A history of the Great War
PERSHING’S TANKERS: PERSONAL ACCOUNTS OF THE AEF TANK CORPS IN WORLD WAR I. Edited by Lawrence M. Kaplan. Published by University Press of Kentucky. 312 pages. $50 retail.
In light of Veterans Day and the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, this well-rendered and comprehensive account of the heroic exploits of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) under the command of Gen. John J. Pershing during the first World War.
Expertly distilling a combination of interviews and first-hand reminiscences (some previously published elsewhere), private correspondence, and official reports – combined with maps, photographs, and authentic military charts – Pershing’s Tankers is a thorough chronicle of America’s involvement in World War I.
When the United States entered World War I in 1917, Pershing refused to integrate American troops into pre-existing British and French units – hence the AEF, which would proceed as its own individual entity. Interestingly enough, just when the AEF was at top strength, the armistice was signed and World War I ended. They were, in a sense, all revved up with no place to go.
This did not please Pershing, who wanted to keep rolling right into Germany to force an unconditional surrender. As a result, more than 3,500 American troops were killed on the last day of the war – after the armistice was signed.
Pershing would assume the position of General of the Armies of the United States, which had been created specifically for him, and even mulled a run for the White House, but it’s one of those tantalizing “what-ifs” that still fascinates. Had Germany been compelled to surrender unconditionally, would that have somehow prevented the Third Reich from rising so rapidly?
Pershing’s Tankers is less concerned with what might have been than what was, and is no less effective or absorbing as a result. For devotees of military history, it is clearly an ideal gift this holiday season.
− For more information about either of these titles, visit the official University Press of Kentucky website is kentuckypress.com.
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