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Storming the City: U.S. Military Performance in Urban Warfare from World War II to Vietnam, by Alec Wahlman

Denton: University of North Texas Press, 2015. Pp. xvi, 368. Illus., maps, tables, gloss., notes, biblio., index. $29.95. ISBN: 1574416197.

Americans in Urban Combat

Defense analyst and “War on the Rocks” blogger Wahlman takes a very critical look at American military performance in urban settings. Wahlman’s introduction discusses the military implications of increasing urbanization around the world, a matter which has already received some attention in military literature. He follows this with six chapters exploring American experience in urban combat.

Wahlman opens with a chapter reviewing the surprisingly limited American experience with and writing about urban combat prior to World War II. This is followed by chapters on combat in Aachen in late 1944 and in Manila in early 1945, in which he argues the Army did surprisingly well, reflecting careful thought on the subject. But in his next chapter, Wahlman reviews American military thinking about urban combat after World War II, which strongly suggests some loss of interest. There follow chapters on the fighting in Seoul following the Inchon landings in September of 1950 and in Hue during the Tet Offensive in early 1968, during which Wahlman argues American soldiers and marines did well, though they actually lacked much training for the mission.

In his conclusions, Wahlman notes that in all four battles, U.S. forces proved resourceful and adaptable, and did well, but might have done better. He adds that the four actions dispel some myths about urban combat, most notably that the attacker must be greatly superior in strength and that urban combat is primarily an infantry matter.

Although Wahlman might have given some attention to more recent urban fighting, notably Fallujah in 2004, Storming the City, a volume in the North Texas series “American Military Studies,” is a very valuable read for anyone interested in urban combat or in the operations he does cover.

Note: Storming the City is also available as an e-book, $23.96, ISBN 978-1-57441-624-4

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Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   


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