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Those Who Have Borne the Battle: A History of America's Wars and Those Who Fought Them Hardcover – May 1, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


Dr. John Nagl, Minerva Professor at the U.S. Naval Academy and retired Army officer
"Former Marine and Dartmouth President Jim Wright has written a concise military history of the United States with a focus on the veterans of our wars.  It is empathetic, informed by his personal knowledge of the sacrifices and joys of military service, and deeply compelling.  I know of no more ambitious work on how our nation cares for those who have borne the burden of her battles, nor one that achieves its goals so well.  In this time of too many wars, it should be read by every American."

Richard H. Kohn, Professor Emeritus of History and Peace, War, and Defense, UNC-Chapel Hill, and Chief of Air Force History for the USAF, 1981-1991
"In this unflinchingly honest portrait of the American military experience, James Wright explains how our recent wars have differed from those of earlier times. Informed by a tour in the Marines, a lifetime devoted to educating the country’s youth, and more recently, repeated visits to wounded vets, this important book talks sense to the American people about our wars and their consequences.  Engaging, wise, and filled with keen insights for all Americans, their military and political leaders in particular."

Paul Rieckhoff, Founder and Executive Director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America
"Finally – a comprehensive book chronicling the journey of the American veteran. From the camps of Valley Forge to the beachfronts of Normandy to the sands of Iraq, James Wright weaves together a full history that is both engaging and alive. Some were citizen soldiers. Some were draftees. Some were volunteers. But they all served their country when called upon. Wright’s book is required reading for anyone who wants to understand the wars and warriors of our past – and perhaps the wars and warriors of our future."

Kirkus Reviews
“A thoughtful account of how America treats its soldiers…An astute view of America’s enthusiastic but often-unrealistic attitude toward those who fight its wars."

New York Times Book Review
“The familiar narrative of the American military experience traces the long, occasionally glorious, always bloody monarchy from Lexington and Concord to Iraq and Afghanistan. Those Who Have Borne the Battle amends that account by adding two subjects of acute contemporary relevance: how the United States has raised the forces with which it wages war; and how, in the aftermath of battle, it cares for and remembers those who fought.”

Military Times
“Eloquent and evocative.”

The VVA Veteran
“Offering much more than a dry retelling of America’s wars, Wright’s book allows readers to follow the evolution of important trends in American warfare and to easily pick up and trace the author’s line of reasoning."

TIME Magazine
“A must in any American military buff’s library.”

About the Author

The son of a World War II veteran, James Wright joined the marines at age seventeen and served for three years, primarily with the First Marine Brigade in Hawaii and Japan. He earned a PhD at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, became a history professor at Dartmouth College in 1969, and served as president of Dartmouth from 1998 to 2009. Since 2005 he has visited military hospitals over two dozen times and has worked to establish educational counseling programs for wounded veterans, efforts featured in the New York Times, Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, ABC World News, and VFW Magazine, and recognized by educational, veteran, and service organizations. He and his wife, Susan, live in New Hampshire.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; First Edition edition (May 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1610390725
  • ISBN-13: 978-1610390729
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,018,959 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Mark H. Smoller on April 29, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an important book. It is a sober and balanced account of this nation's military adventures to date. In the end, it relates via historical content, the populace of our nation's reactions to wars beginning with the Revolutionary War. It traces not only the wars themselves but more importantly the impact of the wars on our society and society's's response within the context of the participants today.. In the end it calls for a response to the concept of war and the ease with which we commit to such, only to regret it later. It offers a formula , conceived in the context of today whereby those who who advocate for war must consider aspects of war which because of the the lack of a citizen army representative of all the people prevail at this time. It suggests the necessity of paying on the line for our bellicose adventures as the costs accrue, and thereby at least allowing everyone to participate minimally in the cost for the war instead of having those who fight and fought come home to a debt which they will ultimately have to pay.But even more than that it suggests more thoughtful considerations before entering into any such adventures. Very powerful!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jim Moore on July 6, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I can't recall reading a more important book on the topic of how we as a nation--collectively and as individual citizens--view and absorb the overarching narrative of our military history and how we care--or perhaps think we care--for the men and women who have done the rough work of war. Karl Marlantes' latest book,What It Is Like to Go to War should be a companion-piece.

James Wright, former president of Dartmouth, and a former Marine, has done his homework with this book, and he learned the lessons quite well.

Dr. Wright takes on the formidable task of comparative analyses of our major wars and the roles of soldiers, veterans, the socio-political machinations, and the lessons that we can learn from them, or the myths about them of which we need to dispose. He takes the apples and oranges of truths, half-truths, and outright fiction that are so often piled into one media-easy silver bowl about wars and the veterans who fought them and sorts them into their proper baskets--or tosses them out when they're rotten.

Dr. Wright's military sources and quotable experts--from WWII through Afghanistan--are many, varied, and respectable. His Civil War history as relates to the topic presented several new lessons to me--and, near the end of the book, Dr. Wright's passages on Gettysburg are downright moving. His review and analysis of America's 10-year journey in Vietnam is a strikingly and appropriately blunt, well-developed and compelling assessment not only of the life of the troops--enlistees and draftees, 17-year old kids, 22-year-old lieutenants--but of calculating politicians, ground-breaking journalism, and an eventually-polarized public unsettled by a wandering war.
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Format: Hardcover
Jim Wright has written a poignant, soundly researched and balanced account of what our political leaders have asked of our citizen soldiers over the last several centuries.

This is a story that has needed to be told. It has taken someone with the author's breath of experience and seriousness of purpose to develop a narrative of appropriate scope to honor those who have borne the burden of fighting the country's battles.

As the author notes, "Wars are remarkably cruel things, and all participants on all sides deserve to have their stories told." This is all the more important given the cruel irony that as Wright observes, "We pay lip service to our 'sons and daughters' at war, even if the children of some 99 percent of us are safely at home."
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By fritzon on November 28, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The author tells it in a uniqe way, that is to the point, and encompasses the true feelings only experienced in combat. As a former US Navy salvage diver, stationed in Vung Tau, Vietnam, I appreciate more than some, the telling of a combat experience...
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By cm judge on September 3, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Dr. James Wright undertakes the difficult task of writing about "America's wars, those who fought them, and the public's understanding of those experiences." This is not a book about combat action. Rather, the author discusses the sacrifices of those called to wartime service, and the obligation to care for them in the aftermath. For over 200 years, our Nation has wrestled with striking the proper balance. This book focuses on how we employ the force and honor those who served, a subject area that continues to perplex our society.

Any democracy requires citizens to be called forth to defend the common interests. Ideally, duty in time of war is an inherent requirement of citizenship. Additionally, we have a belief that faithfulness to the Constitution is a core American value. Based on this fidelity, we declare a state of war only after the most serious consideration and deliberation. Wright cites events, facts and figures to support his contention that we have drifted away from the citizen-soldier concept and adherence to the Constitution. He offers a solution to regain the sharing of war burdens along with an adherence to the Constitution.

Dr. Wright examines the evolution of the American citizen-soldier from the Revolutionary War to our current conflict. He points out that the traditional American distrust of a standing army resulted in a reliance on volunteers to supplement a small professional army.

In turn, this model set the stage for 230 years of juggling " a complicated and ambiguous relationship" between the people and the military. The basic question, then as now, remains the same. How does the political leadership demand resources from a public that is indifferent to and suspicious of a standing army?

Seeking an answer, Dr.
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