AMERICAN SOLDIER - GEN. TOMMY FRANKS

By Gen. Tommy Franks, with Malcom McConnell
Copyright 2004
Regan Books, an Imprint of Harper Collins Publishers
590 Pages, $27.95
ISBN 0-06-073158-3

Reviewed for Keeping Apace by William Thompson, RAdm U.S. Navy (Ret), former Navy Chief of Information.

I have been reading several books the past few years that some day I may pick up again to complete. That is not so with General Tommy Franks' memoirs, American Soldier. I kept returning to it, most times staying awake past my normal bedtime. And soon, I finished it, all 590 pages. My reaction was that I felt fulfilled, I learned a few things and it was like I had a new friend, an Army guy who knew what he was doing and the book was written so well that it communicated. It was as if he was sitting next to me, chatting away and we were getting along real well.

I could relate to Tommy Franks' early life and his getting into the military without la clue that it would be his career. He was, and is, a diligent man who worked hard at what he was doing and that caused the Army to move him along a tough, demanding career path with combat in Vietnam, Gulf War and of course Afghanistan and Iraq where he was the Commander, Central Command, in charge of all Coalition Forces.

What did I learn? Primarily, the extensiveness of planning that went into the Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns, from Day 1, which was 9/11. From that time on, it was almost 24/7 to augment the existing plans for Afghanistan and later, Iraq. The process was interesting, enduring and assuring. He worked well with the tough, demanding SECDEF, the Chairman, JCS and the President and they in turn evinced confidence in him. He cajoled the service chiefs that these campaigns were “joint expeditions” and not a patch work of “turf oriented” individual service's participation. Gentle argument turned to much stronger dialogue and at one time led to a reaffirmation from SECDEF that “General Franks is the Commander.”

Afghanistan was a success as was Iraq. General Franks relied heavily on technology advancements and the basic element of SPEED. He moved his forces in Iraq like General Patton of WWII except he did it much faster. His comments about the media, particularly CNN, Al-Jazeera and the GAM (Great American Media) with the liberal commentators, backed by retired generals who criticized the strategy and tactics daily, were interesting.

Generally, he ignored the coverage because the TV guys and NY Times, Washington Post, LA Times, etc., were biased and the pundits were usually ne'er-do-wells who didn't understand modern warfare and the state of the art technology. They were truly oriented to WWII warfare. An interesting correlation of moderation warfare was described at A-Hour when Coalition air attacks on Baghdad started the invasion of Iraq. General Franks and his staff in Kuwait could hear the voices of pilots dropping their bombs and other weapons and knew the designated targets. They tuned in CNN to watch the hits and explosions.

It is impossible to cover Afghanistan and Iraq wars in a memoir. For instance, he generally praised the Marine Corps and its actions but his intimate descriptions were Army oriented. I can forgive him for that. The book is heavily laced with acronyms, so much so that he has included a glossary. Again, I can't fault him for the use of acronyms but it is disconcerting to have to turn to the glossary several times a page to understand some of his descriptions. It is especially difficult for one with a short retention span.

If you would like to get a better handle on the Afghanistan and Iraqi wars, I recommend reading Tommy Franks' book. It is an excellent read and you will put it down and avow that “Tommy Franks is a great American, a great general and he deserves a restful retirement. We will remember him for a long time.”