Spring 1916, and three great armies - French, British and, on the other side of the wire, German - are locked in a stalemate of mud and blood on Europe's Western Front. On the ground, young British soldiers lose their innocence in the hell that is No Man's Land, while in the skies above the trenches a new breed of warrior, armed with a devastating new weapon, comes of age.
As the conflict stretches into its third year, a neutral but woefully unprepared and ill-equipped America is slowly goaded into war. It falls to General John Pershing to galvanise his country's army into readiness and as the first American troops reach the front in 1917, the world waits to see if the tide of a war that has already cost millions of lives can at last be turned.
Combining an historian's eye for detail with a novelist's understanding of man's hopes and fears, Shaara carries the reader into the hearts and minds of some of the war's most memorable characters, from the heroic to the infamous, and vividly brings to life one of the greatest conflagrations in human history.
Moving on from the American Revolution and the Civil War, Shaara (The Glorious Cause, etc.) delivers an epic account of the American experience in WWI. As usual, he narrates from the perspective of actual historical figures, moving from the complexity of high-level politics and diplomacy to the romance of the air fight and the horrors of trench warfare. Gen. John J. "Black Jack" Pershing commands all American forces in France in 1917 1918 and must prepare his army for a new kind of war while resisting French and British efforts to absorb his troops into their depleted, worn-out units. Two aviators, American Raoul Lufbery and German Manfred von Richthofen (the Red Baron) fly primitive aircraft in an air war that introduces new ways to die. And Pvt. Roscoe Temple, U.S. Marine Corps, fights with rifle and bayonet in the mud and blood of Belleau Wood and the Argonne Forest. These men and a supporting cast of other real-life characters provide a gruesomely graphic portrayal of the brutality and folly of total war. Shaara's storytelling is occasionally mechanical he has yet to rise to the Pulitzer Prize winning level of his father, Michael Shaara (The Killer Angels, etc.) but his descriptions of individual combat in the air and the mass slaughter on the ground are stark, vivid and gripping. He also offers compelling portraits of the politicians and generals whose strategies and decisions killed millions and left Europe a discontented wasteland.