Into the Storm – A Study in Command – Book Review
Author: Tom Clancy with General Fred Franks Jr.
Although entirely different than many of Clancy’s works of fiction, Into the Storm: A Study in Command is filled with useful information and is certainly worth a look for anyone interested in the military aspects of the first Gulf War. The book also contains a fairly in-depth account of General Franks experiences in Vietnam, and his loss of part of a leg in that war. The story of how he struggled and largely overcame the limitations of this injury make for fascinating reading. After doing battle with a sea of red tape, Franks eventually persuaded the organization to allow him to continue to serve on active duty. At first, the Army attempted to place him in non-deployable roles such as a instructor, but Franks was determined to command in the field again and was eventually permitted to do so, rising to the rank of 4-star General.
Into the Storm: A Study in Command also includes some chapters on General Franks’ combat experiences in Vietnam and how the lessons he learned there helped to shape his ideas of how the U.S. Army needed to evolve and restructure in order to overcome the problems it had during that period. As he rose in command, Franks would later play an important role in helping to shape the U.S. Army into the professional fighting force that it is today.
The middle of the book tends to drag a bit as Clancy and Franks go into some detail about Army fighting doctrine and how it has evolved since the Vietnam War. This part of the book will probably only be of interest to a limited audience, as this part of the book is quite dry.
The final chapters of the book deal with Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm (the first Gulf War). The conduct of operations in the U.S. Army’s VII Corps area, under the command of General Franks, is dealt with in great detail and provides a host of useful information that can generally only be found in pure military history accounts of the operation. This part of the book is fairly detailed, those with no military experience may be bewildered by a lot of the terminology used to describe how the battle unfolded. It would have been useful if more detailed maps had been included so that the reader could follow along with the descriptions of the unfolding operation. The maps that are included are fairly general and do not include enough detail to do justice to the text.
The book is interesting in that at some points Clancy is doing the writing, and at other points it’s clearly Franks that is doing most of the talking. Toward the end of the book Franks does a lot of self justification on particular orders that he gave and the overall pace of the advance in the VII Corps area of operations.. One gets the distinct feeling he writes portions of the book in direct response to General Schwarzkopf’s own book, It doesn’t Take a Hero. Schwarzkopf was General Franks commander during the war and was not entirely pleased with VII Corps’ accomplishments and there has been some friction over the issue between the two men since General Schwarzkopf criticized some of his decisions. General Franks goes to some lengths to explain why certain things happened the way they did and his overall reasoning, but he almost beats this horse a little too much. Throughout this part of the book General Franks keeps his citicism of General Schwarzkopf low key, but some of it comes off as sounding a little too defensive and a little too shrill, with the end result that the theme gets a tad tiresome after a while. That being said, the friction between VII Corps and its higher headquarters is an important part of the story of this part of Operation Desert Storm, and it is appropriate the Franks explores the subject of how the two commands perceived the battle.
Although dry in a few spots, Into the Storm: A Study in Command does contains a wealth of information and should be on the shelf of every student of the first Gulf War.