readers interested in warfare and military history. For example, the army had no published doctrine on urban warfare in WWII - the infantry was on its own; but as is astutely pointed out; the ability of the American combat soldier to improvise in the stress of combat was and is his best strength; most of whom believe that their unit has a harder, more dangerous job than any other unit; but they accept it and do their job. True grunts take a perverse pride in their misery. If you are, or know one, this will ring true, as many of the observations will throughout this reading.
The fighting philosophies and methods are honed in on. This has some of the best descriptions of combat in Vietnam I have ever read. The observations of fighting in Iraq and comparisons to Vietnam are interesting, including political and economic reasons. There are some hard truths about vacillating political and military strategies and ideas. For the body of the work, which ends in Iraq in 2006 the analysis and historical points are fascinating. There are appropriate maps of the battles and a photograph section. The epilogue is a bit weak, especially comparing these valiant men to protective sheepdogs. I shudder to think what any of the ones I know would say to that; but the points are well taken including the plea for more combat brigades.
This indeed would be of interest to those who want to learn more of the military, it's history and the men who serve
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on September 7, 2010
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Dr. John C. McManus does a great job in his newest book of putting you right beside the soldier. He also helps us get inside the minds of those fighting for our freedom and protection, yet giving us a glimpse at how the soldier battles to stay grounded with the home and families they've left behind. Another fine book from this outstanding author.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on February 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This book is another in the line of histories that seek, as John Keegan's Face of Battle did some years ago, to explicate for the reader what infantry combat is like. When McManus describes the different kinds of battles American infantry has fought (Guam: combat against a poorly-prepared Japanese enemy; Peleliu: combat against a well-prepared enemy, and Vietnam, the First Gulf War and Iraq), his writing is very good. When McManus places his accounts of units in combat in a larger historical context, his writing at times falls a bit short. But I was absolutely astonished by his statement that after Vietnam the U.S. Army destroyed all of its research on counterinsurgency fighting; that is mind-boggling. Our armed forces have always been first-rate at studying battle and preparing for the next war (it's not the armed forces' fault that the studying always winds up being preparation for the last war, that's just human nature and the inability to predict the future very well). The decision to just throw the tactical and strategic lessons out, as if insurgency wasn't what we were going to be facing in the future, is inexcusable and surely must have been political. For that tidbit of knowledge alone, and for his interesting insights on the strategy of the Vietnam War, the book was worth reading.

McManus's treatment of the First Gulf War almost upsets his main thesis, that the infantry is, and must be, the proper focus and the nucleus of the battlefield when he describes the technological aspects of that war. His account highlights the value of high-tech weaponry despite his noting that much of the fancy weaponry was much lower-tech than we in the general public back home were led to believe.

The book also comes up a little short when McManus discusses such technological "mid-range" (for lack of a better term) weapons as the A-10 Thunderbolt/Warthog or the Abrams tank. These technological assists to the groundpounders are not treated like the other technological marvels McManus discusses.

McManus makes the excellent observation that a lot of battle reporting, including at times after-action reports by the people who were in the thick of it, often include potentially misleading euphemisms that mask the desperate, dehumanizing maiming and killing that combat necessarily involves. He points this kind of thing out on several occasions.

His larger argument, that our leaders seek to substitute technology for human life in the hope of lightening the burden of war on the people who must seize the ground, and to develop theories of conducting war that make it unnecessary for ground to be taken, and always fail because there is no substitute for the need to close with the enemy and destroy his forces, is something that most of us have long since taken for granted, and is therefore a bit superficial.

On the postitive side, McManus is outstanding in discussing the problems of assaulting the Umurbrogol on Peleliu, the street fighting in Aachen using combined arms (tank and infantry), the Combined Action Platoon program of the Marines in Vietnam (and the conflicting goals of the big unit/attrition strategy of Gen. Westmoreland and the Marine strategy of "hearts and minds"), and the first battle for Fallujah. His treatment of Captain Hunt, K Co., and the fight for the Point on Peleliu is singularly well-done.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 31, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I often find a broad-based book like this one hard to get absorbed in. Having said that though, I thought the author did a good job of getting his point across, "front-line infantry grunts still do the most important and essential job in modern warfare." The author presents various small unit actions from the Second World War to Iraq, all of them illustrating the limitations of "techno-warfare". I found the Vietnam chapters to be the most engaging section of this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 16, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This was a fabulous book that logically told the story of the Infantry. I found it interesting that the author had not served in the Infantry, but had such an excellent grasp of what the Infantry soldier was expected to endure. Technology changes, but the Infantry soldier still carries the burden of responsibility for getting the job done. Definitely the story of the chosen few. I highly recommend the book to anyone interested in the personal stories of soldiers who have the toughest, most under appreciated job in the world.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Insight into the behavior of the American military and government and the changes that have occurred in the last 60 years from the perspective of the grunt. The average ground pounding pogue has changed little. They still show the same skill and dedication but the military leadership and even more so, the political leadership has been deteriorating over the years
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on November 25, 2014
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
This book is a bit of a quandary. The author does want to explore the life and death of the grunt, the basic soldier for all time. The grunt was the first soldier to swing a club or throw a rock! The grunt will always be needed no matter what technology brings to the future. The WW2 chapters read well but have a bit of SLA Marshall in them. He doesn't write about Korea, sixth was a grunt war, marching up and down the peninsula leading to the trench warfare of the last few years of the war. His works on Viet Nam first look like he is a Westy fan an then the Dak To piece and the CAP chapter seem to reverse. Were they written at different times? There is more detail in the Iraq chapters. I was in 3ID for 6 yrs and knew some of these guys. I was in Baghdad supporting 3/7IN and was in Falcon and Prosperity. His findings in Iraq are right on. The total book is a worthy read, bringing the initial use of the grunt as a main fighting force to the present misconception of less troops, more tech which caused our failure in Iraq. The current military leaders should know,that but they are too busy playing CEOs vs generals! I did find the Dak To chapter interesting because I was stationed with one of the heroes! I haven't thought about him in years and there was his name! The book is missing a bit but still is a worthwhile read!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 5, 2014
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Being a former grunt, I fully understand and respect what my fellow brothers went through. Great descriptive narratives. A must read for any infantrymen!!
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on April 8, 2014
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
This an outstanding account of the importance of the infantryman from WW II to Iraq. These men and now, women are the point of the spear. The author pretty much debunks the push button war types reiterating the need for, unfortunately but thankfully for this fine historian Johhn McManus to so eloquently remind us. I recommend this book without reservation. I have also read his The Deadly Brotherhood as well as September Hope.
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on February 21, 2015
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Enjoyed reading the action sequences which were very well done. Really portrayed modern warfare as a terrible experience, giving one even more admiration for our veterans. Did give insight to the psyche of the foot soldier, but would have liked more. Was put off some by the editorializing in the final sections. Not that I necessarily disagree, but felt it detracted from the objectivity of the book.
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