Military Review

 

Publishing Disclaimer: In all of its publications and products, Military Review presents professional information. However, the views expressed therein are those of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Army University, the Department of the Army, or any other agency of the U.S. government.


Danger Forward Cover

Danger Forward

The Forgotten Wars of General Paul Gorman

Mike Guardia

Magnum Books, Maple Grove, Minnesota, 2021, 290 pages

Book Review published on: September 2, 2022

We have all heard the saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” In other words, if there is a proven formula that works, keep using it. Over the years, I have found one author who has developed a proven formula and has not strayed too far from it—Mike Guardia. His latest book, Danger Forward: The Forgotten Wars of General Paul F. Gorman displays all the characteristics I have found and enjoyed in his previous volumes and clearly sticks to his formula.

The first part of the Guardia formula is to select a biography subject who may have been overlooked by historians. In the past, his biographies have focused on Donald Blackburn (a pioneer of U.S. Army Special Forces), Russell Volckmann (another pioneer of Special Forces and a legendary soldier in the Philippines during World War II), Donn Starry (an armor legend and a key architect in transforming the U.S Army following the Vietnam War), and Hal Moore (obviously well-known and revered, but who has enjoyed minimal scholarship). Guardia’s latest selection of Paul Gorman clearly follows this pattern. Gorman clearly had an impactful career, yet he has not received the attention he truly deserved for his contributions.

For those unfamiliar with Gorman, let me provide some highlights. Gorman had an extraordinary military career which spanned over thirty-five years. He began his service as a sailor in the U.S. Navy just prior to the end of World War II. The war ended prior to his deployment, and he subsequently was discharged. He was later accepted to West Point and graduated in June 1950.

During his Army career, Gorman served in numerous significant assignments in war and peace. As a company grade officer, he fought in and was wounded during the Korean War, and he was awarded the Silver Star for his heroism during the war. He commanded in combat at both the battalion and brigade level during the Vietnam War. As a battalion commander, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his extraordinary heroism. Later in his career, he served as the principal architect of the Pentagon Papers, was a key staff officer involved with the Paris Peace Talks, and was the driving force on developing many initiatives which transformed the U.S. Army and ultimately prepared it for Operation Desert Storm. He finished his service as the commander for U.S. Southern Command. Clearly, this is a career that deserves to be known and admired by far more people.

A principal ingredient of a Guardia biography is a unique approach to addressing a subject. In his past biographies, the author strove to provide readers with two key objectives. First, is to enable readers to understand the subject as a person. Second, is to assist readers in appreciating the subject’s career and its impact. Guardia clearly achieves this within Danger Forward. At the conclusion of the volume, readers will have valuable insight on Gorman as a person, on his career and life, and the profound effect he had on the U.S. Army and beyond.

Above, I addressed the author’s ability to provide readers with an understanding of each of his subjects as a person. The principal way he achieves this is with his quality of his research. Specifically, the quality lies within personal interviews. Guardia included numerous interviews with the soldiers Gorman served with, his family members, and with Gorman himself. Gorman’s contributions specifically blend a combination of interesting and amusing stories and the inside story on many of the key events he was involved in. These interviews in total, combine to truly personalize Gorman.

Another way Guardia successfully personalizes his subjects is in his selection of photographs. In many books, it seems authors add photographs without a purpose or tie-in to their text. This is not the case in a Guardia volume. In Danger Forward (as in past efforts), he has selected photos which are relevant and cover the spectrum of Gorman’s career. Additionally, he adds several photos focused on important events of his personal life and highlights Gorman’s wife, Ruth.

I have read many of Guardia’s volumes (both biographies and event focused) and found them all to be extremely readable. This readability comes from his conversant style of writing coupled with outstanding organizational skills and keeping his volumes concise. These characteristics are evident in Danger Forward. This is a book that possesses an excellent flow and is a very quick read.

I believe Guardia has unquestionably carved out a niche in the military biography genre. He has achieved this by staying true to a successful formula. It is a formula that begins by his astute selection of subjects. He then crafts a volume which is superbly researched, focused in the right areas, personalized and well-written and organized. Danger Forward is the latest example of this formula.

In closing, Danger Forward reveals Gorman to a public predominantly unaware of his service to the country. Perhaps Guardia has best summarized the impact of this service in the book’s closing paragraph. He states, “Paul Gorman proved himself to be an innovative thinker, warrior-scholar, and visionary leader who affected positive change wherever he led American troops.” This volume sets the conditions for far more people to appreciate the change Gorman created.

Book Review written by: Frederick A. Baillergeon, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas