Fighting the Cold War: A Soldier’s Memoir

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Fighting the Cold War: A Soldier’s Memoir
By John R. Galvin
University Press of Kentucky, 2015
568 pp.
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They don’t make them like General Jack Galvin anymore. Galvin, who recently passed away, served during two problematic periods in the history of the U.S. Army (the late 1940s and the post-Vietnam years) and two very successful ones (the early 1960s, when the army modernized, and the 1980s, when it was rebuilt). He held two combatant commands: Southern Command, which he headed during a critical time, when insurgencies were spreading throughout Latin America, and European Command, where he was the last Cold War–era supreme allied commander of NATO forces in Europe. A son of New England, he began and ended his academic career there, serving as the dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy after leaving military service. A writer as well as a battlefield commander—Galvin wrote, among other things, a very good book on the Minutemen—he was the epitome of the soldier-scholar, a type less common in today’s U.S. military, although his protégé, David Petraeus, is of that mold. Galvin’s memoir (introduced by an admiring Petraeus) is a characteristically modest, wry, and thoughtful account not only of leadership but also of the rise, fall, and rise again of U.S. military power in the second half of the twentieth century. And it is, as well, a reminder that now and again, one comes across generals with the stuff of greatness in them.

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