American Soldier

( 27 )


The Commander in Chief of the United States Central Command from July 2000 through July 2003, General Tommy Franks made history by leading American and Coalition forces to victory in Afghanistan and Iraq -- the decisive battles that launched the war on terrorism. In this riveting memoir, General Franks retraces his journey from a small-town boyhood in Oklahoma and Midland, Texas, through a lifetime of military service -- including his heroic tour as an Artillery officer in Vietnam, where he was wounded three ...
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American Soldier

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The Commander in Chief of the United States Central Command from July 2000 through July 2003, General Tommy Franks made history by leading American and Coalition forces to victory in Afghanistan and Iraq -- the decisive battles that launched the war on terrorism. In this riveting memoir, General Franks retraces his journey from a small-town boyhood in Oklahoma and Midland, Texas, through a lifetime of military service -- including his heroic tour as an Artillery officer in Vietnam, where he was wounded three times. A reform-minded Cold War commander and a shrewd tactician during Operation Desert Storm, Franks took command of CENTCOM at the dawn of what he calls a "crease in history" -- becoming the senior American military officer in the most dangerous region on earth.

Now, drawing on his own recollections and military records declassified for this book, Franks offers the first true insider's account of the war on terrorism that has changed the world since September 11, 2001. He puts you in the Operations Center for the launch of Operation Enduring Freedom just weeks after 9/11, capturing its uncertain early days and the historic victory that followed. He traces his relationship with the demanding Donald Rumsfeld, as early tensions over the pace of the campaign gave way to a strong and friendly collaboration.

When President Bush focused world attention on the threat of Iraq, Franks seized the moment to implement a bold new vision of joint warfare in planning Operation Iraqi Freedom. Rejecting Desert Storm-style massive troop deployment in favor of flexibility and speed, Franks was questioned by the defense establishment -- including Secretary of State Colin Powell. Yet his vision was proven on the ground: Within three weeks, Baghdad had fallen.

American Soldier is filled with revelation. Franks describes the covert diplomacy that helped him secure international cooperation for the war, and reveals the role of foreign leaders -- and a critical double agent code-named "April Fool" -- in the most successful military deception since D-Day in 1944. He speaks frankly of intelligence shortcomings that endangered our troops, and of the credible WMD threats -- including eleventh-hour warnings from Arab leaders -- that influenced every planning decision. He offers an unvarnished portrait of the "disruptive and divisive" Washington bureaucracy, and a candid assessment of the war's aftermath. Yet in the end, as American Soldier demonstrates, the battles in Afghanistan and Iraq remain heroic victories -- wars of liberation won by troops whose valor was "unequalled," Franks writes, "by anything in the annals of war." Few individuals have the chance to contribute so much of themselves to the American story as General Tommy Franks. In American Soldier, he captures it all.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060731588
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/3/2004
  • Pages: 608
  • Sales rank: 315,224
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.77 (d)

Meet the Author

General Tommy Franks retired from the Army on August 1, 2003. Commissioned a Second Lieutenant in 1967 as a distinguished graduate of the Artillery Officer Candidate School, Fort Sill, Oklahoma, he was assigned to the 9th Infantry Division, Republic of Vietnam. He also served as an Assistant Division Commander during Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm. General Franks has been awarded three Defense Distinguished Service Medals, two Distinguished Service Medals, and four Legion of Merit awards. His other decorations include three Purple Hearts, three Bronze Stars, an Air Medal, and an Army Commendation Medal — all with "V" for valor. In 2004 he was named a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire. General Franks lives with his wife, Cathy, in Tampa, Florida.

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Table of Contents

Prologue: D-Day xi
Part I Deep Roots
1 Planting Seeds 3
2 "Make 'em a Hand" 27
3 The Crucible 63
Part II Professional Soldier
4 A New Army 113
5 Flag Rank 145
Part III Commander in Chief
6 A Dangerous Neighborhood 191
7 A New Kind of War 238
8 Historic Victory 283
Part IV A Revolution in Warfare
9 Commander's Concept 321
10 The Plan 382
11 Operation Iraqi Freedom 432
12 A Campaign Unlike Any Other 478
Epilogue 537
Acknowledgments 565
Glossary 569
Index 577
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First Chapter

American Soldier

Chapter One

Planting Seeds

JUNE 1950

My understanding of the world and its consequences -- of right and wrong, good and evil -- began when I was five in central Oklahoma. That may be hard to believe, but it's true.

