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Thunderbolt: General Creighton Abrams and the Army of His Times Paperback – February 26, 2008


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Thunderbolt: General Creighton Abrams and the Army of His Times + A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam + Westmoreland: The General Who Lost Vietnam
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 420 pages
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press; 2nd edition (February 26, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0253220025
  • ISBN-13: 978-0253220028
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #475,436 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Abrams (1914-1974) made a name for himself during WW II's Battle of the Bulge when he led his tank battalion in relief of an encircled American division at Bastogne. A quarter century later, having replaced Gen. William Westmoreland as MAC-V (Military Assistance Command-Vietnam) commander in Saigon, he supervised the process of preparing the South Vietnamese government to take over the war while American forces withdrew. Abrams's reputation for competence and uncompromising integrity was intact when he returned to the U.S. in 1972 ("Abe never talks about ethics," said a colleague quoted here, "he just examples it"). Appointed Army chief of staff, Abrams now faced the greatest challenge of his career: reforming the demoralized Army. Sorley, who has taught at West Point and the Army War College, provides a detailed account of how Abrams initiated such a turnaround in the post-Vietnam days. This anecdote-rich biography captures the essence of a great but little-known general who was an important military transitional figure. Photos.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Abrams's career spanned three American wars (World War II, Korea, and Vietnam), and he finished it as the Army Chief of Staff. His efforts in the immediate post-Vietnam years helped to reform the army into the efficient war machine of the Persian Gulf War. Thunderbolt covers Abrams's entire career in detail. Sources used in this book include an impressive list of books, articles, documents, and interviews. The author's military background (Sorley was a West Point graduate and Pentagon staff officer) is omnipresent--the book reads much like an official military history. This is not to say that the work aggrandizes the U.S. military or government; many shortcomings and Abrams's attempt to grapple with them are discussed. Thunderbolt fills a gap on a very influential member of the U.S. Army. The book is of value to the military historian as well as to history and military buffs. Recommended for academic and public libraries. Miltary Book Club main selection.
-Jim Cunningham, Northern Illinois Univ. Lib., DeKalb
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Lewis Sorley, a former soldier, is a graduate of West Point and holds a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins. His Army service included tank and armored cavalry units in Germany, Vietnam, and the U.S., Pentagon staff duty, and teaching at West Point and the Army War College.

His books include two biographies, Thunderbolt: General Creighton Abrams and the Army of His Times and Honorable Warrior: General Harold K. Johnson and the Ethics of Command. The Johnson biography received the Army Historical Foundation's Distinguished Book Award. An excerpt of the Abrams biography won the Peterson Prize as the year's best scholarly article on military history. He has also been awarded the General Andrew Goodpaster Prize for military scholarship by the American Veterans Center.

His book A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. His edited work Vietnam Chronicles: The Abrams Tapes, 1968-1972 received the Army Historical Foundation's Trefry Prize for providing a unique perspective on the art of command. He has also written Honor Bright: History and Origins of the West Point Honor Code and System and edited a two-volume work entitled Press On! Selected Works of General Donn A. Starry. He is currently researching a biography of General William C. Westmoreland.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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A biography well worth reading.
Q. Publius
Filled with perfectly chosen anecdotes within a solid and well written history, this book brings its subject to life like no other biography I've read.
T. Berner
GEN Abrams was responsible for the quality of the Army today and since he was the Chief of Staff.
Donald Occhi

