James Edward Wright eloquently describes the history of American forces at war in Those Who Have Borne The Battle. Wrights impressively detailed text begins during the Revolution and progresses to the unforgiving and austere mountainsides of the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan.
One fascinating aspect of the book is its exploration of military demographics. During the Spanish-American War, only 40 soldiers of the 28,000 in the army were younger than 21. In Korea, half of them were. In Vietnam, the average age was 19.
At the heart of this book are the experiences of the boots on the ground. Wright, a Marine veteran, historian and former president of Dartmouth College, sympathetically portrays the hardships of the common men – and more recently, women – called up for duty. In researching the book, he conducted more than 300 interviews during visits to military hospitals. War is about strategic agendas and epic battles that define nations and shape history, he explains. War is about courage and heroism, but it is also about pain and suffering and sorrow and tragedy.
Wright contends those who have borne the battle in Iraq and Afghanistan have returned to little fanfare. Most Americans have not been remotely affected. Some choose to display magnetic ribbons on automobiles, or applaud their sacrifices, during ball games, but this has little real impact, he writes. But there is also a risk to deifying troops, Wright argues, as has been largely occurred with the greatest generation, who fought during World War II. It was not a glamorous war, he writes. It was savage and dirty, and sometimes those fighting it demonstrated uncommon courage and sometimes uncommon cruelty