It was my father, Ray Franks, who taught me those lessons.

"You pull up just as hard as you push down, Tommy Ray," Dad said. He was trimming two-by-fours for our barn roof with a handsaw on the tailgate of the old Ford pickup. The saw blade snarled down through the board and ripped up with a thinner sound. His right arm, tanned like leather under the short sleeve of a washed-out shirt, bulged as he leaned his stocky weight into the saw.

It was summer, nice in the shade of the cottonwood trees near the barn. I was barefoot, in faded bib overalls that were getting short in the legs, sitting in the dirt, watching my father work, listening closely, as always, to his soft-spoken words. He smiled a lot and liked to josh around. But when we were alone together, my dad often took a moment to explain the things he'd learned in his life.

"Here, Tommy Ray," he said, tossing me a couple of splintery cuttings. "You can play with these blocks."

"But, Dad, they ain't real toys."

"Aren't real toys," he corrected, flipping another board end to me. "But they are, you see. A few years back, kids had to make do with toys their daddies made for them. They couldn't just drive to the five-and-dime in town and buy ready-made."

I fingered the wood, still hot from the saw blade. "How come?"

He wiped his face with a handkerchief, laid another plank across the tailgate, and lined up the saw. "Well, Tommy Ray, we had a war. Most of the countries in the whole world were fighting. America had to fight the Germans and the Japanese. Millions and millions of guys my age and younger were soldiers and sailors and flyers and had to go fight."

Fight, I thought. That was like when the barnyard chickens went rolling around, pecking and squawking. Or like when the big kids walking to school in the winter threw ice balls. But what would make a million soldiers and sailors fight?

"How come, Dad?"

"Bad people, Tommy Ray. The Japanese attacked us at a place called Pearl Harbor. It went on for years, and a lot of our boys didn't come home."

"Where'd they go?"

Father laid down the saw and smiled that soft grin he had when he needed to explain something sad, like when Ginger the cat got hit by a truck. "Well, those boys got killed. They died for America, Tommy Ray."

My mother said people went to heaven when they died. Those boys went to fight and just kept going till they got to heaven.

"Did you go fight?"

"I was in the Army Air Corps, Tommy Ray. I fixed airplanes for the boys to fly. I didn't have to fight, but I think my job was important."

In my mind's eye, I could see my father fixing airplanes with shiny propellers. He could mend anything -- the electric water heater for the bathroom, the truck, the tractor, all the different plows and reapers. Folks were always bringing their broken things to the farm for Ray Franks to fix. Mother told me that Dad could never say no if people needed help.

"Did you go to Pearl Harbor?"

My father shook his head, smiling. "No, Tommy Ray. I went to a place called the Panama Canal Zone. They've got palm trees down there, and really pretty birds called parrots."

"Mother didn't have to fight, did she?"

"The ladies stayed home and worked really hard, son. Lots of men, too. The whole country went to work. People planted victory gardens for their food. The boys in my Scout troop collected tin cans and newspapers. Things were scarce. That's why children couldn't always have new toys, why their dads or uncles had to make them blocks and doll houses."

My father always explained things so I could see a picture. So many years later, I recall that afternoon clearly. This was my first appreciation of war. What I learned was clear: Bad people started wars, and Americans had to go fight. I already understood about cats getting run over. About steers going to the slaughterhouse. Now I saw that whenever wars were started, some boys didn't come home.

"Will I have to go fight?"

My father stacked the trimmed boards up against the fender and sighed. "Tommy Ray, I hope not. But you get used to playing with those blocks I just cut, because there are more bad people starting trouble again in a place called Korea. I think America is in for another trying time, son."

I set my blocks in a square and then leaned forward to scratch in the dirt between my ankles, fascinated by the little rust-colored bugs swarming up from the ground. They looked angry, like a million soldiers.

"Oh, hey ... " I yelped. The bugs were crawling up my legs and biting. "Dad ..."

He snatched me up with one arm and shook the flapping legs of my overalls. "Tommy Ray, you were sitting on an anthill. Those little devils are red ants, son. They're nasty."

We were at the garden spigot now, and Dad ran the water over my ankles. It felt cool. But in my mind I pictured crowds of soldiers with guns like my father's 12-gauge shotgun, boiling out of the ground, just like the ants.

That night, I had my bath, said my prayers, and my mother tucked me in. But I couldn't go to sleep right away. I'd learned important new information out in the shade of the cottonwoods. When there are wars, boys go to fight, mothers work hard, and kids like me go without toys.

