front cover of Few Returned
Few Returned
Twenty-eight Days on the Russian Front, Winter 1942-1943
Eugenio Corti, Translated by Peter Edward Levy, & Foreword by Carlo D'Este
University of Missouri Press, 1997

After World War II more than one hundred books appeared that dealt with the experience of the Italian army in Russia, and particularly the terrible winter retreat of 1942-1943. Few Returned (I piu' non ritornano) is the only one of these that is still regularly reissued in Italy.

Eugenio Corti, who was a twenty-one-year-old second lieutenant at the time, found himself, together with 30,000 Italians and a smaller contingent of Germans, encircled on the banks of the River Don by enemy forces who far outnumbered them. To break out of this encirclement, these men undertook a desperate march across the snow, with constant engagements and in temperatures ranging from -20 to -30 degrees Fahrenheit. Whereas supplies were air-dropped to the Germans, the predicament of the Italians was far more difficult: lacking gasoline, they were compelled to abandon their vehicles and to proceed without heavy arms, equipment, ammunition, or provisions. Even the wounded had to be abandoned, though it was well known that the soldiers of the Red Army"enraged by the brutality of the German invasion"killed all the enemy wounded who fell into their hands. After twenty-eight days of encirclement, only 4,000 of the 30,000 Italians made it out of the pocket.

Why is it that Corti's book, which was first published in 1947, continues after fifty years to be reprinted in Italy? Because, as Mario Apollonio of the University of Milan said, when the book first appeared: "It is a chronicle . . . but it is much more than that: behind the physical reality, there is the truth" about man at his most tragic hour. Apollonio adds: "The power of the writing immediately transforms the document into drama"; the result is a "novel-poem-drama-history." The philosopher Benedetto Croce found in Corti's book "the not infrequent gleam of human goodness and nobility." Few Returned is a classic of war literature that succeeds in bringing home the full hatefulness of war.

Eugenio Corti began writing his diary at a military hospital immediately after being repatriated from the Russian front. When in September 1943 Italy found itself cut in two by the Armistice, Corti, loyal to his officer's oath, joined up with what remained of the Italian army in the south and with those few troops participated in driving the Germans off Italian soil, fighting at the side of the British Eighth and the American Fifth Armies.


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Fiery Trail
A Union Officer'S Account Sherman'S Last Campaign
Richard Harwwell
University of Tennessee Press, 1986

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Finish Forty and Home
The Untold World War II Story of B-24s in the Pacific
Phil Scearce
University of North Texas Press, 2011

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Five Four Whiskey
A Memory of War
Robert Sweatmon
Westholme Publishing, 2014
A Personal Reflection of a Frontline Soldier in Vietnam and Cambodia During the Cultural Maelstrom of the 1960s  
In late 1969, twenty-year-old Robert Sweatmon received a letter informing him that he had ten days to report to the United States Army. Like thousands of others, he had been drafted. Assigned as a rifleman with a mechanized unit, the author began a year-long odyssey in the Southeast Asian wilderness that would change his and his fellow soldiers’ lives forever.
Taking its title from the nighttime radio code call and response between base camp and those on ambush patrol, Five Four Whiskey: A Memory of War is a moving account of life as a combat soldier in the Vietnam War. Set mostly in the sprawling woods and rubber plantations northwest of Saigon, the author explains what his unit was asked to do and what obstacles they faced, including an elusive but deadly enemy, multiple kinds of booby traps, and antitank mines. The author, a notable television personality following the war, does not sensationalize his account; rather, his book allows a new generation to understand the emotional and physical pressures of the times. Coming of age in the maelstrom of civil rights and the free love culture, the author and his fellow soldiers saw their idealism quickly vaporize in the face of the grim realities of war. Here they learned to compartmentalize their lives as a way to survive, but it was their strong bonds that ultimately kept them from succumbing to the madness that surrounded them. Kept in the field for almost the entire time of his tour, the author was in a unit selected to conduct a clandestine reconnaissance in Cambodia and then lead the 1970 invasion, where he was wounded. Following his convalescence, he was sent to Nui Ba Den, the fabled ghost mountain haunted by the spirit of a Vietnamese princess, until he received his papers that he had completed his combat service. At that moment, his year-long mental wall between soldier and civilian fell away as he counted the last terrifying hours before he was safely out of Vietnam. A tour-de-force of military memoir, written in an objective and often literary prose, Five Four Whiskey perfectly captures how ordinary civilian-soldiers survived an ordeal set in one of the most turbulent times in American history.

