Paratrooper: The Life of General James M. Gavin

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General James M. Gavin was a legendary military hero, a pioneer of airborne warfare, and one of the most brilliant battlefield commanders in World War II. Paratrooper is the first full biography of Gen. Gavin, written with the cooperation of his family and drawing on Gavin's own unpublished autobiography. James Gavin grew up as an adopted child in Pennsylvania coal country. After an unhappy childhood, he enlisted in the army at seventeen. He earned admittance into West Point, where he chose Stonewall Jackson as a...
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Overview

General James M. Gavin was a legendary military hero, a pioneer of airborne warfare, and one of the most brilliant battlefield commanders in World War II. Paratrooper is the first full biography of Gen. Gavin, written with the cooperation of his family and drawing on Gavin's own unpublished autobiography. James Gavin grew up as an adopted child in Pennsylvania coal country. After an unhappy childhood, he enlisted in the army at seventeen. He earned admittance into West Point, where he chose Stonewall Jackson as a model because of Jackson's success with speed and surprise. Gavin became fascinated by the new air power that was revolutionizing warfare and bringing Jackson's tactics to a new level. He decided to become a paratrooper. Gavin joined the Army's first paratroop units under the leadership of the man who became his mentor, Gen. Matthew Ridgway. Under Ridgway, Gavin rose to command the famed 82nd Airborne Division in World War II. Always the first to jump in combat, Gavin led his men on missions in Sicily, Italy, Normandy (providing support behind the German lines for the D-Day invasion), Holland (the tragic battle for the bridge at Arnhem, "The Bridge Too Far"), and the Battle of the Bulge. Superb in combat, Gavin earned praise from Eisenhower, Bradley, and other top commanders and became the youngest American major general since Custer. After the war, Gavin became a strategic planner at the Pentagon. An adviser to President John F. Kennedy, he was named ambassador to France. Gavin was a critic of the war in Vietnam and flirted briefly with politics. For many years he was chairman of the Arthur D. Little company in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Gen. Gavin died in 1990. Paratrooper is the fascinating story of one of the most important and innovative military figures in American history.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
``Jumpin' Jim'' Gavin (1909-1990) is best remembered as the intrepid commander of the 82nd Airborne Divison during WW II. In postwar years he served as Army deputy chief of staff until his retirement in 1959, then became an executive at the consulting firm, Arthur D. Little, and served as John F. Kennedy's ambassador to France. In this engaging, smoothly written biography of America's most famous paratrooper, the authors trace Gavin's early years in Pennsylvania coal country, where life in a foster home became so intolerable that he ran away, won an appointment to West Point and found his natural home in the United States Army. Much of the narrative concentrates on Gavin's wartime command in Sicily, Italy, France and Germany, and his rivalry with General Maxwell Taylor, commander of the 101st Airborne Division. Booth, a freelance writer, and Spencer, a columnist for the congressional newspaper Roll Call , draw on Gavin's unpublished autobiography for revealing comments about his two marriages and his affairs with journalist Martha Gellhorn and actress Marlene Dietrich. Photos. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Historian Booth and journalist Spencer have written a thought-provoking biography of an often unsung, though brilliant and tormented figure. Gavin, who died in 1990, was the youngest U.S. general since Custer; his name is inextricably linked with one of the most formidable fighting forces in 20th-century military history, the 82nd Airborne Division. Gavin developed and led airborne forces during World War II, served in the postwar Pentagon as well as in private industry, and was an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War. A fruitless search for an Irish mother who gave him up for adoption led Gavin to idolize women (``they are my solace''), resulting in two marriages and many affairs--the most famous with Marlene Dietrich. The many exciting vignettes of combat in Europe and of the deadly new talents of the paratrooper add to the book's appeal. Recommended for public libraries.-- Thomas G. Anton, Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago
Roland Green
This excellent biography augments Gavin's own "On to Berlin" 1978 in making accessible one of the unsung but outstanding American soldiers of the century. An illegitimate child fostered in an abusive home in the Pennsylvania coal fields, Gavin gained appointment to West Point after enlisting in the army. He subsequently had a distinguished career with the 82d Airborne Division during World War II, eventually rising to its command. After the war, he rose further, to the rank of lieutenant general, before resigning in disagreement with the 1950s policy of massive retaliation. Thereafter, he served as JFK's ambassador to France and under Johnson as a military critic of the war in Vietnam. The clearly written, thoroughly researched book admirably presents a man of both moral and physical courage, high intelligence, and great charm. A superior addition to the military biography shelf.
Journal of America's Military Past
Paratrooper is well researched and well written, and the book successfully conveys the warrior qualities of courage and determination that made Gavin such an exemplary leader in battle.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780671732264
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/15/1994
  • Pages: 496

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