Taylor’s Book Required Reading at West Point

Dr. William A. Taylor’s Military Service and American Democracy; From World War II to the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars has been selected as required reading for every first-year cadet at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, starting this fall.

Taylor’s book is one of five required texts for approximately 1,200 cadets per year in West Point’s new core course, History 101 The Army of the Republic: Leading Citizen Soldiers

West Point details that the course will “explore the Army’s history in its social, political, and cultural contexts. Particular emphasis will be placed on changing patterns of military service, the evolution of American military leadership, West Point’s role in developing a professional officer corps, the variety of the Army’s missions, the citizens’ view of the Army, and the Army’s place in a diverse citizen population.”

Military Service and American Democracy was originally published in 2016 and a paperback edition was published this summer to meet the additional demand at West Point.

Dr. William A. Taylor is Lee Drain Endowed University Professorship, associate professor of global security studies, Department of Security Studies and Criminal Justice, Angelo State University. He is a former Marine Corps officer who held posts in III Marine Expeditionary Force, Expeditionary Force Development Center, and Marine Corps Combat Development Command. He is the author of Every Citizen a Soldier: The Campaign for Universal Military Training after World War II, which won a 2015 Crader Family Book Prize Honorable Mention.

Huston Horn Discusses His New Book “Leonidas Polk: Warrior Bishop of the Confederacy”

Now available: Leonidas Polk: Warrior Bishop of the Confederacy

Leonidas Polk was a graduate of West Point who resigned his commission to enter the Episcopal priesthood as a young man. At first combining parish ministry with cotton farming in Tennessee, Polk subsequently was elected the first bishop of the Louisiana Diocese, whereupon he bought a sugarcane plantation and worked it with several hundred slaves owned by his wife. Then, in the 1850s he was instrumental in the founding of the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. When secession led to war he pulled his diocese out of the national church and with other Southern bishops established what they styled the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate States of America. Polk then offered his military services to his friend and former West Point classmate Jefferson Davis and became a major general in the Confederate Army.

How would you describe your book in two or three sentences? The book covers the principal phases of Leonidas Polk’s life: West Point cadet, Episcopal priest/bishop, sugar planter, University of the South founder, and Confederate general. In many respects an estimable human being, Polk was infected by the virulent racism of his times. And as divisive as the Civil War was to most Americans, Polk took it one step further by dividing the Episcopal Church as well.

What was your inspiration to research and write about the “Warrior Bishop of the Confederacy?” Growing up in a Southern “Lost Cause” household, and becoming an Episcopal minister myself, I was struck by the commonalities between Leonidas Polk and me – and I reflected upon the differences.

What was the most challenging aspect of researching and writing the book? The deciphering and copying over several years of Polk’s voluminous original and microfilmed correspondence. He once himself compared his daunting penmanship to hieroglyphics – but it was worse than that.

William C. Davis says that there are those who have maintained that General Leonidas Polk did more to bring about Confederate defeat than any other single man. Do you agree with that assessment? I am not a military historian, but I suspect such a blanket disparagement is overly harsh. What may be said in his favor was his bravery in combat (foolhardy, sometimes) and his abiding popularity with his rank and file soldiers.

Despite a lack of prior combat experience, General Polk was quickly promoted through the Confederate ranks by President Jefferson Davis. How has history viewed his military service and Davis’s decision to advance him? History knows that Davis and Polk were friends since their West Point days together: “a set,” they called it. That friendship covered many a flaw.

What is one thing you would like readers to take from your work? The disjuncture of Polk’s life as a Christian clergyman and the owner of slaves – albeit the most beneficent of masters, as he liked to think of himself.

If you could have any one person read your book, who would that be? Polly Lee Carroll, my wife and companion for 55 years who read numerous drafts and fixed plenty of footnotes, but died of lymphoma in 2013 before the final version was finished.

Huston Horn followed his career in journalism at the Nashville Tennessean, Sports Illustrated, and Time-Life Books with an ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church. He lives in Pasadena, California.

In Memory of General Lesley J. McNair, Unsung Architect of the U.S. Army

9780700620692Historian Mark T. Calhoun, author of  “General Lesley J. McNair:  Unsung Architect of the U.S. Army,” scribes today’s post in relation to the anniversary of General Lesley J. McNair’s death on July 25, 1944.

Selected by Generals Marshall and Eisenhower to replace Patton as commander of the fictional First US Army Group (FUSAG), General Lesley J. McNair arrived in France on July 23, 1944. He planned to spend a few days in France en route, visiting unit headquarters and Army Ground Forces troops as they prepared to conduct Operation Cobra – a major operation to break out of the challenging hedgerow terrain in Normandy. Operation Fortitude, the deception operation centered on the FUSAG headquarters, proved remarkably successful, tying down over twenty German divisions for several weeks in the vicinity of Pas de Calais, where Hitler expected a second Allied landing – divisions that otherwise would have added to German troop strength in the already difficult fighting in Normandy.

McNair arrived in France the day before General Bradley, Commander, First US Army planned to begin Operation Cobra. Lacking tactical close air support, General Bradley relied on B-24 strategic bombers and P-47 dive bombers for air support during the breakout. Bad weather on July 24 led Bradley to reschedule the attack for July 25, but many bombers had already departed their air bases before they could be notified that the mission was called off, and some dropped their payloads despite the poor visibility, with inaccurate drops causing ninety-seven American casualties, including seventeen dead.

McNair, close to the front that day, was convinced by his small travel team to remain safety in the rear the next day, but when a soldier told General McNair later that evening how much the troops appreciated seeing him at the front, he decided to go forward again on the morning of the 25th. This time the short drops were even worse, causing 600 casualties, including 100 dead.

After a tense search, and with the help of First US Army troops, McNair’s party finally found his remains near the front, identifiable by his rank insignia. Troops later found his West Point class ring nearby. Originally reported a result of German fire to avoid risk to the Fortitude deception, the US Army Press Corps admitted in August, 1944 that McNair had died of wounds caused by Allied bombing operations. Twelve days later, McNair’s wife Clare learned that their only child, Colonel Doug McNair, was killed by a sniper on Guam while serving as the chief of staff of the 77th Division.

-Written by Mark T. Calhoun, author of “General Lesley J. McNair:  Unsung Architect of the U.S. Army