Military Review English Edition July-August 2014 - Page 109

BOOK REVIEWS learned by observation or by experience in the years before the war. By 1914, the capacity of weapons technology had far outstripped the capability of the contemporary armies to overcome the defensive advantages afforded by these weapons. Worse still, when attacks succeeded, the attacker proved unable to rapidly exploit tactical gains. The armies, particularly those in the West, dug in—however miserable, trenches preserved lives. They were well conceived and took advantage of some 30 years of improvement and careful thought as to how they should be emplaced and developed. Rocky Road is satisfying both in its explanation of the technical changes and of the development of theory from Plevna to the start of the First World War. Col. Gregory Fontenot, U.S. Army, Retired, Lansing, Kansas THE LAST FULL MEASURE: How Soldiers Die in Battle Michael Stephenson, Crown Publishers, New York, 2012, 464 pages, $28.00 I n The Last Full Measure, author Michael Stephenson analyzes a topic that is central to warfare but seldom discussed: how soldiers have died in combat. Stephenson, the former editor of the Military Book Club and the author of a book on the Revolutionary War examines how soldiers met their deaths throughout history. His goal is to explain this topic in a professional, nonsensational, and sensitive manner, and demonstrate that the battlefield realities were often harsher than the romanticized visions and sanitized histories people are accustomed to reading. He argues that “the stench and screams give way to rousing images. The death agonies settle into the encouraging heroic gestures of the war memorial and the movies.” Overall, the author succeeds in his goal and provides the reader a lasting image of combat’s harsh realities and a unique analysis of war. The Last Full Measure brings together the factors that cause death on the battlefield. The author organizes the book chronologically to account for the specifics of each historical period concluding with “Soldiers Die in the Style of Their Times.” This approach makes it easy for the reader to understand the MILITARY REVIEW  July-August 2014 historical period and see the connections across the ages. The book primarily focuses on deaths caused by ground combat rather than by sickness and disease. Each chapter, from ancient times to the wars of today, discusses the weapons that killed soldiers, the tactics and strategy that impacted their deaths, the decisions soldiers made and the ones made for them, and the impact of medical services. Stephenson also analyzes the cultural context that affected the soldiers and played a role in their motivation. This unique approach, looking at how soldiers died, offers the reader a fresh perspective not normally found in books analyzing the experience of battle. Although some of the information about the experience of battle is covered in other books, linking it to how soldiers died is the book’s strength. Stephenson used memoirs and other research in his analysis. He weaves these personal accounts into his analysis where they are particularly effective at not only illustrating his points, but at providing the reader a feel for the events. The author uses U.S. sources and adds the perspectives of many other nations to bring depth to his analysis. Of particular interest to readers may be the way the author highlights the connections between historical periods of how soldiers died. Although the book is well written, some readers may find a few of the author’s descriptions a bit over the top. For example, when describing the killing power of artillery he writes, “the cannon was a beast of omnivorous and indiscriminate appetite, guzzling greedily on the herds of men conveniently marching toward its muzzle.” In addition, in the early chapters, the author will occasionally reference battles without providing context, which can be confusing to a reader who does not know the details of those battles. However, these points are minor. Overall, the book will be a great addition to the libraries of those readers interested in the experience of battle. I highly recommend it. Lt. Col. Robert Rielly, U.S. Army, Retired, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas 107