After World War II, Warren Hassler and a few other citizen-soldiers and -sailors returned to campuses across the nation where they gradually transformed United States military and naval history into a significant scholarly endeavor. As Hassler’s new study of the United States Army, Navy, and Air Force reveals, however, he and many of his contemporaries were never completely able to escape the narrow perspective of the officers who before had virtually monopolized historical writing about their professions.

Hassler seeks to provide a “comprehensive” history of the armed forces, their “operations and policy (together) with (an assessment of) the personalities and characters” (p. ix) of individual leaders. His book nevertheless speaks to a limited audience. Detailed descriptions of battlefield maneuvers dominate the essentially narrative text. These martial exploits are loosely connected by Hassler’s revival of the tiresome charge that the peacetime apathy and “head-in-the-sand attitude” (p. 387) of the United States public have repeatedly had to be overcome by the courage and improvisational abilities of the armed forces on the battlefield. Hassler is troubled by the ambiguities of international as well as domestic politics.

The author systematically skirts the many legal and moral problems raised by the involvement of United States forces in Latin America. His chapters on the Mexican and Spanish-American Wars contain nothing new and are told from the limited viewpoint of those who held commissions and spoke English. In sum, this is a book more likely to appeal to armchair generals and future junior officers than to anyone else.