Tag Archives: Marine

My Eight Favorite History Books of All Time

by Rick Bretz

Cover of "Fortunate Son: The Healing of a...
Cover via Amazon

1. Fortunate Son: The Healing of a Vietnam Vet

By Lewis B. Puller, Jr.

For autobiographies and a book that makes you empathize with and respect the author, this one is at the top of the list for me.  This book earned the Pulitzer Prize in 1992 and it deserved it.  He was the son of Marine General Lewis “Chesty” Puller, a hero to every Marine that ever served.  His son followed in his footsteps and served with distinction as a Marine Corps officer in Vietnam.  The Vietnam War handed Puller a challenge he fought his whole life when he lost both his legs, part of his arm, hand and part of his stomach.  The chapter that tells the story of his father visiting him in the hospital is a gut wrenching read.  The rest of his life story is riveting and he fights to come back.  In a sad ending, three years after earning the Pulitzer Prize in 1992, Puller took his own life. The book is inspiring and an example of the fight that most wounded warriors go through when they come back from the fight.


2. John Adams

By David McCullough

McCullough has written several books that I have enjoyed throughout the years.  He’s a pleasure to read and always tells me something new about the subject.  He’s tackled subjects as diverse as Harry Truman and the Brooklyn Bridge.  For Adams, McCullough gave us glimpse into the Adams personality and reminded us of how important this founding father was to American history who for a while was lost among the others stellar figures like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. I wasn’t expecting an interesting read but what I got was a page turner.


3. TR: The Last Romantic

By H.W. Brands

This epic biography takes you from Teddy Roosevelt’s young days, through college, his heart aches, and his triumphs through to the end of his life.  The book discusses his adventurous travels, his bombastic personality as well as his knack for being in the right place at the right time.  Once he got his opportunities, he makes the most of them.  The book also discusses his mistakes and his relationships with his sons and daughters.  There are several books about this larger than life President but this is one that portrays the era and how a go-getter lives in it.


English: Brigadier General Chuck Yeager
English: Brigadier General Chuck Yeager (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

4. Yeager, An Autobiography

By General Chuck Yeager and Leo Janus

A first-hand account of the pilot who was pilot that ushered in the supersonic age.  Yeager is an interesting autobiography of a first pilot to break the sound barrier.  However, it is much more than the story of that feat.  It tells the story of his younger days and his World War II combat dog fights.  He writes about his friends, family and his days as commander of several Air Force units and how he handled some delicate situations as commander and as a top-notch pilot.


5. Unbroken: The World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption

By Laura Hillenbrand

The story of Lt. Louis Zamperini who joined the war as an aviator bombardier and was part of crew that ended up in rubber raft trying to survive days and then weeks.  Little does the reader know that this is only the beginning of a story that includes brutality at a POW camp and starvation for him and his crew mates. A few years earlier Zamperini was running in the Olympics and then the War.  This is an all to real story of about what Prisoners of War have had to endure.



English: Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth Presid...

6.  A Team Of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

By Doris Kearns Goodwin

Today’s politicians could learn a few things concerning how President Lincoln handled his victories and as well as his defeats.  Once he gained the Presidential Office, instead of isolating his rivals, Lincoln invited them into his inner circle.  He did this because he was confident in himself and his abilities.  He knew how to handle difficult personalities.  He wanted the best minds available to weather the coming storm of the Civil War and its complications for the United States economy and standing among other nations.  The Doris Kearns Goodwin book covers this subject expertly.  After finishing the book, you will get a perceptive look into the genius that was President Lincoln.


Peter I of Russia
Peter I of Russia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

7. Great Rivals in History: When Politics Gets Personal

By Joseph Cummins

This is a read that explores why certain people throughout history hated each other.  In fact, some of these people despised each other.  They took it to a point where they ruined their countries and their lives.  It analyzes the relationship among several of history’s colorful and despised personalities such as the rivalry between Joseph Stalin and Leon Trotsky.  Other rivalries include Charles XII of Sweden and Peter the Great of Russia. There are many with many reasons why each were against the other.  It provides an analysis as to why leaders and generals clashed to form historical events.


