Top Sergeant: The Life and Times of Sergeant Major of the Army William G. Bainbridge

Top Sergeant: The Life and Times of Sergeant Major of the Army William G. Bainbridge

by William G. Bainbridge, Dan Cragg
     
 
Beginning with his humble origins as an Illinois farm boy and son of a "dirt farmer," Bill Bainbridge's Top Sergeant is the only memoir of an enlisted man's rise to the most senior NCO position in the U.S. Army.
In a military career spanning more than three decades, Bill Bainbridge saw service in three wars, fought in two of them, and was captured in one. In

Overview

Beginning with his humble origins as an Illinois farm boy and son of a "dirt farmer," Bill Bainbridge's Top Sergeant is the only memoir of an enlisted man's rise to the most senior NCO position in the U.S. Army.
In a military career spanning more than three decades, Bill Bainbridge saw service in three wars, fought in two of them, and was captured in one. In France in World War II, Bainbridge served with A Company, 423rd Infantry of the 106th Infantry Division. Forced to surrender during the Battle of the Bulge, he spent five months in a German POW camp, weighing only eighty-six pounds when he was liberated. Discharged in December of '45, he fully expected to spend the rest of his life as a farmer.
But being called up for the Korean War ruined his farming prospects and, in due time, "That peculiar chemistry of training, experience, and promotion began to have its effect, and I realized that I didn't want to be anywhere else but the Army." In thirty-one years of service, Bainbridge served in leading NCO positions the world over, including Battalion Sergeant Major, 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division, II Field Force Sergeant Major in Vietnam, Sergeant Major U.S. Army Pacific, and Basic Training Center Sergeant Major at Fort Benning, where he was instrumental in setting up the first NCO Candidate Course. Bainbridge was also the first sergeant major of the Sergeants Major Academy.
He received ten Good Conduct Medals, two awards of the Combat Infantry Badge, three Army Commendation Medals, and the Distinguished Service Medal, among others. But the greatest moment in his career came when he was selected to be Sergeant Major of the U.S. Army, its highest NCOposition, an office he was the first to hold for four years.
But Bainbridge's most important job of his illustrious career was the welfare of his soldiers. Whether in base camps in Vietnam, aviation units in Germany, or training centers in Fort Benning, Bainbridge never forgot what he was there for. "Soldiers will do anything you ask provided you prepare them with good training and treat them with dignity."
Top Sergeant is all about doing what a good sergeant does best—attending to the needs of his men—and what it takes to be a great noncommissioned officer in an Army that officers are proud to command—but that NCOs really run.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Bainbridge grew up in Illinois and volunteered for the draft when he graduated from high school in 1943. He ended his military career in 1979 as sergeant major of the army-the highest enlisted grade. His memoir, written with Cragg (The Soldier's Prize), reflects the stereotypical values of rural America: hard work, discipline and self-confidence. Bainbridge was a citizen soldier, deciding to make the army his career only when recall for duty in the Korean War ended his chances to become a farmer. While he proved himself in combat, his career also highlights the complex, tripartite role of senior NCOs as fighters, administrators and advisers to the officers. Bainbridge consistently sought input from subordinates. Just as consistently, he told superiors the truth as he saw it-but with enough tact to keep his stripes and add to them. This is the story of a man who served both his country and himself well. Photos not seen by PW. (July)
Library Journal
This work is the story of the 31-year army career of Bainbridge, who for four years served as sergeant major of the army (SMA). This is the highest enlisted rank in the army and the liaison between the army administration and the enlisted men. Compared to other stories of enlisted men in the army and navy, such as Point Man (LJ 7/93), Tin Can Man (LJ 2/1/93), and Codename: Copperhead; My True-Life Exploits as a Special Forces Soldier (LJ 6/1/94), this work is disappointing. Except for the parts dealing with Bainbridge's World War II service and his times as SMA, the book seems to be a military travelog and a list of people he met while in the army. Bainbridge could have included more stories about combat and other episodes experienced by army enlisted men. Still, this would be a good book for libraries with both strong and large military history/science collections. Other libraries should consider this an optional purchase.-Terry Wirick, Erie Cty. Lib. System, Pa.
Roland Green
With the aid of fellow retired army noncom Cragg, former Sergeant Major of the Army Bainbridge tells his story. It began on an Illinois farm, included service in World War II (during which he was a German POW), and continued to Vietnam, appointment as the army's senior NCO, and retirement from active duty to work at the Soldier's and Airmen's Home in Washington, D.C. Bainbridge saw his fair share of combat but spent much of his career as various kinds of troubleshooter and spokesman for the enlisted personnel. Anyone who doubts that such noncombatant work involves pulling one's own weight really should read the book, which is full of problems that Bainbridge helped solve as well as problem people who hindered his solving of them. Bainbridge's autobiography vividly reminds us of how vital the NCO is to the people-handling side of waging war and that armies are made up of people.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780804107587
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
06/01/1996
Pages:
310
Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 6.81(h) x 0.90(d)

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