front cover of The Folly and the Madness
The Folly and the Madness
The Civil War Letters of Captain Orlando S. Palmer, Fifteenth Arkansas Infantry
Thomas W. Cutrer
University of Tennessee Press, 2023
With a closeness perhaps unique to siblings orphaned young, Orlando and Artimisia “Missie” Palmer exchanged intimate letters throughout their lives. These letters (interspersed with additional letters from Oliver Kennedy, the Palmers’ first cousin) offer a clear and entertaining window into the life and times of a junior Confederate officer serving in the Western Theater of the Civil War.

Though he initially felt Americans would see “the folly and the madness” of going to war, Orlando enlisted as a private in what would become Company H of the First (later Fifteenth) Arkansas Infantry, informing his sister that he had volunteered “not for position, not for a name, but from patriotic motivation.” However, he was ambitious enough to secure an appointment as Maj. Gen. William Joseph Hardee’s personal secretary; he then rose to become his regiment’s sergeant major, his company’s first lieutenant, and later captain and brigade adjutant. Soldier letters typically report only what can be observed at the company level, but Palmer’s high-ranking position offers a unique view of strategic rather than tactical operations.

Palmer’s letters are not all related to his military experience, though, and the narrative is enhanced by his nuanced reflections on courtship customs and personal relationships. For instance, Palmer frequently attempts to entertain Missie with witticisms and tales of his active romantic life: “We have so much to do,” he quips, “that we have no time to do anything save to visit the women.   I am in love with several dozen of them and am having
a huge time generally.”

The Folly and the Madness adds depth to the genre of Civil War correspondence and provides a window into the lives of ordinary southerners at an extraordinary time.

front cover of For Duty and Destiny
For Duty and Destiny
The Life and Civil War Diary of William Taylor Stott, Hoosier Soldier and Educator
Lloyd A. Hunter
Indiana Historical Society Press, 2011
William Taylor Stott was a native Hoosier and an 1861 graduate of Franklin College, who later became the president who took the college from virtual bankruptcy in 1872 to its place as a leading liberal arts institution in Indiana. The story of Franklin College is the story of W. T. Stott, yet his influence was not confined to the school’s parameters. Stott was an inspirational and intellectual force in the Indiana Baptist community, and a foremost champion of small denominational colleges and of higher education in general. He also fought in the Eighteenth Indiana Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War, rising from private to captain by 1863. Stott’s diary reveals a soldier who was also a scholar.

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For God and Country?
Religious Student-Soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces
By Elisheva Rosman-Stollman
University of Texas Press, 2014

In many modern armies the religious soldier is suspect. Civilians and officers alike wonder if such a soldier might represent a potential fifth column. This concern is especially prominent in the public discourse over the presence of religious Orthodox Jews serving in the Israel Defense Forces. Will they obey their commanding officer or their rabbi? With research collected over almost a decade, including hundreds of hours of interviews, Elisheva Rosman examines this question of loyalties and reveals how religious soldiers negotiate a place for themselves in an institution whose goals and norms sometimes conflict with those of Orthodox Judaism.

