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38 out of 305 pages on the subject and none of them enlightening!

This book is, by design, a mere survey of some two and one half centuries with the great weight and preponderance given to military operations in the 20th century when “irregulars” were more formally “regulated” – at least in terms of organization.Brief mention is given to sharpshooter brigades but more space and words are expended on explaining why none of the troops were elite forces than on explaining the extraordinary composition and tactics that should have qualified so many for that description.

Bunker Hill to Bastogne : elite forces and American society      Briton C. Busch United States History, Military Washington, DC : Potomac Books, 2006 Hardcover. First edition and printing. xiv., 305 p., ill., 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG   

America’s curiosity about elite military units is greater than ever in today’s crisis-ridden world. And while numerous books have examined the various elite forces, Bunker Hill to Bastogne goes much further to show the relationship between these special units and the societies that gave birth to them. Though America in general has often regarded its military establishment as an unfortunate necessity, elite formations have nearly always emerged in moments of crisis. And while their exploits have fostered the cherished image of the individualistic but loyal rifleman-ranger, these legends have not always corresponded to reality.

America’s roster of heroic images has long included esteemed elite units, running the gamut from Roger’s Rangers at Fort Ticonderoga during the American Revolution to Berdan’s Sharpshooters during the Civil War and the paratroopers of Normandy in World War II. But despite Americans’ reverent regard for, and patriotic depiction of, elite units, they initially distrusted the idea of a standing army given such abuses as the quartering of soldiers in citizens’ homes. Indeed, the egalitarian American spirit caused the Founding Fathers to discourage a class of emperor-making military elites. And yet, elite units did emerge during every major American conflict. But the evolution of such forces has taken place in fits and starts, with units often demobilizing after a particular crisis had passed. Only since World War II have elite units become a consistently relied-upon arm of the military for dealing with constantly erupting global crises.

Bunker Hill to Bastogne is a unique and timely chronicle of the birth and evolution of elite forces and the American public’s reactions to them. It shows that despite Americans’ wariness of a possible military elite, their love of the fabled rifleman-ranger has seldom dwindled, though in the twenty-first century their hero might wear a green beret rather than a coonskin cap.

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