In this brilliantly received memoir, former senator James Webb has outdone himself. It is rare in America that one individual is recognized for the highest levels of combat valor, as a respected member of the literary and journalistic world, and as a blunt-spoken leader in national politics. In this extraordinary memoir, Webb writes vividly about the early years that shaped such a remarkable personal journey.
Webb’s mother grew up in the poverty-stricken cotton fields of East Arkansas. His father and lifetime hero was the first in many generations of Webbs, whose roots are in Appalachia, to finish high school. He flew bombers in World War II and cargo planes in the Berlin Airlift, graduated from college in middle age, and became an expert in the nation’s most advanced weaponry.
Webb’s account of his childhood is a tremendous American saga as the family endures the constant moves and challenges of the rarely examined post–World War II military, with a stern but emotionally invested father, a loving mother who had borne four children by the age of twenty-four, a granite-like grandmother who held the family together during his father’s frequent deployments, and a rich assortment of aunts, siblings, and cousins. Webb tells of his four years at Annapolis in a voice that is painfully honest but in the end triumphant.
His description of Vietnam’s most brutal battlefields breaks new literary ground. One of the most highly decorated combat Marines of that war, he is a respected expert on the history and conduct of the war. Webb’s novelist’s eyes and ears invest this work with remarkable power, whether he is describing the resiliency that grew from constant relocations during his childhood, the longing for his absent father, his poignant good-bye to his parents as he leaves for Vietnam, his role as a twenty-three-year-old lieutenant through months of constant combat, or his election to the Senate, where he was a leader on national defense, foreign policy, and economic fairness. This is a life that could happen only in America.
James Webb, former senator from Virginia, has been a combat marine, a committee counsel in the Congress, an assistant secretary of defense and secretary of the Navy, an Emmy Award–winning journalist, a filmmaker, and the author of ten books. Mr. Webb has six children and lives in Northern Virginia with his wife Hong Le, who was born in Vietnam and is a graduate of Cornell Law School.
“The sweep of this wonderful book makes it the alpha and omega of the Cold War’s truest children. It begins with pride and patriotism that comes from living with warrior fathers and ends with illusion dispelled by a bloody little war in Vietnam. It’s a brilliant personal recollection that also brings alive a forgotten period of American history.”
– Wall Street Journal
“Webb is a terrific writer, a great war novelist…a compelling book.”
“An eloquent military memoir”
– Kirkus Reviews
“Webb writes not only of his life but also, of course, the forces and people who shaped him. He describes his memoir as “a love story — love of family, love of country, love of service” — and he supports those words with the candor and grace of this readable and revealing memoir.”
– Richmond Times-Dispatch
“I Heard My Country Calling is emblematic of many other Americans’ life stories, reflecting a sense of honor and patriotism that thankfully knows no generational bounds.”
– Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
“I Heard My Country Calling rings with unvarnished dictums . . . Without flinching, he tells us of the grisliness and heroism he witnessed as a Marine in Vietnam. . . . his narrative offers an inside, no-punches-held look at the life of a man to whom independence was more important than money or power. . . . riveting.”
– Washington Independent Review of Books
“Deeply moving . . . a delightful, mentally therapeutic, and engulfing book.”
– Military Review
“A fascinating account of [Webb’s] early life. . . . anintensely personal narrative that traces his development from sometime-studentto Naval Academy Midshipman, Marine officer, novelist, and political figure. .. . Fellow military brats will take particular delight in his description oftaking to the road with an impatient father and three siblings jammed into an automobile’sback seat . . . Webb’s wonderfully written book is more than a personalaccount; it is the story of a patriotic American who “heard his country calling.”
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