Behind every soldier’s death lies a story. What psychological and cultural pressures brought him to his fate? What lies—and truths—convinced him to march toward his death? Covering warfare from prehistory through the present day, The Last Full Measure tells these soldiers’ stories, ultimately capturing the experience of war as few books ever have.
In these pages, we march into battle alongside the Greek phalanx and the medieval foot soldier. We hear gunpowder’s thunder in the slaughters of the Napoleonic era and the industrialized killing of the Civil War, and recoil at the modern, automated horrors of both World Wars. Finally, we witness the death of one tradition of “heroic” combat and the construction of another in the wars of the modern era, ranging from Vietnam to America’s latest involvements in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Combining commanding prose, impeccable research, and a true sensitivity to the combatant’s plight, The Last Full Measure is both a remarkably fresh journey through the annals of war and a powerful tribute to the proverbial unknown soldier.
About the Author
Michael Stephenson is the former editor of the Military Book Club and the editor of National Geographic's Battlegrounds: Geography and the History of Warfare. He lives in New York City.
"Intense [and] grippingly specific...honors the fallen by making their experiences fiercely, viscerally understandable. Though it hardly qualifies as escapist reading, its fascination with historical detail and celebration of raw courage make it hard to resist."
—Janet Maslin, The New York Times
"Plainly ranks among the most important works of military history I've encountered over the last quarter century--a comprehensive, readable, humane, moving, and enlightening achievement of analysis and scholarship. This brilliant book will endure."
—Tim O'Brien, author of The Things They Carried and Going After Cacciato
"A great achievement of research, perception, and fine writing. Few other books have managed to convey the true experience of war with such power and clarity."
—Antony Beevor, author of D-Day and Stalingrad
"Stephenson brings 'the face of battle' even closer to us than John Keegan did over thirty years ago."
—Hew Strachan, author of The First World War and Chichele Professor of the History of War, Oxford University
"Death in battle is war's defining experience. Stephenson brilliantly presents it from a challenging perspective: not what is it like to kill, but what is it like to die...Comprehensive, perceptive, and evocative, this is a must-read for any student of conflict."
—Dennis Showalter, author of Tannenberg and former president of the Society for Military History