100 Turning Points in Military History
Lyons Press, Guilford, Connecticut, 2019, 368 pages
Book Review published on: November 27, 2019
Alan Axelrod, military history author, consultant, and lecturer, continues his remarkable study of military history in 100 Turning Points in Military History. This book provides insightful lessons on operational warfare, leadership, ideas, and decisions, and innovations that shaped the evolution of military art and science, and, in doing so, shaped the course of world history. Axelrod’s exhaustive research informs us that warfare has been complex and often a bloody undertaking from the beginning of recorded military history, success can be short lived as adversaries adapt in countering the victors’ advantages, and military power has limits. His examples from ancient history inform readers just how violent and complex military engagements were from the beginning. For example, 100 Turning Points in Military History begins with the Battle of Megiddo in 1457 BC, which ironically, is the very first battle to have any appreciable record and is prophesized to be the location of man’s last battle on earth. Axelrod informs the reader that the battle involved some 35,000 combatants, of which, 16,700 were believed to have been killed, wounded, or captured.
100 Turning Points in Military History begs the question what was the societal impact of experiencing horrific casualties following these battles. Axelrod informs us that the Goths ravaged the towns and villages of Thrace mercilessly following their annihilation of Roman forces at the Second Battle of Adrianople. Readers will find themselves considering how societies were maintained and continued to flourish given that a significant portion of the viable male population were involved in conflict.
Axelrod challenges the traditional narrative that Attila the Hun was a vacuous individual bent on ruthless invasion and mindless devastation. Axelrod describes how Attila commanded a Coalition of forces numbering between one hundred thousand to five hundred thousand that marched along a front one hundred miles wide. Attila the Hun was on the verge of over running the Western Roman Empire when he was defeated at the Battle of Chalons in 451. The Battle of Chalons is counted among history’s most decisive battles, as it saved Roman civilization and early Christianity in Western Europe.
Axelrod includes several other decisive military engagements such as the Franks victory over Arab and Berber forces at the Battle of Tours in 732, defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, and the Battles of Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill in 1775. Turning points like Gettysburg, Stalingrad, Midway, and D-Day convey the significance to the reader of the moment and what followed.
The strength of 100 Turning Points in Military History is Axelrod’s ability to succinctly capture detail and depth in each turning point. Axelrod’s book is a great choice for both scholar and student of military history. Its leadership and operational warfare lessons makes it a great choice for professional reading and inclusion on a military reading list.
Book Review written by: Jesse McIntyre III, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas