Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on April 22, 2008
In "Women at War: Iraq, Afghanistan, and other Conflicts", James Wise and Scott Baron record the individual stories of 30 women who are representative of the more than 2.5 million American women who have chosen the Profession of Arms.
"Women at War" focuses on the contributions of women from World War II through the ongoing operations in Southwest Asia (up to 2006). For the modern operations, the vignettes are the transcripts of personal interviews. However, for the fallen warriors due to both age and combat, we learn their tales as told through personal letters, award citations, or previous publications. Whatever the source, you can't help but be moved by their stories.
You will read the letter of the proud mother who sends her child to boot camp, only to hear her child's life came to a violent end due to an improvised explosive device attack. Conversely, you also read the personal recollections of the platoon leader who must be stoic to the Marines left behind after one of their comrades is killed in a separate bombing incident. There are also the tales of a Coast Guard skipper who prevented the mining of rivers in Iraq, and of the soldier who ran into a burning building to save Vietnamese children. The gender of these heroes is irrelevant - they are incredible stories that will be treasured by America's Next Greatest Generation.
After 17 years of continuous low- and high-intensity combat operations in Southwest Asia, it's surprising that not a single Airman or Sailor who served in the desert is featured in the book. The epilogue apologizes for intending to interview Lt Col Martha McSally who was the first female fighter squadron commander in combat. Unfortunately, the book went to print before the interviews were complete.
Compared to "Hell hath no Fury" by Rosalind Miles, this book is filled with more richly-detailed, personal accounts of the heroines. Also, this book focuses strictly on American women since World War II, and does not highlight any of the women's organizations featured in "Hell hath no Fury". Miles' book also spans a few centuries, vice the last 50 years in "Women at War". While this books is relatively narrow in focus, it certainly gives you a more intimate look at the contributions these women made to history.
As a complement to this book, I would also recommend two books from Air University Press documenting the personal histories of Airmen who executed Operations DESERT STORM and NOBLE ANVIL: "From the line in the Sand" and "A-10's over Kosovo".
This book is a page-turner. It is well-researched and features many photographs. Hopefully, Wise and Baron will publish a second edition to keep the tales of the female Airmen and Sailors alive too.