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The Soldier from Independence: A Military Biography of Harry Truman    by D. M. Giangreco order for
Soldier from Independence
by D. M. Giangreco
Order:  USA  Can
Zenith Press, 2009 (2009)

Read an Excerpt

* * *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

When you realize that Dennis Giangreco's book, The Soldier from Independence, is devoted solely to Harry Truman's military career, a big question mark looms. How much active duty did the haberdasher from Kansas City actually serve? A lot more than most people realize.

Truman's military credentials date back to World War I where the 33rd U.S. president was assigned to an artillery battery. 'It always struck me as curious that for all the words that have been written about Truman, his time leading men in combat had not been seriously examined,' writes Giangreco, who explains this book is the product of that curiosity.

Truman's unit fought in the Meuse-Argonne and, as the reader will discover, the future president withstood air and artillery attacks on his positions, while directing fire and setting up his antiaircraft machine guns to repel a German counterattack.

The author shows how, as a commander in combat, Truman was already making the hard decisions that he knew to be right, regardless of personal consequences. He describes how the Kansas artillery officer saved a neighboring infantry regiment from a surprise German attack, only to be rebuked by his regimental commander for thinking outside the box and not following normal procedures. Truman might well have been court-martialed had not General John J. 'Black Jack' Pershing commented positively on the result of the action.

Not only does Giangreco set out to show that Truman's activities during the war are of interest although they have been overlooked, but he also has a deeper motive for writing this military biography of the former president.

The author writes, 'The man who later ordered the invasion of Japan in the face of massive casualty estimates understood exactly what he was asking of our soldiers, sailors, and marines, and he understood it at a level that most Americans today would find unfathomable.'

Anyone interested in American history and, in particular, information about past presidents will find this little known aspect of Harry Truman's life fascinating.

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