A stunningly researched work of military history that answers a seemingly simple question-how have soldiers through the ages met their deaths?-and in doing so reveals an astonishing wealth of insight about the nature of combat, the differences between cultures, and the unchanging qualities of humanity itself. Behind each soldier's death, in the story of every anymous infantryman's grave, lies a heady mixture of specifics. There is the weapon that kills him; the tactics that brought him to his death; the strategy that marks the boundaries of the killing field; the decisions he makes or the decisions others make on his behalf; the ability of medical services to save a life or hasten the extinction. And there is the cultural context that shapes each warrior and battlefield: a complex amalgam of attitudes about heroism, sacrifice, justice, compassion, and aggression. Drawing on three years of research and incorporating hundreds of primary sources, The Last Full Measure reveals these and other fascinating complexities hidden behind the simple fact of death in combat. Organized chrologically, but pausing frequently to make cross-temporal comparisons, the book covers the Greek phalanx and the Roman legion, medieval warfare in both the West and samurai-era Japan, the age of black-powder combat, the Civil War, World War I, World War II, and insurgent warfare from Vietnam through the present.
MICHAEL STEPHENSON is most recently the author of Patriot Battles: How the War of Independence Was Fought. In addition to his writing, Stephenson spent more than twenty-five years as a professional book editor, for much of that time with a particular focus on military publishing. For six years he was the editor of the Military Book Club. He lives in New York City.