In the Shadows of Victory II

In the Shadows of Victory II

Thomas D. Phillips
ARRSE Rating
4.5 Mushroom Heads
This is a wonderful book which is very clear about what it wants to do and succeeds in doing it superbly.

As the name suggests, 'In the Shadows of Victory II' is the second book in a series of three which sets out to resurrect the deeds of forgotten American leaders. The author is onto a winner here as much of the material is fresh and many of those who feature were, almost certainly, previously the preserve of specialists. That said, the figures in the book are not exclusively obscure and the likes of Pershing, Spruance and Lightning Joe Collins feature too. Phillips also includes a short section dedicated to the First World War careers of Bradley, Marshall, Eisenhower, MacArthur and Patton, which is a nice touch.

Phillips's approach is to lead off each section with an account of what a given individual achieved that was particularly noteworthy and then follow up with a narrative of what they did before and what happened to them afterwards. In some ways this Tarantinoesque jumping about with the timeline occasionally feels a bit odd and stylistically excessive but presumably the author felt that, given the relatively arcane nature of some of the individuals, the question of why anyone should be bothered at this remove needed to be answered right from the off, which is fair enough. It doesn't spoil the quality of the final product even if it does take a bit of getting used to.

Phillips himself was thirty six years in the US military and he brings an institutional understanding of how service shaped the men he's describing and the world they lived in. His experience also provides him with the necessary insights as to why certain characters prospered afterwards and some were simply shunted off into obscurity. As far as his material is concerned, and based on what this reviewer knew of his better-known subjects, he is authoritative and reliable, painting very good pen pictures of the people he's describing and striking a good balance between detail and readability.

By the end of this book , one has been taken on a most informative and enjoyable Cook's Tour of America's flirtation with colonialism, as well as its involvement with the two World Wars. One has also discovered some fascinating personalities which will certainly interest the military historian and most general historians not ideologically predisposed to hate America and all its works. In a nutshell, what the author achieves here is to prove that, when properly researched and well-written, the less well known bits of history are no less interesting or fun to discover than the major events and personalities and they make for a rattling good read.

I liked this book and will make a permanent space for it on my bookshelf.
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