Rethinking Paradigms

To The Last Man

from Militant Reviews

by Jeff Shaara

This is a historical novel of the first World War.  Normally, I’m not really into historical novels, but apparently Jeff Shaara is well-known for them – mostly regarding the Civil War.  I haven’t read any of his other books, but can tell you that this one… it’s awesome.

The story proceeds with several perspectives, at first centering on the air war and some of the heroes we all know by name from WWI: Richthofen, Lufferby, etc.  Most of the book’s centerpiece is on the American experience during the war, so there is not too much trench warfare (and all of its horrors).

What the book does do, though, is show the background behind the war as we know it.  Richthofen, for instance, was not the “hero a-hole” we probably think of him as being.  He was a man doing his job and who loved to fly airplanes.  General Pershing, another main focus in the book, was a great general not because he was tactically superior to his foes, but because he was able to overcome so many of the obstacles that his own government and (supposed) allies threw before him.

The book’s focus is on the various aspects of warfare from the top down.  Pershing is shown to be a man besieged by stress and bad circumstances, but able to overcome through sheer tenacity and will – despite his half-assed diplomacy.  Another perspective is from a Marine on the ground.

The Americans, once they arrived, specifically avoided trench warfare, which is likely what really broke the war out of its stalemate.  Fresh blood and thinking and a “charge forward” mentality were what the war lacked to that point.  The British commander attempted this, but usually with little forethought and with great consequences in terms of death – with little to show for it.

The book is very well written, well worth reading, and highly recommended.  I may delve into his WWII books next.