American Soldier. Copyright © by Tommy Franks. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 27 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 28 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 2, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Fascinating Biography

    This book is fascinating because:
    1)GEN Tommy Franks is one of the few Service Men who started his military career as an Enlisted, and then promoted to the 4-Star General in the Army without attending the U.S. Military Academy at WestPoint.

    2) He became the CENTCOM (the most dangerous neighborhood in the world) Commander who planned and directed both Operation Enduring Freedom (2001) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003).

    3) Despite pressures from the SecDef Donald Rumsfeld to utilize less ground troops for the Iraqi War, GEN Tommy Franks stood out not only for himeself, but for his staff members to authorize 100,000+ ground troops for the invasion. In the end, GEN Franks got what he and his staff members asked for.

    Before the rise of the insurgency in Iraq, GEN Tommy Franks retired from the Service, and his staff members were left behind to deal with the unfinished war.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2006

    Right Up There With 'Let's Roll'

    This book is in a 1st-place tie with Let's Roll for my favorite 1st-person history account

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2005

    The story of one man who managed to ¿Make ¿em a hand¿

    There are few men so great, so influential, and so dedicated to their country that they deserve the title of a true American Soldier. Of those select few Tommy Franks is the most prominent of them all. This biography conveys the life of General Tommy Franks from a small-town boy to Commander in Chief of the United States Central Command. When he joined the army he lived by one word of advice his father gave him before he left and that was to ¿make `em a hand¿. This simple value was what took General Franks to the top and made him an inspiration for generations to come. The author does an excellent job of presenting the events of General Franks¿ life while keeping the reader interested. He doesn¿t dwell on any one event but instead illuminates the main points of interest of General Franks and introduces them as they occur from his perspective. He also had a way of conveying General Franks¿ feelings in a subtle but consistent manner. This book gives an inside look at the worlds wars and events from a realistic point of view without any of the bias that comes from most media. General Franks has experienced everything from Vietnam, the Cold War, Desert Storm/Desert Shield to 9/11, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and the war on terrorism. These accounts grow increasingly more in depth as General Franks moves up in rank from an artillery captain in Vietnam to Commander in Chief of United states Central Command in July of 2000. Its this inside look from someone so influential that sets this book apart from other war accounts. This book is a must buy for anyone interested in understanding what really happened in some of the worlds most controversial wars. It really delivers the whole picture from someone who experienced it first hand.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2005

    A must-read for all Americans....

    This is a book that should be read by all Americans for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, it is a great story of a great man's life. It is hard to find a man today who is deserving of more admiration and respect than Tommy Franks. He is the ideal of patriotism and loyalty, a strong and compassionate leader, a dedicated family man, and he has changed forever the way wars and battles will be fought. This book covers his entire life from childhood to the war in Iraq and the reader is able to understand how this man was formed by so many inspiring people. In addition to the great story of his life, people need to read this book because it offers a realistic insight into Iraq and Afghanistan. You are given vivid accounts of how harsh some fighting was when the media made it look 'quick and easy', and you also get facts and figures on how far Iraq has progressed. Franks has tough words for the media and their protrayal of the situation, stating that they report on Iraw as being in distress when, in fact, employment, oil production, education, medical care, and infrastructure effeciency are already at 30 years highs. He offers a bottom-line analysis of the 'insurgents' and their motives, while offering his view on how to prevent these problems in the future. Tommy Franks does not portray everything through rose colored glasses....he admits decisions he would like to change, he expresses shame and disappointment over certain events, and when he does not have an answer he is quite sincere in explaining his feelings. For example, he recalls his conversation with Rumsfeld when he suggested that President Bush land on the aircraft carrier with a 'Mission Accomplished' banner. He knew the war was far from over, but wanted the President to publicly acknowledge the success they had in toppling Hussein's regime. He admits that if he could have seen the criticism Bush would take for his suggestion, he would have come up with a different idea. That is a small example of the candid view he gives you into his life. his thinking, and his career. Despite his few regrets and disappointments, however, he relates many more stories of good will, kindness, and hard work. He has a true love for his country and the military he served, he sincerely cares for the well being of every soldier in the field, and he has produced a book that offers a deep and realistic view into his life and the conflicts we face today. Do yourself a favor and read this book....

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2004

    Amazing, and that's all I can say.

