This year’s centennial of the start of World War I has encouraged a spate of new histories about The Great War. Some are good. Some are bad.
“The Yanks Are Coming: A Military History of the United States in World War I,” by H.W. Crocker III, is a good one.
Crocker presents the war from an American perspective. The United States entered the war in 1917, two years after its start. Crocker shows how the United States affected the war from its beginning.
Crocker starts his book outlining the situation leading up to the war and before American participation. He challenges many accepted views of the war. He shows the war’s inevitability was largely the product of national leaders viewing the war to be inevitable rather than challenging conventional wisdom.
One example: had Germany chosen to focus its efforts in the east, aiding Austria-Hungary from Russian aggression, France and Russia would have been viewed as the aggressors, not the Central Powers. Britain would likely have not immediately entered the war.
In the rest of the book, Crocker discusses American involvement.He shows how United States participation won the war. He has one section on the battles, outlining American performance on the battlefield.
One section focuses on American leadership. It provides capsule biographies of five senior generals: John J. Pershing, Peyton March, Douglas McArthur, Billy Mitchell and John Lejeune. He shows how each contributed to victory.
Another looks at the heroes produced by the war. These included future World War II leaders George C. Marshall and George Patton. It also includes men who saw service in the war, but went on to accomplishments elsewhere: Eddie Rickenbacker, Francis Duffy, Alvin York, Harry Truman, William Donavan, and the Roosevelt brothers.
Crocker’s book has bad guys as well as heroes. Imperial Germany was not as bad as Nazi Germany, but it was bad: violating treaties to invade Belgium, with subsequent harsh treatment of Belgium’s civilians. Wilson is shown as inept, brokering a flawed peace at war’s end.
“The Yanks Are Coming” is worth a read, offering a fresh take on an old war.
Book Review from The Daily News of Galveston County, by Mark Lardas
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