Thirteen Soldiers: A Personal History of Americans at War
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John McCain’s evocative history of Americans at war, told through the personal accounts of thirteen remarkable soldiers who fought in major military conflicts, from the Revolutionary War of 1776 to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
As a veteran himself, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and a long-time student of history, John McCain brings a distinctive perspective to this subject. Thirteen Soldiers tells the stories of real soldiers who personify valor, obedience, enterprise, and love. You’ll meet Joseph Plumb Martin, who at the tender age of fifteen fought in the Revolutionary War; Charles Black, a freeborn African American sailor in the War of 1812; and Sam Chamberlain, of the Mexican American War, whose life inspired novelist Cormac McCarthy. Then there’s Oliver Wendell Holmes, an aristocratic idealist disillusioned by the Civil War, and Littleton “Tony” Waller, court-martialed for refusing to massacre Filipino civilians.
Each account illustrates a particular aspect of war, such as Mary Rhoads, an Army reservist forever changed by an Iraqi scud missile attack during the Persian Gulf War, and Monica Lin Brown, a frontline medic in rural Afghanistan who saved several lives in an ambushed convoy. From their acts of self-sacrifice to their astonishing bravery, these thirteen soldiers embody the best America has to offer.
common to our nature, placed in extraordinary circumstances, who did something exceptional. They risked their comfort, their health, their future for people they would never meet and who might or might not appreciate what they did. Some were recognized and honored for their service; others were not. Soldiers are rarely compensated for their sacrifices as well as they ought to be. Every story of a veteran waiting months to see a doctor at the local VA hospital reminds us of that. And how can we
Cumberland Head, two miles northeast of where his little fleet was anchored. Minutes later the other British ships appeared. The noise they made as they readied their guns for battle alerted Prevost and his officers that the Royal Navy had arrived and the battle was at hand. Prevost issued orders to begin executing his battle plan. Prevost heard Downie’s ships fire their first salvo and then gave the order to fire his six artillery batteries all at once at the American lines. A brigade marched
cheeks, begging, admonishing, persuading, and entreating,” but to no avail. The New Yorkers remained in the rear, while the 24th, according to Cashin’s description, “rushed . . . wildly across the open field, attracting the attention of the entire Spanish line and drawing concentrated fire.” Some troops in the 10th Cavalry joined the charge up San Juan with the 6th Infantry. The rest of the regiment “advanced rapidly” up Kettle Hill with the Rough Riders “under a galling, converging fire from
machine-gun fire. Just before he left Saipan, he was awarded the Silver Star and was clearly disappointed it wasn’t a Medal of Honor, as were, he claims, his immediate superiors. Then someone stole his war souvenirs. He lived a colorful and peripatetic life after the war. He went back to school, married and divorced, and ran a seafood and bush-flying business in Mexico, where he met his second wife, Ohana, whose father was Japanese. He claimed he recruited a battalion of volunteers to fight
the soldiers’ accumulating miseries left them, in Martin’s words, “as starved and as cross and ill-natured as curs.” He writes of envying a squirrel he watched starve to death: “He got rid of his misery soon. He did not live to starve piecemeal six or seven years.” He mocks a Thanksgiving meal decreed by Congress that followed two or three days without any rations and amounted to nothing more than a small portion of rice and vinegar. “The army was not only starved but naked,” he complains. “The