Paratrooper: The Life of General James M. Gavin

Overview

World War II, which occurred precisely at the juncture between air transport capability and the invention of the helicopter, saw history's first and only mass use of paratroopers dropped into battle from the sky, perhaps the most courageous combat task seen in modern warfare. And "Jumpin' Jim" Gavin was by all accounts America's best paratrooper leader.

His first combat jump was in Sicily, where as a battalion commander he found his men scattered all over the landscape in one of...

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Overview

World War II, which occurred precisely at the juncture between air transport capability and the invention of the helicopter, saw history's first and only mass use of paratroopers dropped into battle from the sky, perhaps the most courageous combat task seen in modern warfare. And "Jumpin' Jim" Gavin was by all accounts America's best paratrooper leader.

His first combat jump was in Sicily, where as a battalion commander he found his men scattered all over the landscape in one of airborne's greatest fiascos. Yet his stand with a few stalwarts at Biazza Ridge is credited with saving the U.S. invasion front. In Normandy, as assistant division commander of the 82nd Airborne, he won the eternal affection of his men for continuing to lead in combat, M-1 slung over his shoulder, even as his paratroopers were similarly scattered and faced German fire on all sides. His cool leadership served to coalesce the paratrooper bridgehead behind enemy lines until infantry from the beaches could finally reach them.

During Operation Market Garden, now as commander of the 82nd, Gavin wrote a new chapter in paratrooper heroism, seizing all his objectives despite a serious spinal injury on landing. With hardly a respite after the grueling campaign in Holland, Gavin and his men were called upon for perhaps their most dangerous task—stemming the German onslaught during the Battle of the Bulge. Though most historical kudos have gone to the 101st Airborne in that battle, for their gallant stand at Bastogne, it was the 82nd's stand at St. Vith—where the Germans truly wanted to break through—that equally foiled Hitler's last offensive attempt in the west.

After the war Gavin continued to earn as much respect from policymakers as he had from his men, providing commentary on our Cold War stance, the war in Vietnam, and as Kennedy's ambassador to France. He was not an unflawed individual, as this comprehensive biography reveals, but an exceptional one in every sense, especially during his days of combat leadership during history's greatest war.

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Editorial Reviews

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.
Toy Soldier Model Figure
...a riveting account of an exceptional American soldier…reveals that Gavin had his flaws but he was an extraordinary person in every sense especially as a leader in combat during WW2.
WORLD WAR II Magazine
...offers a remarkable portrait of one of America's greatest field commanders. It analyzes his unique leadership, unveils his stormy private life (including affairs with actress Marlene Dietrich and correspondent Martha Gellhorn) and explores the revolutionary advances in warfare spearheaded by his beloved 82nd Airborne.
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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781612001272
  • Publisher: Casemate Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/19/2012
  • Pages: 496
  • Sales rank: 385,074
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.60 (d)

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