Monday, December 12, 2016

Elvis's Army (Four Stars)

This started out as an excellent book. Linn has written a solid piece on the U.S. Army, primarily between the end of WWII and the beginnings of Vietnam. During this period the Army experimented with the New Look, tried the Pentomic concept, and eventually reorganized the major units of action with ROAD. The author does an excellent job of explaining the contradictory needs within the Army for trained, career-minded  technicians and large numbers of draftees. When the U.S. Army tried to give draftees more of an incentive to remain, with education and other benefits, it made it more difficult to keep weapons maintained and to conduct  training. When the Army attempted to retain NCO technicians it found that only the least qualified men were staying in.

Linn explored several interesting topics. First and foremost was the role public relations played in the 1950s. The Army was not only redefining itself, it was busy SELLING itself as a branch of the service which still had a role to play in the atomic era. Unfortunately, the same personnel shortfalls in the Army at large made it hard to find and keep good PIOs, but some of the public affairs efforts were really quite good. Other programs, which gave TV and movie companies access to Army stock footage and equipment, allowed the Army to have a "say" on scripts.

Unfortunately, the book does not transition well into the Vietnam era, when ROAD divisions were committed to fighting an insurgency. Instead it winds up going into a critique of the invasion of Iraq (!) which is so inappropriate that it provides an intellectual "jolt." Too bad. If the end of the book was as good as the first 9/10ths I would have suggested it deserved six stars. As it is, the book does have some very good information, much of it statistical but weaved by Linn in a way that makes it engaging.

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