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readable and thorough book on the war of 1898,
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This review is from: The Spanish War: An American Epic 1898 (Paperback)
This an epic and thorough book on the Spanish-American War of 1898, one of the lesser known wars in American and world history, but nonetheless very important. O'Toole does a very credible and noteworthy job discussing all aspects of the war, detailing not only the land and naval operations during the war, but the diplomatic events preceding the crisis and during it, and actions on the American political scene in Congress, the White House, and the press leading up to and during the conflict. O'Toole discusses as well previous events in relations between the United States, Cuba, and Spain, and how the US had a long involvement in Cuba long before 1898 running guns, smuggling, and otherwise aiding Cuban insurgents and rebels against Spanish authorities. The author shows that the Spanish-American War was practically inevitable given the past history of American involvement and views on the region, and was not out of the realm of possibility that war might have occured much earlier.
The Spanish-American War was in many ways a war between a declining Spain, increasingly weak in Europe, overextended, fighting a war it did not want over a possession that was increasingly more trouble than it was worth, and a rising United States, eager to flex its muscles after the long recovery from the Civil War, increasingly concerned with events outside it borders (the interest in part fueled by a very activist press), and an eager and enthusiastic Theodore Roosevelt building and running an increasingly world class navy. The Spanish-American War pretty much marks the debut of the US as a world power as it closed the war having defeated a major European power and with possessions far outside of traditional home waters.
O'Toole shows in detail the conflicts on land and in the sea, and how truly different they were. The naval conflicts went exceedingly well for the United States thanks to excellent tactics and ships, and casualties were extremely light. O'Toole vividly shows how the Battle of Manila Bay and events in the Phillipines made Admiral Dewey a hero, as well as how Oregon's dash around the Horn made it a legend. The land battles stand in stark contrast, as they were beset by confused leadership at times, ill-preparation, difficult terrain, disease, and a desperate Spanish defense force. Casualties were much higher on land, and O'Toole shows how the fighting in the jungles and mountains of Cuba was far from "splendid."
O'Toole closes the book with a look at the war in the Phillipines, which soon developed into the Phillipine Insurrection. Though he does not spend a great deal of time on this aspect of the war, he does draw some startlingly parallels between this theater of operations and the much later Vietnam War; a war fought in the jungle, where the enemy and the friend were difficult to tell apart, fought by often demoralized troops with hazy objectives, a conflict in which cruel tactics were employed by both sides, far more brutal than was seen in Cuba.
A great read, a must for military historians, students of Latin America, and of American history, as well as anyone wanting to know more about the "splendid little war."