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Steven S. Berizzi on March 27, 2001
Format: Paperback
Creighton Abrams may have been the greatest American soldier of the second half of the 20th century. He served as a tank commander under General George Patton at the Battle of the Bulge, in occupied Germany and wartime Korea, as commander of United States military forces in Vietnam, and as Army Chief of Staff. It was a remarkable career! Lewis Sorley's admiring biography of General Abrams narrates the principal events in appropriate detail. In the prologue, Sorley asserts that Abrams was "the quintessential soldier," explaining that Abrams "demonstrated strategic and tactical skill and audacity," extraordinary physical bravery and intellectual courage, the capacity to lead and inspire men, [and] talent in dealing with complex and ambiguous managerial challenges." The measure of the value of this book lies in whether Sorley effectively makes that case. I believe that he largely does, as the result of which this is a very good, if not great, professional biography.
Although Sorley's approach to biography is conventional, he demonstrates on several occasions that Abrams's views could be very unconventional. Early in his chapter about West Point in the mid-1930s, for instance. Sorley asserts: "From the beginning Abrams was alienated by some aspects of the cadet experience." According to Sorley, Abrams was highly self-motivated and self-disciplined, and he resisted the petty tyranny of cadet life. After Abrams graduated and was commissioned, Sorley writes that he "was tolerant of his soldiers' having fun." (Sorley quotes one Abrams subordinate that the general, if Abrams had a weakness, "he sometimes was too easy on some people.") After World War II, while Abrams was serving in the Plans Section for Army Ground Forces in Washington, D.C.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Q. Publius VINE VOICE on September 9, 1999
Format: Paperback
Creighton Abrams is one of the best soldiers of the American Century, perhaps ranking only behind George C. Marshall in selfless devotion to soldiering. Lewis Sorley's Thunderbolt is both thoroughly researched and well written. Abrams was a true man of virtue, and an inspiration to all who served with him and under his command. I was lead to this book by Sorley's more recent book, A Better War, which focuses more specifically on Abrams's Vietnam years. Anyone who believes that Army values of duty, honor, and country have been corrupted by 20th Century experience should read this objective tribute to a truly great man of humble origins whose tank column liberated Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge and who eventually rose to be Chief of Staff of the Army. A biography well worth reading.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Stan W. Graff on May 17, 2000
Format: Paperback
I was 9 years old when I first met General "Abe" in Germany in 1959. Lewis Sorley did a masterful job describing this American hero. Reading the biography, I was amazed to find out about the breadth of the impact that Gen. Abrams had on the events of modern America from World War II (liberating the 101st Airborne at Bastogne!), through the Civil Rights movement in the South (key advisor to President Kennedy insuring the peaceful implementation of desegregation at the Univ of Alabama), and finally the conclusion of the Vietnam War. Abrams' character and capability are the standards we should demand from all of our leaders. If someone is looking to find out about who was making good things happen in the second half of the 20th century and what it takes to be a truly great person, read Sorley's book. It will make you wonder why we don't have people like Abrams, not only in our highest military positions, but our highest elected offices today. It is ironic to think that cigars robbed us of this incredible person at the pinnacle of his career at the young age of 59. It was a great loss for America. You don't have to be a military buff to enjoy this book. You just have to have an interest in who shaped the 20th Century and what kind of leader you want in your company, town, or country in the 21st!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Steve Iaco on July 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
Sir Robert Thompson, a British counter-intelligence expert, called Abrams "the best U.S. General since Grant." Reading Sorley's terrific account of Abram's life, it's hard to argue the point.
Abrams was an armored warfare genius. His gruff, no-nonsense exterior masked a big heart and an abiding, deeply rooted love for his men and his country. His selfless devotion to duty is a model for us all.
For a more in-depth analysis of Abrams'considerable (though largely overlooked) post-Tet, post-Westmoreland successes in Vietnam, read Sorley's "A Better War."
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Donald Occhi on March 10, 2002
Format: Paperback
GEN Abrams was responsible for the quality of the Army today and since he was the Chief of Staff. His wisdom and insight into soldiering, leadership, and combat ability is what won the Gulf War. Dr. Sorley is right on the money. It is obvious that Dr. Sorley really admires GEN Abrams and he has done his homework. It's a shame that GEN Abrams died so early, he tranformed the United States Army into the force it is today, or was at the time of the Gulf War.
I met GEN Abrams in 1973 in Germany as a young Corporal and he spoke with me for a few minutes, but he struck me as unpretentious and humorous. I met Captains and Majors who had a bigger ego that him.
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