For God and Country? focuses on the pre-service study programs available to religious conscripts. Many journalists and scholars in Israel are suspicious of the student-soldiers who participate in these programs, but in fact, as Rosman’s research demonstrates, the pre-service study programs serve as mediating structures between the demands of Religious Zionism and the demands of the Israel Defense Forces and do not encourage their students to disobey orders. This was especially apparent during the disengagement from Gaza in 2005. Many in Israeli society predicted student-soldiers would defy their orders, per the instruction of their religious leaders, but this did not happen as expected. In high profile cases such as this and in matters encountered daily by religious soldiers—the mixing of the sexes, for instance—Rosman has discovered that the pre-service study programs can successfully serve as agents of civil society, both able to curb the military’s efforts to meddle in civilian affairs and vice versa.


logo for University of Wisconsin Press
For You, Lili Marlene
A Memoir Of World War II
Robert Peters
University of Wisconsin Press, 1996

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Forced Marches
Soldiers and Military Caciques in Modern Mexico
Edited by Ben Fallaw and Terry Rugeley
University of Arizona Press, 2012
Forced Marches is a collection of innovative essays that analyze how the military experience molded Mexican citizens in the years between the initial war for independence in 1810 and the consolidation of the revolutionary order in the 1940s. The contributors—well-regarded scholars from the United States and the United Kingdom—offer fresh interpretations of the Mexican military, caciquismo, and the enduring pervasiveness of violence in Mexican society. Employing the approaches of the new military history, which emphasizes the relationships between the state, society, and the “official” militaries and “unofficial” militias, these provocative essays engage (and occasionally do battle with) recent scholarship on the early national period, the Reform, the Porfiriato, and the Revolution.

When Mexico first became a nation, its military and militias were two of the country’s few major institutions besides the Catholic Church. The army and local provincial militias functioned both as political pillars, providing institutional stability of a crude sort, and as springboards for the ambitions of individual officers. Military service provided upward social mobility, and it taught a variety of useful skills, such as mathematics and bookkeeping.

In the postcolonial era, however, militia units devoured state budgets, spending most of the national revenue and encouraging locales to incur debts to support them. Men with rifles provided the principal means for maintaining law and order, but they also constituted a breeding-ground for rowdiness and discontent. As these chapters make clear, understanding the history of state-making in Mexico requires coming to terms with its military past.

front cover of Friars, Soldiers, and Reformers
Friars, Soldiers, and Reformers
Hispanic Arizona and the Sonora Mission Frontier, 1767–1856
John L. Kessell
University of Arizona Press, 1976
The Franciscan mission San José de Tumacácori and the perennially undermanned presidio Tubac become John L. Kessell's windows on the Arizona–Sonora frontier in this colorful documentary history. His fascinating view extends from the Jesuit expulsion to the coming of the U.S. Army.

Kessell provides exciting accounts of the explorations of Francisco Garcés, de Anza's expeditions, and the Yuma massacre. Drawing from widely scattered archival materials, he vividly describes the epic struggle between Bishop Reyes and Father President Barbastro, the missionary scandals of 1815–18, and the bloody victory of Mexican civilian volunteers over Apaches in Arivaipa Canyon in 1832. Numerous missionaries, presidials, and bureaucrats—nameless in histories until now—emerge as living, swearing, praying, individuals.

This authoritative chronicle offers an engrossing picture of the continually threatened mission frontier. Reformers championing civil rights for mission Indians time and again challenged the friars' "tight-fisted paternalistic control" over their wards. Expansionists repeatedly saw their plans dashed by Indian raids, uncooperative military officials, or lack of financial support.

Friars, Soldiers, and Reformers brings into sharp focus the long, blurry period between Jesuit Sonora and Territorial Arizona.

