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Prodigal Soldiers: How the Generation of Officers Born of Vietnam Revolutionized the American Style of War Paperback – June 1, 1997


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 478 pages
  • Publisher: Potomac Books Inc.; Brassey's Paperback Ed edition (June 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 157488123X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1574881233
  • Product Dimensions: 1.4 x 6.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #675,444 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Freelance journalist Kitfield relies heavily on personal accounts in this story of the officers who reshaped the U.S. Army and Air Force after the experience of Vietnam and then led our troops in Operation Desert Storm. In the 1970s the U.S. began to adjust to a professional military after depending on the Selective Service system. In the 1980s, increased defense budgets enabled the modernization of arsenals and the stockpiling of supplies and equipment, while cumbersome higher command systems were simplified. By the time of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990, America's military leaders were eager to demonstrate what 20 years of reform had wrought. This is a highly favorable account of that effort.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

The transformation of the American armed forces from the dispirited shell-shocked military at the close of the Vietnam era to the superbly trained, highly motivated, and universally respected victors in the Persian Gulf War is as dramatic a tale as any in American military history. Kitfield, an award-winning journalist on defense issues, follows the careers of dozens of army, navy, air force, and marine officers from their early service years in Vietnam to their success as commanders in the defeat of the Iraqis. While organizational and technical issues play a role, the book concentrates on the human aspect of this startling redirection of the U.S. military. A useful supplement to Michael Gordon's The Generals' War (LJ 12/94) and Al Santoli's overlooked Leading the Way (LJ 9/15/93), this is an essential addition to Vietnam and Persian Gulf War collections. Strongly recommended for academic and public libraries.
John R. Vallely, Siena Coll. Lib., Loudonville, N.Y.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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God Bless you all!
D. D Lawson
Their experiences in the muddle of Vietnam and the lessons they extracted colored every decision and every reform they sought in their service.
john bruning
It's a "must read" for every professional military leader and student of the art of war.
Richard J. August

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Richard J. August on July 31, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I first read James Kitfield's book in 2000 and have just finished rereading it. I am recommending it to my sons, an Air Force pilot working on his master's in military science and an Army combat engineer, as one of the four most influential books on the development of the United States military since WW II. The author traces in a very readable style the coming of age of the officers of all branches of service during the Viet Nam and post-Viet Nam eras and how those experiences shaped our ability to win a decisive victory in the 1990 Gulf War. The book also reveals the back room political wheeling and dealing that goes into watershed legislation such as the sweeping reforms of the Goldwater-Nichols Act. It's a "must read" for every professional military leader and student of the art of war.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By D. D Lawson on May 9, 2005
Format: Paperback
When you read a book like this and have seen the Army at its best and worst. That and have seen the gradual improvement to where the Army is today, i.e. one of the most trusted institutions and one of the greatest killing machines since the Roman Legions under the early Caesars. I just feel better and safer. That and I want to thank all those who did not turn tail and run away from the wreck of the post Vietnam War Military but stayed and fixed it. God Bless you all!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By pnixon@fast.net on September 30, 1999
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
From the prologue to the epilogue, and everything in between, this book is fantastic reading. Anyone who has ever been associated with the U.S. military will have a much clearer picture of the totality of resurection within all the services after Vietnam. "Duty, Honor, and Country" does not always mean the same thing to different people, to some it means a career that spans over thirty years, to others the words are just something on a recruiting poster. To anyone who reads the book these three words will take on a much clearer meaning. Some chapters will cause tears in even the toughest of old veterans, and even the young generation of future service members will begin to understand some of the major events which have transpired in the military in the decades since Vietnam. James Kitfield tells a story that is not just a chronicle, or a documentary, but a story worthy of telling, and he does it with style.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Brett A. Saffell on August 12, 1999
Format: Paperback
James Kitfield utilizes extensive research and well-toldvignettes to tell a compelling tale; how the economically starved andforgotten military that existed in a post-Vietnam America rose from the ashes to become the professional force that triumphed in Desert Storm. His story is excellent and very readable, and utilizes many small historical steps to reach its logical conclusion to include the end of Vietnam, the military's efforts to combat rampant drug use and undiscipline, the move to an All-Volunteer force, the failure of the 1980 Desert One mission, the advent of realistic training centers, and Graham-Rudman. His tale is told through the eyes of the young lieutenants and ensigns who went on to become the generals and admirals who applied the lessons they painfully learned in the past. A powerful story with a serious warning for military leaders of the present.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 30, 1998
Format: Paperback
Kitfield does a superb job of describing the near-death and subsequent rebirth of the U.S. military. His research and writing captures the "big picture" of the military's decline following Vietnam and its renewal during the Reagan years, yet he takes the reader very close to the personalities of the officers and politicians involved in rescuing America's armed services. Overall, a great read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jack Lechelt on July 14, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Excellent modern history of the US military from the Vietnam War up until 1995 or so. The history is told through semi-biographies of officers who began their careers around the time of the Vietnam War and chose to stay in the military, despite all of the problems that were evident in Vietnam. The draft, which brought in sub-standard service members, was a disastrous way to build a military. Thankfully, a number of dedicated people stuck around to see the military made stronger. From the all-volunteer military, to the GI Bill, to the Reagan defense build=up, to the Goldwater-Nichols Act, to the Gulf War, highly motivated and intelligent men helped improve the military so that it could overwhelm the Iraqi forces in the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

One of the officers who was featured quite prominently was Barry McCaffrey. I have come to appreciate his interesting analysis on television, but I never knew his life story. Though it didn't surprise me as I knew he retired as a general, but what an impressively courageous man he has been throughout his military career! What he went through in Vietnam is enough to amaze even the gutsiest American.

Another interesting aspect of the book was the coverage of contentious social issues that the military has had to deal with: race, women, and gays and lesbians. Kitfield pointed out the increasingly important role that blacks and women have played in the US Armed Forces.

Regrettably we are left to wonder what happened since then when our powerful military get sucked into a war in Iraq, starting in 2003 with no end in sight, without a plan to finish it. It's easy enough to point to Tommy Franks, Richard Myers, and others, but maybe there's a larger institutional story to tell about the debacle that is now Iraq. Hopefully Kitfield will tell that story too. He has a book out about Iraq, but since it was written a year or two ago, it can't possibly accommodate for all that has occurred since publication.
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