For the Common Defense: A Military History of the United States from 1607 to 2012, 3rd Edition Info

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Now fully updated and totally revised, this highly regarded
classic remains the most comprehensive study available of
America’s military history.

Called “the preeminent
survey of American military history” by Russell F. Weigley,
America’s foremost military historian, For the Common Defense
is an essential contribution to the field of military history. This
carefully researched third edition provides the most complete and
current history of United States defense policy and military
institutions and the conduct of America’s wars. Without
diminishing the value of its earlier editions, authors Allan R. Millett,
Peter Maslowski, and William B. Feis provide a fresh perspective on the
continuing issues that characterize national security policy. They have
updated the work with new material covering nearly twenty years of
scholarship, including the history of the American military experience
in the Balkans and Somalia, analyzing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
from 2001 to 2012, and providing two new chapters on the Vietnam
War.

For the Common Defense examines the nation’s
pluralistic military institutions in both peace and war, the tangled
civil-military relations that created the country’s commitment to
civilian control of the military, the armed forces’ increasing
nationalization and professionalization, and America’s growing
reliance on sophisticated technologies spawned by the Industrial
Revolution and the Computer and Information Ages. This edition is also a
timely reminder that vigilance is indeed the price of liberty but that
vigilance has always been—and continues to be—a costly,
complex, and contentious undertaking in a world that continually tests
America’s willingness and ability to provide for the common
defense.

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Reviews for For the Common Defense: A Military History of the United States from 1607 to 2012, 3rd Edition:

3

Aug 06, 2012

An amazingly detailed and accurate look at US military history by two of the leading professors in the field.

Don't be surprised if you find that its dry, it is a textbook after all. Still, for the military enthusiast I would say its a must-read for its comprehnsiveness and analyses.
3

Apr 01, 2009

Those looking for a bird's eye view of U.S. military history and policy may find this interesting, but given the book's scope (1500s to 1970s) it is an understandably broad brush picture. The author does a decent job at providing some of the social and political context guiding military policy makers, while avoiding overt judgement of the efficacy of their decisions.
4

Jul 30, 2018

For the Common Defense is a history of the United States military and its evolution from basically rounding up some village guys with guns to rounding up millions of guys from across the country and beyond with bigger guns and other high tech instruments of destruction. It was surprising to learn that the military was such a low priority for the United States in the past and how it became the most powerful military in the world. What wasn't surprising, but was very disappointing, was how much For the Common Defense is a history of the United States military and its evolution from basically rounding up some village guys with guns to rounding up millions of guys from across the country and beyond with bigger guns and other high tech instruments of destruction. It was surprising to learn that the military was such a low priority for the United States in the past and how it became the most powerful military in the world. What wasn't surprising, but was very disappointing, was how much politics played a role in the development of the military. In all, it's a fascinating overview. I would recommend. ...more
0

Dec 17, 2010

Very detailed history of the building of the American empire. Great detail of just how important the Spanish-American War was to the current status as America as world policeman.
1

January 16, 2014

The third edition of this solid, comprehensive military history of the United States, first published in 1984, reworks the era from the Korean War onward and includes the requisite additions wrought ...Full Review
4

March 8, 2015

Well done, and so much campaign detail, along with some reach into the minds behind the war. I just wish it covered more; battles and units.
4

Feb 09, 2014

The prose is dry but I like the attention to matters between wars, the colonial period, and the balanced view of civilian/military relations.
3

Feb 28, 2008

Overview of US military campaigns from the colonial era through Viet Nam. Not a page turner.
5

Jun 15, 2009

This book has a lot of great history of battles, but it is very dry. I will have to try and read it again as there is a lot of information on Americas military history that we all should know.
5

Jan 15, 2016

One of the top history books I have ever read. Very informative and a good smooth read. Highly recommended
3

Jul 12, 2011

Analyzes and explores the military conflicts of the United States. It looks at the political, social, and economic forces relating to these conflicts.
3

Sep 01, 2011

Nothing extraordinary about the arguments here, but good as a core text for a military history undergrad class.
4

Feb 09, 2013

This remains the standard bearer for U.S. Military History because it's readable. It's accurate and thorough, but remains readable. A feat unto itself.
4