front cover of From Anzio to the Alps
From Anzio to the Alps
An American Soldier's Story
Lloyd M. Wells
University of Missouri Press, 2004
This compelling work is Lloyd M. Wells’s firsthand account of World War II based on a journal he kept during the war, letters he sent home, and personal records, as well as recollections of people and events.
In June 1941, the twenty-one-year-old Wells was drafted into the army. He was commissioned second lieutenant after he attended O.C.S. and was later promoted to first lieutenant with the First Armored Division. He saw action in North Africa, Italy, and Germany and was awarded the Combat Infantry Badge, the Purple Heart, and the Bronze Star.
Wells offers the reader information that has never before been provided. He tells exactly what happened to 2/7 Queens on the night of February 21, 1944, when the troops came up to “the caves” at Anzio. He also depicts what happened during the last offensive in Italy and what armored infantry troops experienced on the perimeter of the attack. This book, however, is not just a story of battle actions. It is a personal story about the “old Army” and how young soldiers were transformed by it during one of the greatest upheavals in world history.
Wells’s goal in writing this book was to leave behind “an account of a simpler time and of the funny, sad, terrorizing, and tender moments of a war which, with the death of each man or woman who lived through it, recedes just a little bit further into the nation’s past.” He accomplished that and so much more.

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From Byron to bin Laden
A History of Foreign War Volunteers
Nir Arielli
Harvard University Press, 2018

What makes people fight and risk their lives for countries other than their own? Why did diverse individuals such as Lord Byron, George Orwell, Che Guevara, and Osama bin Laden all volunteer for ostensibly foreign causes? Nir Arielli helps us understand this perplexing phenomenon with a wide-ranging history of foreign-war volunteers, from the wars of the French Revolution to the civil war in Syria.

Challenging narrow contemporary interpretations of foreign fighters as a security problem, Arielli opens up a broad range of questions about individuals’ motivations and their political and social context, exploring such matters as ideology, gender, international law, military significance, and the memory of war. He shows that even though volunteers have fought for very different causes, they share a number of characteristics. Often driven by a personal search for meaning, they tend to superimpose their own beliefs and perceptions on the wars they join. They also serve to internationalize conflicts not just by being present at the front but by making wars abroad matter back at home. Arielli suggests an innovative way of distinguishing among different types of foreign volunteers, examines the mixed reputation they acquire, and provides the first in-depth comparative analysis of the military roles that foreigners have played in several conflicts.

Merging social, cultural, military, and diplomatic history, From Byron to bin Laden is the most comprehensive account yet of a vital, enduring, but rarely explored feature of warfare past and present.


front cover of From Civilians to Soldiers and from Soldiers to Civilians
From Civilians to Soldiers and from Soldiers to Civilians
Mobilization and Demobilization in Sudan
Saskia Baas
Amsterdam University Press, 2012
Drawing on extensive research and personal accounts, this hard-hitting study investigates the processes of mobilization and demobilization of fighters from all factions during the long, drawn out civil war in Sudan. Through in-depth interviews with current and former combatants in Sudan Saskia Baas investigates how civilians get drawn into the conflict and what the deep consequences are for becoming part of a guerilla movement. The resulting narrative is fascinating and disturbing, while providing vivid insight into the dynamics of civil war that are relevant to conflicts all over the world. From Civilians to Soldiers and from Soldiers to Civilians will appeal to political scientists, military historians, and nonacademic audiences interested in the conflict in Sudan.

front cover of From Conciliation to Conquest
From Conciliation to Conquest
The Sack of Athens and the Court-Martial of Colonel John B. Turchin
George C. Bradley and Richard L. Dahlen
University of Alabama Press, 2006

In the summer of 1862, the U.S. Army court martialed Colonel John B. Turchin, a Russian-born Union officer, for "outrages" committed by his troops in Athens, Alabama

In the summer of 1862, the U.S. Army court martialed Colonel John B. Turchin, a Russian-born Union officer, for offenses committed by his troops in Athens, Alabama, including looting, safe cracking, the vandalization of homes, and the rape of young black women. The pillage of Athens violated a government policy of conciliation; it was hoped that if Southern civilians were treated gently as citizens of the United States, they would soon return their allegiance to the federal government.
By examining the volunteers who made up Turchin’s force, the colonel's trial, his subsequent promotion, the policy debate surrounding the incident and the public reaction to the outcome, the authors further illuminate one of the most provocative questions in Civil War studies: how did the policy set forth by President Lincoln evolve from one of conciliation to one far more modern in nature, placing the burden of war on the civilian population of the South?


