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Saving Face: Hackworth's Troubling Odyssey

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Journal article

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There is much to dislike about this memoir, starting with the narcissistic photograph of the author that adorns the dust jacket. Granted, readers of About Face may decide that the photo strikes the right note certainly the vanity it conveys matches the smugness of the text. And the anomalous image of a self-described warrior so splendidly coifed and manicured sets the stage nicely for the contradictions that pervade the narrative. During a career spanning some 25 years and two wars, David Hackworth proved himself to be an inspired troop leader, a brilliant trainer, and a fighter of remarkable courage and tenacity. Such qualities do not guarantee that any would-be author can produce a book worth reading. We should note up front that About Face is miserably written. As a prose stylist, Colonel Hackworth is unoriginal, his notion of vivid writing running toward sentences like They were strange dudes, the Chinese. His penchant for dated Army slang and Vietnam-era cliches, contrived no doubt to provide a tone of authenticity, serves only to make a military reader wince. The truly curious will overlook these stylistic shortcomings and concentrate on substance. In this regard, we can evaluate the book from several points of view. At its pettiest, About Face is a celebrity memoir in olive drab. Rule one of this kiss-and-tell genre projects retail sales in proportion to the nastiness of the authors judgments about former colleagues. Thus, among the reasons for Colonel Hackworths decision to recount his career, one finds an evident desire to settle old scores. The author goes out of his way to take mean-spirited swipes at the wimps and prancers who failed to live up to his version of the warrior ethic. His victims include many notables of the post-Korean War Army Goodpaster, Westmoreland, Haig, DePuy, Cushman, Ewell, and so on. Hackworth saves his most venomous--and most effective--attack for S. L. A. Marshall.

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  • Humanities and History
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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