Apr 02, 2016

This book is a really good history of the military in the United States. Because the scope is so broad it necessarily does not contain details about all of the wars and conflicts we have been involved in but gives a good overview of our entire history in this area.
4

Sep 30, 2017

Had to read the book for my history class. It’s a very well written history book. Goes chronological thru the American Military timeline from the birth of the revolution till post Cold War. I’d say it’s a great baseline read on what the American Military history is.
5

Dec 16, 2013

This was required reading for a course I took in US Military History. It is a survey of US military history, and therefore does not go into any great detail on any one segment of that history. In comparing it with another survey volume, the the US Government publication, "American Military History" used in many college ROTC courses, "For the Common Defense" is more readable and less biased toward the military. I highly recommend it.
5

May 14, 2014

This is the third edition of this very well researched book. Millett, Maslowski and Feis truly have written the preeminent survey book for understanding American Military History. Though they spend a lot of time discussing policy and concepts, very little in the tactical realm, they cover a lot of material and do it very well. This is a MUST READ for anybody who wants an introductory look at military history.
4

Sep 11, 2013

This book was actually read for a course that I took a few years back (Military History). The book is used as a text book, but if you want a complete understanding of the American Military Machine. This book summarizes the beginning of the American Military from colonial times and works through periods of conflict. This book is an excellent reference book for a quick overview of the various military engagements that the United States has been involved in.
4

Sep 16, 2012

I use this book for a course I teach on American History called The American Military Experience. It covers the period from the Colonial Era up until the Gulf War. It packs a ton of information into a concise history of our nation's military exploits, but is one of the best I have read on the subject. It can tend to jump around though, and I've found the students can get confused with the dates and the years on occasion, but overall it is a great book and it's very readable, not dry or boring as I use this book for a course I teach on American History called The American Military Experience. It covers the period from the Colonial Era up until the Gulf War. It packs a ton of information into a concise history of our nation's military exploits, but is one of the best I have read on the subject. It can tend to jump around though, and I've found the students can get confused with the dates and the years on occasion, but overall it is a great book and it's very readable, not dry or boring as some history books are. ...more
3

May 01, 2014

This is a solid overview of the major events in American Military History. One the one hand, it does a wonderful job of incorporating several different elements. It's not just an operational history, and rarely does it delve into detailed operations (although occasionally, yes it does). Mostly its concerned with policy issues, and the broader social questions that come along with a study of military history. Issues from technology to economic and social influences, to logistics, politics, and This is a solid overview of the major events in American Military History. One the one hand, it does a wonderful job of incorporating several different elements. It's not just an operational history, and rarely does it delve into detailed operations (although occasionally, yes it does). Mostly its concerned with policy issues, and the broader social questions that come along with a study of military history. Issues from technology to economic and social influences, to logistics, politics, and the interactions between all of these receive consideration. In that sense, it is a wonderful example of the wide variety within military history. To clarify that point though, the focus is on the military itself. The book is not concerned with explaining why the Civil War happened, but on what influenced how it was fought, and what the effects were for later military engagement. In this sense, its treatment is broad, inclusive, and very much welcome.

On the other hand, this book focuses on large events and the big wars. Some of the small scale conflicts tends to get lost in the weeds here, and for that reason, some readers might consider it incomplete. However, at over 600 pages, the book is a wonderful introduction and overview to the major events and some of the main issues surrounding American military history. Some of the later chapters -- for example, discussion of Vietnam -- suffers mostly because they were written not long after those conflicts happened, and thus a true broad analysis was difficult.

I should add that I would recommend NOT purchasing the updated and revised edition. This is probably the only time I can recall saying this. The reason is that the original version has bibliographic essays at the end of each chapter that list and classify many of the key secondary sources on the given topic. These essays are invaluable, and are one of the biggest strengths of the book. Yet the expanded and revised edition removed them. I cannot imagine why this happened, but it is a massive oversight. They are incredibly useful to anyone wishing to follow up with further study on a particular area, and this book will make most readers want to do just that.

Overall, this is a great book to read through as an introduction to US Military History, and is a great reference to have on the shelf.

