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Grunts: Inside the American Infantry Combat Experience, World War II Through Iraq Paperback – August 2, 2011
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The author of the fine history of the 7th Infantry Regiment returns with another demonstration of his skill at narrating infantry combat. He offers a historical retrospective, contrasting different types of battle in which American “grunts” have been engaged. We have the easy victory on Guam in 1944, against poorly-organized Japanese, and the bloody slugging match against dug-in Japanese on Peleliu. The battle for the German city of Aachen in 1944 features the free and decisive use of superior American firepower, while more recently in Falujah, Iraq political constraints added to our casualties. Similarly, the Marine Combined Action Platoons are contrasted with larger and often less-effective operations. The book is clearly intended as an argument for a strong presence of well-trained infantry operating “up close and personal” with heavier firepower available as support but not substitute. Both readable and persuasive. --Roland Green --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
“A superb book—an American equivalent to John Keegan’s The Face of Battle. I sincerely believe that Grunts is destined to be a classic.”—Dave Grossman, Author of On Killing and On Combat
“Few authors capture the essence of the human dimension of war as well as John C. McManus. Combining an engaging, highly descriptive writing style with exhaustive research, McManus provides readers with a true ‘foxhole’ perspective.”—Military Review
“Another demonstration of [McManus’s] skill at narrating infantry combat…. an argument for a strong presence of well-trained infantry operating ‘up close and personal’ with heavier firepower available as support but not substitute. Both readable and persuasive.”—Booklist
“Grunts is hypnotic history writing: honest, savage, heartbreaking and, ultimately, inspiring.”—Ralph Peters, Fox News Strategic Analyst and author of The War After Armageddon
“John C. McManus’s Grunts contains some of the most vivid accounts of close combat ever recorded in literature. The reader has the sense of being actually present in the battles. His descriptions show precise details of combat at the closest personal levels and with absolute authenticity.”—Bevin Alexander, Author of Inside the Nazi War Machine
“McManus captures—with gritty, ‘muddy boot’ authenticity—the horrors of the real war fought by America’s front-line soldiers and Marines. Reading Grunts is the closest you will get to experiencing actual infantry combat without getting shot at.”—Colonel Jerry D. Morelock, Editor in Chief of Armchair General
“A literary and historical achievement of the highest order, Grunts illuminates the experience of the American GI better than any book I have read in years. Using battles such as Peleliu and Fallujah, John McManus brilliantly proves, using the participants’ own words, that the American warrior, not technology, wins wars.”—Patrick K. O’Donnell, Author of Washington’s Immortals
“Too frequently historians take humanity out of war. McManus skillfully puts man back into the history of America’s recent wars, reminding us that man is still the determining factor.”—Adrian R. Lewis, Professor, University of Kansas
From the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
John McManus illustrates and reiterates this philosophy throughout Grunts; he gives, many times the examples of how the infantry moves, occupies, touches and influences the population. Yet with any improved weaponry, even as far back as chariots and the longbows of England the thought has been that the new technology would sweep the need for foot soldiers off of the battlefield. Time and time again, even in the battles of today it has been shown that victory comes from the ground pounders not machines.
`Grunts' describes 10 battles: Guam, Peleliu, Aachen, the Bulge, Operation Masher- Vietnam, Marine Combined Action Patrols, Dak To, Infantry in the Gulf War, Fallujah, counterinsurgency in Iraq. It is a selected history; these are specific battles and units that sometime miss the big picture, but does give good examples once you have read through them. The mistakes, of higher command, which are many and sometimes infuriating are told. There are many truths that are usually overlooked in historical accounts, such as the fact that naval bombardments do not really kill the enemy waiting for the invasion force.
Much of what has been told to and investigated by McManus should be fascinating to readers interested in warfare and military history. For example, the army had no published doctrine on urban warfare in WWII - the infantry was on its own; but as is astutely pointed out; the ability of the American combat soldier to improvise in the stress of combat was and is his best strength; most of whom believe that their unit has a harder, more dangerous job than any other unit; but they accept it and do their job. True grunts take a perverse pride in their misery. If you are, or know one, this will ring true, as many of the observations will throughout this reading.
The fighting philosophies and methods are honed in on. This has some of the best descriptions of combat in Vietnam I have ever read. The observations of fighting in Iraq and comparisons to Vietnam are interesting, including political and economic reasons. There are some hard truths about vacillating political and military strategies and ideas. For the body of the work, which ends in Iraq in 2006 the analysis and historical points are fascinating. There are appropriate maps of the battles and a photograph section. The epilogue is a bit weak, especially comparing these valiant men to protective sheepdogs. I shudder to think what any of the ones I know would say to that; but the points are well taken including the plea for more combat brigades.
This indeed would be of interest to those who want to learn more of the military, it's history and the men who serve
This is a great read. Taking you from the hell of the Pacific Theater to the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, John McManus weaves history and personal narratives elegantly and insightfully to tell powerful stories. Drawing on official histories, interviews, and news accounts, he tells the story of what is truly the queen of Battle - the infantry. No superbomb, no drone, no next gen weapon wins battles...it is the infantryman - the man with the guts and the drive to fight with any and all weapons to win....and then fight with rocks, teeth, and elbows when the weapons have all failed or ran out of ammo.
His treatment on the clash of strategies in Vietnam with the stories that highlight the differences...and the results...are an illuminating look at why we should consider more decision making at the ground level. McManus' emphasis on the importance of the quality of the fighting men and those who lead them should be lesson for the policy makers who truly do not understand how land operations work.
If you are looking for a solid treatment at a world that so few know, pick up this book. If the stories of everyday heroes, men who have suffered greatly and given much are inspiring to you, read this book.
McManus's treatment of the First Gulf War almost upsets his main thesis, that the infantry is, and must be, the proper focus and the nucleus of the battlefield when he describes the technological aspects of that war. His account highlights the value of high-tech weaponry despite his noting that much of the fancy weaponry was much lower-tech than we in the general public back home were led to believe.
The book also comes up a little short when McManus discusses such technological "mid-range" (for lack of a better term) weapons as the A-10 Thunderbolt/Warthog or the Abrams tank. These technological assists to the groundpounders are not treated like the other technological marvels McManus discusses.
McManus makes the excellent observation that a lot of battle reporting, including at times after-action reports by the people who were in the thick of it, often include potentially misleading euphemisms that mask the desperate, dehumanizing maiming and killing that combat necessarily involves. He points this kind of thing out on several occasions.
His larger argument, that our leaders seek to substitute technology for human life in the hope of lightening the burden of war on the people who must seize the ground, and to develop theories of conducting war that make it unnecessary for ground to be taken, and always fail because there is no substitute for the need to close with the enemy and destroy his forces, is something that most of us have long since taken for granted, and is therefore a bit superficial.
On the postitive side, McManus is outstanding in discussing the problems of assaulting the Umurbrogol on Peleliu, the street fighting in Aachen using combined arms (tank and infantry), the Combined Action Platoon program of the Marines in Vietnam (and the conflicting goals of the big unit/attrition strategy of Gen. Westmoreland and the Marine strategy of "hearts and minds"), and the first battle for Fallujah. His treatment of Captain Hunt, K Co., and the fight for the Point on Peleliu is singularly well-done.