Book Review: US Military History for Dummies

If you are interested in military history, or the history of the United States, you are probably familiar with most of the facts and events in this book. If you aren't a history buff, this book promises a much quicker and easier way to get a broad overview of the history of American conflicts. Let's see if US Military History for Dummies can live up to that promise.

Book Overview

The table of contents gives a good overview of what you can expect from any book, and this book is no different. Here are the major sections of this book:

  • Section 1: The Nitty-Gritty of US Military History
  • Section 2: Born in War
  • Section 3: Forged in War
  • Section 4: Going Global: The World Wars
  • Section 5: Bearing Any Burden: The Cold War and the Unpaid Peace Dividend
  • Section 6: The Parts of Ten

You can see that this book covers just about everything - from the founding of the United States up through the Global War on Terror. Let's dive in to some of the different sections, starting with Section 1.

Section 1: The Nitty-Gritty of US Military History

This section consists of five chapters that give a crash course in the basics and background of the US military. It covers a wide range of topics, from the differences in military branches, the different motivations behind a country going to war, and the changing landscape of warfare over the past centuries.

This section provides a good background for the different branches of the military and the reasons wars are started. For many joining the military, these sections might be simply skimmed, but if you're trying to explain to a spouse or parents about joining the military, these sections can be incredibly valuable.

Sections 2-5: The History of American Wars

This is the meat of the book, and is quite a comprehensive look at the various conflicts the US has been involved in since before it was even a country. Not only are the major conflicts covered - World Wars I and II, Revolutionary and Civil War, etc. - almost every conflict that has involved US forces is mentioned. Conflicts such as the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, and the Philippine-American War are also covered.

For each conflict, many aspects are covered in addition to the actual fighting. The lead up and background to each conflict is explained, as are the various peace treaties and negotiations that lead to the end of each conflict. Various maps, sidebars explaining various things in more detail, pictures, and various bits of trivia are also present in each chapter.

These are not detailed looks at every battle of every war, but this does give a fairly broad overview of over 200 years of US conflicts. There are some gaps, however - such as the special operations between Vietnam and Desert Storm.

Section 6: The Part of Tens

In the final section of the book are three different top ten lists, covering interesting bits of military trivia.

The three lists are:
Top Ten Best Generals in US Military History
Top Ten Worst Generals in US Military History
Top Ten Best Movies on US Military History

Interestingly, the lists of best and worst generals are organized alphabetically, while the best movie are ranked primarily on historical accuracy. If you're looking for a quick reference on generals to research further or a good movie accurately covering a specific US conflict, this is a good quick resource.

Final Thoughts

If you already know what happened after the Whiskey Rebellion, know the background and result of the slogan "Remember the Maine", and know the significance of the 38th parallel, then this book might be a little too basic for you.

If, however, you are more curious about the military history of the United States, and don't have the time or money to buy books about each and every conflict and read them, then this book should be a must-read. It can help you brush up before you ship to BCT, help explain the rich history of the US military to others, and can be a useful refresher if you enjoy history.

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