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Hog Pilots, Blue Water Grunts: The American Military in the Air, at Sea, and on the Ground Hardcover – September 4, 2007

4.0 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. After 9/11, Atlantic Monthly correspondent and bestselling author Kaplan (Balkan Ghosts) spent five years living with U.S. troops deployed across the globe. He first reported on his travels in 2005's Imperial Grunts, an incisive and valuable primer on the military's role in maintaining an informal American empire. In this shrewd and often provocative sequel, Kaplan introduces readers to more of the soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen who staff the empire's forward outposts. Although the author's travels take him to Iraq, he spends most of his time with imperial maintenance units that are training indigenous troops, protecting sea lanes and providing humanitarian relief from Timbuktu to the Straits of Malacca. Kaplan clearly admires the American troops he meets, though he sometimes questions their civilian masters. He saves his harshest judgment for his fellow journalists, whose relentless criticism of anything less than perfection amounts to media tyranny, in his view. Kaplan sees the war on terror and the re-emergence of China as the U.S.'s two abiding challenges in the 21st century and argues that, after Iraq, the military will seek a smaller, less noticeable footprint overseas. Kaplan combines the travel writer's keen eye for detail and the foreign correspondent's analytical skill to produce an account of America's military worthy of its subject. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Robert D. Kaplan turns away from the more incendiary front line of the war on terror in this follow-up to Imperial Grunts. He spent over two years embedded with a diverse group of soldiers, and his admiration for their work comes through on every page. That same high esteem opens up the major vein of criticism, as some reviewers fault Kaplan for veering "dangerously close to cheerleading" (Washington Post). Well-researched and sympathetically drawn, these portraits of the modern military are essential reading for those interested in the day-to-day lives of our men and women overseas.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (September 4, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400061334
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400061334
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #831,514 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Marco Antonio Abarca VINE VOICE on September 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Hog Pilots, Blue Water Grunts" is the second book in Robert Kaplan's series on the American military. Kaplan's purpose in writing these books is to inform the general reading public about the current state of the United States military. What distinguishes this book from "Imperial Grunts" is that Kaplan leaves his usual reporting beat with the Marines and Army Special Forces and spends time with Naval and Air Force units.

Robert Kaplan is a magazine writer who has spent many decades living and working in the Third World. Since September 11th, he has spent many months embedded with small, elite military units. His travels have sent him to such off the beaten track places as Colombia, Mali, Niger, Guam and the Phillipines. Kaplan genuinely likes and respects the service people he spends time with. In his affection for the common soldier, he reminds me a lot of the great journalist Ernie Pyle of the Second World War. This book is at its very best in describing training missions that Marines and Special Forces carry out in the far fringes of the devloping world. Kaplan goes places and reports things that ordinary journalists never experience.

As with "Imperial Grunts", Kaplan dances around with this idea that the United States is an Imperial power and that our military is an Imperial force. I am not sure that I agree with his thesis but I wish Kaplan would be more forthright in stating his argument and backing it up with hard evidence. It seems that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are the perfect laboratory for analyzing his thesis. Did we invade these countries as acts of self defense as President Bush and most of the United States military would argue? Or are these "Imperial" wars as President Bush's most vocal critics would argue?
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As pointed out by several other reviewers, this book is a sequel to the earlier and better Imperial Grunts. Kaplan revisits some of the locales of the earlier book and reports tremendous progress in places like Columbia and the Philippines. He spends time on a nuclear carrier, a destroyer and a nuclear fast attack submarine. Those were the best parts of the book. He spends time with A 10 pilots on deployment to Thailand and provides well-deserved credit to these blue collar fighter pilots who fly the unloved but tremendously valuable attack aircraft. It was so unloved by the fighter mafia that runs the US Air Force that they were going to retire the plane. The Army, which depends on air support, and has no air wing of its own like the Marine Corp, offered to take over the plane and add it to its own air arm. The Air Force quickly restored the A 10 units to full flying status and no more was heard for a while about retiring them.

Kaplan does travel a lot and the depth of his interviews in the earlier book isn't here but it is still a good source of information about the far flung US military as it fights the savage wars of peace.
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This book is not as good as Imperial Grunts; however, few books are. In my opinion, Imperial Grunts was a masterpiece, a perfect book, so expecting Hog Pilots to be just as good, probably is a little unfair to Kaplan. There is a lot of valuable, interesting and fascinating information in this book, but it seems like it was written in a hurry. I've read numerous books by Kaplan and this one by far is the most choppy and disconnected of them all. That said, there is much to learn in this book and it's probably better than 90% of the books out there today that relate to current affairs/US military. Kaplan's books are consitently great, consistently at the top, this one unfortunately falls a little short.
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Wonderful book about WWII. Recommended by a dear friend and graduate of the Naval Academy. I have purchased two additional copies for our Sailor son and a brother in law retired from the US Navy.

Excellent read.
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This book has several good points: the author writes well, he is knowledgeable in military history and in weapons, he manages interesting figures and above all we get the sense of how many American "assistance" missions have impossible missions (which the author sees as quite positive and possible to accomplish) in countries such as Chad, Niger, etc.
But he should refrain from repeating that everything is "super", "elite", etc. As far as I know the repetitiveness with which he states that all soldiers crave to go to Irak is nonsense.
This book should be recommended to recruiting officers for potential "grunts".
Nonetheless, he obviously knows the military environment, which he seems to greatly admires, even if results (in Irak, for example) are not what was expected.
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This book wasn't quite what I expected but I thoroughly enjoyed it, nonetheless. I was looking for some "blood and guts" stories of warfare but instead got a geo-political analysis of US military activities around the world. Kaplan does his work embedded with "hog pilots" (pilots of the A-10 attack aircraft), "blue water grunts" (seamen on ships and submarines), and other front-line members of the US military. He tells of their work ranging from training small units of allied soldiers in North Africa to massive joint exercises in SE Asia.

Kaplan also spends a fair amount of time putting current US activities in the context of dealing with our major challenges: the Global War on Terror, the rise of China, and the unpredictable North Korea. Kaplan doesn't cover much of the current conflicts in Iraq or Afghanistan in this book, though he has explored this in other writings. "Hog Pilots" highlighted for me the vital and underappreciated work conducted by the US military every day.
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