front cover of From Home Guards to Heroes
From Home Guards to Heroes
The 87th Pennsylvania and Its Civil War Community
Dennis W. Brandt
University of Missouri Press, 2007
The soldiers of the 87th Pennsylvania Infantry fought in the Overland campaign under Grant and in the Shenandoah valley under Sheridan, notably at the Battle of Monocacy. But as Dennis Brandt reveals in From Home Guards to Heroes, their real story takes place beyond the battlefield. The 87th drew its men from the Scotch-Irish and German populations of York and Adams counties in south-central Pennsylvania—a region with closer ties to Baltimore than to Philadelphia—where some citizens shared Marylanders’ southern views on race while others aided the Underground Railroad.
Brandt’s unique regimental history investigates why these “boys from York” enlisted and why some deserted, the ways in which soldiers reflected their home communities, and the area’s attitudes toward the war both before and after hostilities broke out. Brandt takes a humanistic approach to the Civil War, revealing the more personal aspects of the struggle in a book that focuses on the soldiers themselves.
Using their own words to describe action both on and off the battlefield, he sheds light on the lives of ordinary men: the comparative values of farm and city boys, their motives and concerns, the effect of battle on soldiers and their families, and the suffering that veterans took to the grave. Brandt also looks at soldiers’ racial views, illuminating their deepest worries about the war, and at community politics and problems of discipline surrounding this ideologically divided unit.
Grounded in more than a decade of research into nearly two thousand military records, this is one of the few regimental histories based on more than one thousand pension records for the entire regiment, plus nearly eight hundred additional record sets for other area soldiers. Brandt tapped regional newspapers and a cache of unpublished letters and diaries—some from private collections not previously known—to provide an invaluable account of Civil War sensibilities in a northern area bordering a slave state.
From Home Guards to Heroes is a book about war in which humanity rather than troop movement takes center stage. Engagingly written for a wide audience and meticulously researched, it offers a distinctive image of a community and the intimate lives of the men it sent off to fight—and a story that will intrigue any Civil War aficionado.

front cover of From Slaves to Soldiers
From Slaves to Soldiers
The 1st Rhode Island Regiment in the American Revolution
Robert Geake
Westholme Publishing, 2024
Known as the “Black” Regiment, the Story of the First Continental Army Unit Composed of African American and Native American Enlisted Men
In December 1777, the Continental army was encamped at Valley Forge and faced weeks of cold and hunger, as well as the prospect of many troops leaving as their terms expired in the coming months. If the winter were especially cruel, large numbers of soldiers would face death or contemplate desertion. Plans were made to enlist more men, but as the states struggled to fill quotas for enlistment, Rhode Island general James Mitchell Varnum proposed the historic plan that a regiment of slaves might be recruited from his own state, the smallest in the union, but holding the largest population of slaves in New England. The commander-in-chief’s approval of the plan would set in motion the forming of the 1st Rhode Island Regiment. The “black regiment,” as it came to be known, was composed of indentured servants, Narragansett Indians, and former slaves. This was not without controversy. While some in the Rhode Island Assembly and in other states railed that enlisting slaves would give the enemy the impression that not enough white men could be raised to fight the British, owners of large estates gladly offered their slaves and servants, both black and white, in lieu of a son or family member enlisting. The regiment fought with distinction at the battle of Rhode Island, and once joined with the 2nd Rhode Island before the siege of Yorktown in 1781, it became the first integrated battalion in the nation’s history. In From Slaves to Soldiers: The 1st Rhode Island Regiment in the American Revolution, historian Robert A. Geake tells the important story of the “black regiment” from the causes that led to its formation, its acts of heroism and misfortune, as well as the legacy left by those men who enlisted to earn their freedom.

front cover of From the Tundra to the Trenches
From the Tundra to the Trenches
Eddy Weetaltuk
University of Manitoba Press, 2016

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