Book Review: The Mighty Fallen


by Larry Bond and f-stop Fitzgerald

Collins, May 8, 2007. 144 pages. . $29.95. ISBN:0061170909

Wargamer and novelist Larry Bond teamed up with professional photographer "f-stop" Fitzgerald (Hey, if writers can have pen names, photographers can have lens names) to produce a handsome coffee-table sized book on North American war memorials, The Mighty Fallen.

Organized roughly chronologically, the book includes a simple black and white image of America's first war memorial, a simple obelisk erected in 1799 at Lexington, Mass to honor the 8 men killed in the opening clash of the Revolutionary War. It ends with Canada's Peacekeepers' Memorial in Ottawa, which honors 125,000 Canadians who have served in UN peace keeping missions.

The selection is a nice balance of the famous (like Arlington's Tomb of the Unknowns and Iwo Jima memorial) and the obscure (a modest personal memorial to veterans of the China-Burma-India theater of WW II, placed by a veteran at his own expense at the Indiantown Gap National Cemetery in Pennsylvania.) Monument-studded Gettysburg is well-represented, as are the statue-rich cities of Baltimore, Philadelphia, Providence, and Boston.

In a concise, thoughtful Introduction, Bond reminds us that the "most important purpose of a monument is to move us, to evoke emotion." One of the best examples is the 1965 memorial to Confederate Sergeant Richard Rowland Kirkland, near the terrible stone wall at Fredericksburg, Virginia. Kirkland risked his own life under fire to carry water to wounded Union soldiers. Risking your life for your buddies is common valor; but risking your life to help your enemy is rare and heroic love.

Humor is also an emotion, and the most delightful monument in the book is the whimsical Sea Bee Monument in Davisville Rhode Island, which faithfully represents in brightly painted welded steel the Sea Bee's insect mascot, holding a Tommy gun and a wrench.

If I had to criticize any of the choices in the book, I would respectfully note that the stark Korean War Veteran's Memorial in Washington achieves its greatest emotional impact when seen in Winter, with snow on the ground. And I was puzzled by the absence of any memorials from the Mexican War. But this is the kind of book that leaves the reader hoping for a sequel. The Mighty Fallen will be of interest to any student of sculpture, landscape architecture, and of course military history.

Reviewer: Mike Markowitz   

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