Gen. John R. Galvin subtitled his 2015 book, Fighting the Cold War, with A Soldier’s Memoir. The title tells only half of the book’s story. Along with recalling his life, Galvin offers a world history lesson that spans his eighty-six years on earth from 1929-2015. He also provided hard-earned practical knowledge about leadership by citing good and bad events and decisions related to his forty-four year military career.
Originally published in 2015 and reviewed here, the memoir now is available in paperback (University Press of Kentucky, 517 pp. $29.95).
Galvin’s accounts of his two tours in the Vietnam War offer grim lessons in leadership. During his initial tour as a brigade operations officer with the First Infantry Division, Galvin was relieved of duty and sent to a staff job in Saigon. He served his second tour with the First Cavalry Division mainly as an infantry battalion commander. He flew low in helicopters and frequently landed in the field alongside his men in combat.
Comparing Galvin’s two tours gives the reader a short but concise study of the subtle variations that constitute acceptable combat leadership. Putting his men’s welfare first brought Galvin both failure and success.
The book’s thirty-two page collection of photographs that span Galvin’s lifetime could almost serve as a memoir by themselves.