    Franks' insights into the War on Terror and operations in Iraq were informative and thoughtful. Anyone who had or has concerns about the Iraq war or the war in Afghanistan should read this. Franks tells the story how it really happened and addresses many key issues that were brought up along the campaign trail.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 16, 2004

    Thoughful and well-written

    Gen. Frank's autobiography and recount of recent history is genuinely touching and enlightening. It is a truthful, and frank, look into the inner workings of Central Command, foreign relations, and warfare from the perspective of someone who began his military career as an enlisted private, and, through hard work and raw intelligence, rose to become a four-star general. When I thought about exactly what that entailed (a civilian equivalent would be to go from janitor to CEO of one of the world's largest corporations), I respected him all the more. His ability to implement radical change to strategic operations is impressive, even if controversial. He shows the reader the forest and the trees of warfare, and reveals a deep respect for his commanders as well as those who served under him, from Vietnam to Iraq. This book is a must read for anyone interested at all in military history and the evolution of modern warfare.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2004

    The Best Damn Book in Print!

    I have just finished this book. Gen. Franks tells the truth about the War and how Pres. Bush is being belittled by the Liberal media.He is a great soldier and one of the greatest General's of the Modern Era. Don't miss this book. Great from cover to cover.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2004

    A Superb Military Autobiography

    This is a very personal autobiography from the general who planned both the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Franks discusses how the information age has transformed the modern military dramatically since the Persian Gulf War. The central theme of Frank's book is his strategy to substitute speed, tactical maneuver, and inter service cooperation in place of overwhelming troop strength (Powell Doctrine) to topple an enemy regime. Although many may point to the lopsided coverage of casualty reports, the realty appears that Franks was right. The coalition forces engaged in Iraqi Freedom decapitated the Bathist Regime in (4) weeks of lighting fast and hard ground and air combat. All branches of the armed forces worked together as a team in a truly 'joint' operation. Franks is not the first general in American history to insist on interservice joint operations. Eisenhower insisted on control of allied air forces to conduct the Normandy invasion as, he saw joint cooperation as fundamental to success. But Franks appears to take the concept one step further. Lastly, what probably makes this book such an enjoyable read is the highly familiar and personal style of the author. You are not reading Julius Caesar's self serving autobiography of military triumphs. You are reading the life history of a great American warrior who would probably rather you regard him as the honorable man his father raised him to be than a conqueror.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2004

    This book is a must read for anyone seeking a true understanding of the recent events in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    The book started out a little slow but it picked up steam quite rapidly. After about 50 pages, I could hardly put it down and spent two nights reading until the wee wee hours. Undoubtedly, General Franks has re-written the book on modern warfare and many young men and women are alive today because of his practical approach to analyzing both the nature of the mission and the most efficient way of achieve its objectives. Obviously, Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden and even many of our Generals expected us to fight these wars in the way we have fought other wars. Thank goodness we did not.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2004



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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2004

    Awesome Book

    If you believe that GWB lied to the American people then you need to read this book. Gen.Franks lays it all out for people to read and understand the decisions that were made. He also outlines the problems within the government. Do yourslf a favor and read this book. Its a great example of how great a county we live in and why we have to protect it. Stop believeing the media and find out for yourself.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2004

    Win the War, Lose the Peace

    Self-congratulatory, even laudatory, Franks tells us about his life -- admirable -- and his military theories, looking more dubious every day. The lack of a critical perspective (except as applied to the Pentagon 'dinosaurs') is notable. Still, this is important military history if you want to know why Iraq has become such a quagmire and why future wars will not be fought via Franks' rules.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 2, 2004

    A Must Read

    The book takes you through the life of an ordinary man that went on to accomplish amazing things. As someone that was deployed to the desert for OIF, I can relate to a lot of what the book offered. Many times it brought tears to my eyes because I could tell that General Franks truly cared about his 'troopers'. A must read for both military and civilians.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 26, 2004

    corrects misinformation about iraq war

    This book is a must read before the 2004 elections. It corrects many misconceptions about Iraq and the Iraq war. It also contains information about Viet-Nam and the military in the years leading up to Iraq I and Iraq II.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 3, 2004


    This book gives you an in-depth look into the world of one who will go down in history as one of the greatest military minds of all time. General Franks has turned the page in modern warfare proving that less troops can get the job done more effieciently and faster than ever before. Find out why General Tommy Franks made the decisions he made. Where there really WMDs? Did President Bush really lie about them to the American people and was the Military duped as well. Its all right here. Stay out of the Politics and just get the facts. Read this book if you want to know what was really going on, how we defeated Saddam's forces with brilliance, and just what the plan was to win the peace afterwards. Learn why it did not go exactly as planned and get an idea of the internal problems in our government that also helped to derail it. Not reading this book will leave you dangerously ignorant of the world and the War on Terrorism.Buy this book now!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2004

    A Must Read for All Americans!!!

