The US Army in the Aftermath of War, 1815–1980
Sales Date: June 12, 2023
320 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
- Published: June 2023
- Published: June 2023
What happens to the US Army after the battles are over, the citizen soldiers depart, and all that remains is the Regular Army? In this pathbreaking work, Brian Linn argues that in each decade following every major conflict since the War of 1812 the postwar army has undergone a long, painful, and remarkably consistent recovery process as it struggled to build a new model force to replace the “Old Army” that entered the conflict. Departing from the Washington-centric institutional histories of the past, Linn sets his focus on soldiering in the field, distilling the lived experiences of officers and troopers who were responsible for cleaning up the messes left in the wake of war.
Real Soldiering provides the first comprehensive study of the US Army’s transition from war to peace. It is both a wide-ranging history of the army’s postwar experience and a work detailing the commonalities of American soldiering over almost two centuries. Linn challenges three common historical interpretations: confusing Washington policy with implementation in the field; conflating postwar armies with prewar armies; and describing certain postwar eras as distinct and transformational. Rather, Linn examines the postwar force as a distinct entity worthy of study as a unique and important part of US Army history. He identifies the common dilemmas faced by the service in the aftermath of every war. These problems included such military priorities as defense legislation, preparing for the next war, and adapting to new missions. But they also incorporated often overlooked—but for those who lived through them more important—consistencies such as officer acquisition and career management, personnel turbulence, insufficient personnel and equipment, and many others.
Real Soldiering represents over four decades of research into the US Army and is deeply informed by Linn’s experiences teaching and working with soldiers. It breaks new ground in lifting out the similarities of each postwar army while still appreciating their individual complexities. It identifies the leaders and the methods the service employed to escape the inevitable postwar drawdowns. Insightful and entertaining, provocative and empathetic, and a work of history with immediate relevance, Real Soldiering will resonate with military historians, defense analysts, and those who have proudly worn the US Army uniform.
"Demonstrating a mastery of military doctrine, Army history at the institutional as well as unit levels, the conduct of major American wars and the flow of American politics, Real Soldiering makes its case in relatively compact chapters that not only prove the central thesis of the book but reveal interesting facts along the way."—Army Magazine
“Brian Linn is one of the most significant scholars of US military history writing today—distinguished not only by his innovative analysis but also by his thorough and nuanced understanding of how the US Army functions. He’s given us another ambitious and original work, an unromanticized account of war’s aftermath that will prove essential reading for both junior officers and senior leaders, as well as for anyone interested in military history.”—Beth Bailey, director of the Center for Military, War, and Society Studies, University of Kansas, author of An Army Afire: How the US Army Confronted its Racial Crisis in the Vietnam Era
“How do we properly prepare for the next war. . .when we are sure to gut the force at the end of the last one? Read this book and study history. Brian Linn’s work is critically important for both historians and senior leaders of our US Armed Forces today. It is both a warning and a reassurance; the difficulties we face today in budgeting, modernization, recruiting, and readiness show signs of a pattern discernible in most major periods of drawdown. There is an opportunity to avoid mistakes and to not overreact to what should have been expected. Leaders in and out of uniform: read this book now!”—General (ret.) Charles H. Jacoby, Jr., US Army
“Brilliant, insightful, on-target. As a veteran of the post-Vietnam, post-Cold War, post-Desert Storm, and post 9/11 armies, I can certify that Brian Linn is the foremost authority on the US Army . . . and in the words of General Creighton Abrams after the Korean War, ‘our job is to hang in there, day in and day out, so that when that soldier has to fight, he can be as well-equipped and as well-prepared as we can make him. And that’s why we hang on.’ Linn’s masterful book brings this truth to life.”—Gregg F. Martin, Major General (Ret.), US Army and former president, National Defense University
“By comparing different post-war periods—something that no other work has done—Real Soldiering reveals a repeated pattern of initial hope followed by difficult adjustments that has been overlooked until now. Linn’s argument has particularly important implications for our understanding of the aftermath of Vietnam and suggests lessons for what to do after Iraq and Afghanistan. Historians, soldiers today, and anyone interested in the US Army will enjoy and learn from this important book.”—J. P. Clark, author of Preparing for War: The Emergence of the Modern U.S. Army, 1815–1917“In this strikingly original reassessment of the US Army’s struggles to implement meaningful postwar reforms, Brian Linn once again shows his ability to identify recurring themes across long time periods. Decrying the ‘era exceptionalism’ and ‘triumphalist narratives’ offered by many who have studied the American army, Linn finds that problems of retention, the inability to construct policy and doctrine consistent with the realities of American politics and culture, and the failure to devote sufficient emphasis on preparing for war or care for personnel have consistently plagued the army. With a sharp eye for the telling anecdote, he demonstrates that despite the best intentions of many individuals, historical lessons have often remained unlearned rather than learned.”—Robert Wooster, Regents Professor of History, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi (retired), and author of The United States Army and the Making of America: From Confederation to Empire, 1775–1903
“This may be the best of Brian Linn’s many distinguished books. Real Soldiering combines the archival and quantitative depth of Elvis’s Army with the thematic range of The Echo of Battle. Every chapter is chock full of insights. No other work explores the inner histories of the peacetime US Army with such nuance and attention to underlying continuities. Uniquely valuable for students of the US Army, scholars of military institutions, and American historians.”—Samuel J. Watson, professor of history, United States Military Academy, and author of Peacekeepers and Conquerors: The Army Officer Corps on the American Frontier, 1821–1846
“Brian Linn has written another masterpiece. Real Soldiering tells the story of the US Army not in war but in peacetime and how it has learned, and not learned, from the major wars it had just fought. Real Soldiering should be read widely within the US Army and US National Security Establishment. Its insights should shape how the US Army thinks about war and conflict today and in the future.”—Colonel Gian Gentile (US Army retired) author of Wrong Turn: America’s Deadly Embrace of Counterinsurgency
1. The Nineteenth-Century Aftermath Army
2. Postscript to the Imperial Wars
3. The Aftermath Army in the Decade after World War I
4. The Aftermath Army of World War II and Korea
5. The Hollow Army after Vietnam, 1970-1980
Conclusion: The Aftermath Army in Perspective