...more
4

Dec 27, 2016

I might never have read this book, but for an online course I took about the Civil War. We read maybe three chapters from this book, but it interested me enough to finish it after the class was over. It was well written, in my opinion, and it did hold my interest throughout most of the book. There were some parts that were hard to press through toward the end, but it was worth it in the end. It looks at not only the "military" but also how [some] aspects of "civilian life" were impacted [or not] I might never have read this book, but for an online course I took about the Civil War. We read maybe three chapters from this book, but it interested me enough to finish it after the class was over. It was well written, in my opinion, and it did hold my interest throughout most of the book. There were some parts that were hard to press through toward the end, but it was worth it in the end. It looks at not only the "military" but also how [some] aspects of "civilian life" were impacted [or not] by the growth of the military over time. It spans history from the start of the colonization of America until 2012. It's a lot of history to cover, especially with its taking into account the 'non-war years' in conjunction with the 'war years.'

It was interesting to learn how small the United States' "standing army" was for so much of American history. Yes, the numbers swelled during the Civil War, but not only was the US military slashed after the Civil War, it was subsequent conflicts that forced leaders to realize that a larger army was required in order to meet the changing needs of a growing nation. It was the Spanish-American War that showed the nation would need to be able to call upon better-trained troops as opposed to relying upon conscripts and the draft to meet the nation's needs.

About the "military-industrial complex": (view spoiler)[I have always associated this with President Eisenhower and having started during WWII, so it was fascinating to learn that this "complex" which President Eisenhower warned against actually started in the 1890s, seventy to eighty years earlier than I had thought. At least, that is what the authors postulate. (hide spoiler)]

I think the authors do a nice job showing how important it is to ensure the military has enough personnel to be able to do the job expected of them. In recent years, the US military has faced numerous cuts in numbers of people enlisted, yet is expected to handle an increasing number of situations. The military is trying to reduce the number of soldiers, airmen, and sailors by utilizing technology, which is good up to a point, but at some point there will not be enough personnel for basic jobs to be completed because of being overworked and understaffed. The easiest way to save on money is to 'cut the staff', but that also makes it more difficult to fulfill the expectations placed upon military personnel [even if the Reserves and National Guard are called upon to assist the US Military around the world].

I thought it was a well-written book. It had a good flow to it. It also has a wealth of information; there is literally too much to absorb in one reading. I am glad I read it.
...more
5

Jul 03, 2017

An excellent primer on US military history. Works well as a textbook for a US military history survey course.
5

Mar 27, 2017

This book provides an excellent story about the history of the American Military, and shows us the true horrors that American veterans suffered. I loved this book, and it inspired my learning about the US Military.
5

Sep 17, 2017

An extremely valuable, authoritative history. As it should, Millett's book teaches as much about Congress's role in national defense and about major organizational issues that bear upon the functioning of the military as it does on generals and battles.

More of this information should be considered baseline knowledge to be taught in schools, so that members of the public can be better informed about the decisions their representatives face regarding the military, and we can better avoid An extremely valuable, authoritative history. As it should, Millett's book teaches as much about Congress's role in national defense and about major organizational issues that bear upon the functioning of the military as it does on generals and battles.

More of this information should be considered baseline knowledge to be taught in schools, so that members of the public can be better informed about the decisions their representatives face regarding the military, and we can better avoid repeating past mistakes. ...more
5

Nov 19, 2019

For the Common Defense is a history of the United States military and its evolution from basically rounding up some villagers with guns and no experience to rounding up millions of guys from across the country, creating the best and most powerful military in the worlds history. The history if the military is something id never think id find fascinating because from the outside and from someone coming in that doesn't really know much about the military sees big weapons, men and women in uniform For the Common Defense is a history of the United States military and its evolution from basically rounding up some villagers with guns and no experience to rounding up millions of guys from across the country, creating the best and most powerful military in the worlds history. The history if the military is something id never think id find fascinating because from the outside and from someone coming in that doesn't really know much about the military sees big weapons, men and women in uniform and a hierarchy that must be respected. But for me the biggest eye opener of US military history is the fact that the government took every day farmers with zero military or gun experience and turned them into passionate warriors that would do anything for their country. The evolution of military strategy is absolutely fascinating. Just try to imagine you being a farmer one day with no military experience, then 5 years later you are a solider ready to go into battle. The strategic evolution is absolutely amazing. ...more

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