    This is akin to a Tom Clancy novel. I couldn't put it down until I finished!! This, though, is real. General Franks takes us through his childhood, Vietnam, and other commands. The second half of the book is the real meat. This is where he takes command of Central Command. The situations he is in and the clarity he describes is outstanding. He clears up misconceptions that continue to float around about the War on Terror. He is a man who clearly has an opinion and is not scared to give it. However, he also shows his human side with the care and understanding of the common infantry soldier. If there is no other book you read concerning the War on Terror, then make sure you read this one!!!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 25, 2004

    Great Reading, Hope for all that have,do and will serve

    The Book is hard to put down. It is like an afternoon with an old friend. Remembering the way things turned out and why. I have known people like him, in and out of the service. I am better for it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 25, 2004

    Every bit as informative as it is captivating.

    'A commander must never permit himself to know more than he knows', says General Tommy Franks in his book 'American Soldier', so only what he knows is what he writes about, but that is still plentiful. I packed 'American Soldier' for reading at the pool on my recent vacation, and left Bob Woodward and Stephen King at home for later. I did not miss out at all. 'American Soldier' is every bit as informative as it is captivating. It is not only a soldier's diary, but also a treasure trove for anyone who has followed the military events since September 11 and wants to know what went on behind the scenes: what decisions were made, how they were made, by whom, and why. Those who have been mesmerized by Franks' personality will find insights into what shaped his character over the decades. 'American Soldier' is a book that's hard to put down, even though we already know how the story ends. This facts-only story told honestly from a warrior's heart might actually help to heal this nation and help calm the waves between supporters and opponents of the war. Thomas Auzinger, Hillsborough, New Jersey

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 31, 2004

    An excellent autobiography and insider look at the war on terrorism

    This was like reading two books. The first half follows Franks growing up in a sometimes poor family in Oklahoma and Texas. He enrolled in the University of Texas, Austin, where he flunked out after two years. He decided to join the Army, where he settled down. After finishing basic and going to cryptography school, he applied for and was accepted into OCS (Officer Candidate School) at Fort Sill, Oklahoma to become an artillery officer. Franks then shipped out to Vietnam, where he served as an artillery observer with the 9th Infantry Division. He spend a lot of time in the field where he was in numerous fire fights. He also flew as an observer in light aircraft and helicopters. He was wounded several times and shot down once. He served with some good men and learned valuable lessons which he would later apply throughout his Army career. After leaving Vietnam, he decided to stay in the Army, where he was put through school to finish his college degree. He then went on to numerous postings around the world where he built a reputation of honesty and hard work and continuously rose in rank. When desert Storm commenced, he was promoted to Brigadier General and served as assistant division commander of the 1st Calvary Division. General Franks was promoted and put in command of Central Command (CENTCOM) before 9/11/2001. His command covered North Eastern Africa, the Middle East, and parts of Asia. After 9/11, Franks and his team were responsible for planning and executing the operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. America was fortunate to have a soldier of intelligence, spirit, flexibility, and energy to lead these dangerous operations. In addition to doing their utmost to keep our troop safe, CENTCOM also had the responsibility to deal with staggering logistical problems, humanitarian aid, and limited combat resources. Franks also had to deal with the Press, which rarely puts a positive slant on military operations. Today the Press is still whining about the lack of WMD, but use of WMD was deemed a real threat during the Iraqi operation. He also had to deal with leaks to the press from military insiders with their own agendas. This book also offers a fascinating insider's view of President Bush; his willingness to take the advice of his military and political leaders, and his ability to make hard decisions and take responsibility. Secretaries Rumsfeld and Powel are depicted as no-nonsense hard working men, with the best interest of our country in mind. Though they did have differences in how to approach the many problems, they still worked well together. On the other hand, Tenent of the CIA talked a good game, but provided little intelligence of any use.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2004

    Truly Inspirational

    Simply stated, a very inspiring book. Franks candidy and modestly takes the reader through his nearly forty years in the US Army. This book really moved me and has become my new favorite. Highly recommended read for all.

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