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American Soldier Hardcover – August 3, 2004

4.4 out of 5 stars 164 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

As Commander in Chief of the United States Central Command from July 2000 through July 2003, Tommy Franks led the American and Coalition forces to victory in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Unsurprisingly, the portions of American Soldier covering these wars are the most interesting because they combine military maneuvers, political wrangling, and lots of action and commentary. This does not mean, however, that the rest of his autobiography is dull. General Franks's writing is clear and engaging and his insider's perspective is informative and interesting, particularly when he explains how the military moved into the 21st century by emphasizing speed, agility, and better cooperation among the various branches--a significant shift from the first Persian Gulf war just a decade earlier.

In addition to his years as a war general, his memoir also covers his childhood, his early years in the Army, his tours of Vietnam, and how he contemplated retirement before being called up as commander of Central Command, "the most diverse, strategically vital—and unstable—region of the planet." Ever the diplomat, General Franks offers insights, but little criticism of individuals. Other than expressing admiration for his own staff and for President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in particular, he is tight-lipped about any conflict within the administration that may have occurred regarding policy issues. (The one exception is counterterrorism specialist Richard Clarke. "I never received a single operational recommendation, or a single page of actionable intelligence, from Richard Clarke," he writes). He also writes that he was surprised by the absence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and that no WMDs were used against American troops. Still, the invasion of Iraq was justified in his eyes: "While we may not have found actual WMD stockpiles, what the Coalition discovered was the equivalent of a disassembled pistol, lying on a table beside neatly arranged trays of bullets." American Soldier is a compelling look at the war on terrorism from one who served on the frontlines as both a warrior and a diplomat. --Shawn Carkonen

About the Author

General Tommy Franks retired from the Army on August 1, 2003. Commissioned a Second Lieutenant in 1967 as a distinguished graduate of the Artillery Officer Candidate School, Fort Sill, Oklahoma, he was assigned to the 9th Infantry Division, Republic of Vietnam. He also served as an Assistant Division Commander during Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm. General Franks has been awarded three Defense Distinguished Service Medals, two Distinguished Service Medals, and four Legion of Merit awards. His other decorations include three Purple Hearts, three Bronze Stars, an Air Medal, and an Army Commendation Medal -- all with "V" for valor. In 2004 he was named a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire. General Franks lives with his wife, Cathy, in Tampa, Florida.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 590 pages
  • Publisher: Regan Books/Harper Collins; 1st edition (August 3, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060731583
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060731588
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (164 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #444,105 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on August 3, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Tommy Franks rose to prominence in the public eye only relatively recently, in the conduct of the post 9-11 conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraqi wars. However, Franks has been in the military and on the front lines, both combat and political, for a very long time. Franks enlisted in the army in 1965 (as I consider it, that's as long as I've been alive!) while still suffering from the effects from a hangover, brought on by a drinking bout due to general depression at failing college in Texas. (It is an interesting historical fact that many of America's better generals have not been the best students academically). Franks is not an academy graduate, having worked his way through OCS and almost immediately becoming a line officer in the Vietnam conflict.

Franks' career is a distinguished one, but perhaps the most telling part of which is that he was not really expected to be the outspoken, go-it-alone character that typified his Afghan and Iraq leaderships. The son of a poor family in Oklahoma and Texas regions that never quite recovered from the dust-bowl depression times, he was actually an adopted son who knew the secret years before his parents actually told him (he found his birth certificate in an old family Bible). He went to high school with the future first lady, Laura Bush, who was much more popular than he was, he wrote. He never made much of an impression in high school or his first attempt at college, but in the military, he stood out as an expert in marksmanship, and that was his ticket to OCS.

His rise through the military ranks was not meteoric -- his career spanned almost 40 years, and was fairly typical in many respects.
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Format: Hardcover
I started reading General Frank's book at 4:00 P.M. and did not put it down till 2:00 A.M. the next morning finished. A fascinating life story of a truly great professional warrior. The book clearly depicts the dedication and the professionalism of the American military. I believe the book could have been 1100 pages and still have been just as riveting. The General's description of the countless hours and meticulous care that went into the planning of military operations from Desert Storm to Operation Iraqi Freedom makes me appreciate the U.S. and Allied military forces even more than I did. I think his recounting of the facts as he knew them to be concerning WMD's in Iraq should but unfortunately probably will not silence the naysayers. I also found his narrative of the rebuilding of the morale and the professionalism of the U.S. Army following Vietnam of particular interest. A great work from an obviously very honest and sincere gentleman. Thank you Tommy Ray Franks.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is a must read for anyone interested in getting a candid view of how America is fighting the War on Terror. Franks does a superb job outlining the strategic thinking of CENTCOM in planning the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, including the intelligence that had been gathered. A firm believer in speed and flexibility through "force mulitpliers" (drones, PGMs, SOF), as well as the value of truly joint operations, Franks offers civilians interested in military matters and those serving a glimpse of future American military doctrine.

Franks also discusses the intelligence on Iraq leading up to the war. As theater commander Franks talked personally with many leaders in the region, ALL of which told him that not only did Saddam had WMD, but that he would use them in a war. No one else who has produced a book on the subject had this much access.

Franks pulls few punches in AMERICAN SOLDIER, and he criticizes both the Clinton and Bush Administrations for what he perceived as pervasive arrogance on the part of some officials, including the now famous Richard Clarke. He also takes aim at America's depleted abilities to gather HUMINT (Human Intelligence), the Joint Chiefs (whose interference and constant jockeying for their Service to have more prominent roles in combat was a constant irritation), Pentagon leaks, and the media with it's taking head generals.

All in all, most readers will be interested in the Third Part, which deals with his time as CENTCOM. The first two parts, however, are important if you want to understand why General Franks took such a different approach to war than did his predessors. And military buffs will find a few gems on strategy and generalship, as well as the diplomatic side of being a high ranking officer.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
You never really know what to expect when reading a book by a former military commander. Being a great military officer does not necessarily qualify one as a great writer. General Franks has far exceeded my expectations with this fabulous work. Though I'm sure there were ghost writers and editors who may have cleaned up his work, the end result is one for the ages.

Having grown up on the southern plains in the Texas panhandle in the same approximate time, Franks opening chapters telling of his childhood in Wynnewood, OK and Midland, TX was both poignant and reminiscent of my own upbringing, making it most enjoyable.

Military men of my generation will appreciate the chapters on Franks' early military years, including his boot camp with stories of the time when drill sergeants and company commanders could and did (quite regularly) use four letter expletives to convey their point to raw recruits. As you read on, you begin to see how this man soon became a competent leader and eventually, a polished commanding officer.

Even if you are not a military aficionado, along about page 150, about the time General Franks took command of CENTCOM, you will become consumed by this book. You will learn of both the strength and weakness of our foreign intelligence at that time. At this same point in the book, the General is most proficient in giving candid and sometimes scathing personal analysis of key figures such as Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Clark, Pervez Musharraf and countless others.

The second half of this book is absolutely riveting. The reader sees the military precision and coordination of the military in dismantling the Taliban and Al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan.
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