8. What if? The World’s Foremost Military Historians Imagine What Might Have Been

Edited by Robert Cowley

This book poses fascinating questions has to what might have been.  Would history have taken a left turn instead of right if certain meetings had occurred or if wrong decisions hadn’t been made by leaders and generals?  For instance, would Germany have fared better in World War II if Hitler hadn’t invaded the Soviet Union?  Would there have been a better way to handle Cuba and Fidel Castro?   Some of these questions are pondered and answered.  It’s a fascinating travel log through history and what might have been.


That is my list.  There are several others books I like  but for sheer enjoyment, these are my eight favorites.  Do you have any to add to the list?  Leave me a suggestion.

General Butler and Doctor Oppenheimer


MG Smedley Darlington Butler

July 30, 1881-June 21, 1940

 Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler was a warrior in the truest sense.  He had two Medals of Honor (MOH) to prove it. Born in 1881, he joined the service, got his commission and earned his MOH in Haiti and Mexico. He rose through the ranks through hard work and a big helping of Marine Corps spirit. After serving in the Marine Corps for more than 30 years in a variety of assignments from platoon leader to commander and finally staff positions, he retired from the Marines with a stellar record.

Once he was out of the service, he was free to think and write what he wanted. He came to the conclusion that “war is a racket.”  He really dropped a mortar round into the establishment with that one.  He wrote a book that outlined how companies working with government increased their profits during wartime.  His point that corporate profits are made from wars that costs the lives of young people resonates to this day.  He was way of ahead of his time railing against the “Military Industrial Complex”.

As he wrote in his book, “War is a Racket”, a racket is an inside game with only a few people knowing the rules.  A racket exploits many people for the personal gain of few.  He was right and continues to be correct is this assessment.  Servicemen pay the price for diplomatic screw-ups by waging wars that are decided in secure, closed rooms only accessible to the power-elite.

He died of cancer on June 21, 1940 railing against the machine but proud of his service in the Marine Corps.

Doctor J. Robert Oppenheimer

April 22, 1904-February 18, 1967

J. Robert Oppenheimer’s life may seem like a polar opposite from General Butler’s but each traveled a similar path to get to the same intellectually.  Oppenheimer spent the majority of his younger days matriculating through universities and then working in research labs.

He went from being the driving force in building and testing the atomic bomb in Los Alamos, NM, to lecturing and lobbying against the use of globally destructive weapons.

He was appointed Chairman of the General Advisory Committee to the Atomic Energy Commission after it was formed in 1947.  It was from this position that Oppenheimer began lobbying for international arms control in addition to his responsibilities for advising on nuclear issues and other areas such as funding and the building of laboratories.

His lobbying efforts toward scaling back of the production of global destructive weapons was both an intellectual and practical decision. He felt that too many civilian lives would be lost when hydrogen bombs were used and he also thought that the development technology needed to be better.

Oppenheimer’s was continually wrestling with the advancement of science and the political and military use of those breakthroughs. Oppenheimer wanted the government to be careful about how and if the bomb was used again.  His public views on the subject cost him his security clearance and therefore his position on the advisory committee in the fifties.

After losing political power, Oppenheimer used his position to lecture and publish articles on science and his views on atomic energy into the sixties. He died of cancer on February 18, 1967.




One of the best in his field

One of the best in his field



Developed his own conclusions despite the consequences

Developed his own conclusions despite the consequences

 Went against conventional wisdom for developing weapons

Went against conventional wisdom concerning the reason for waging war

Successful early in life

Successful early in life

Died young of cancer

Died young of cancer

General Butler and J. Robert Oppenheimer were people who did a job they were trained to do when they were called upon.   They were smart, intelligent people who took their thoughts, based on first hand experiences, through to conclusions that were so alarming that they were compelled to act positively, despite the consequences.   Both General Butler and Dr. Oppenheimer encountered backlash from the government, their peers and public opinion.  For that courge they deserve merit it would have been much easier to nothing at all.