Marching On — A General’s Tales of War and Diplomacy, By Gordon Sumner, Jr., USA (Ret)

(Red Anvil Press, 2004; 150 pp., $19.95 — ISBN 1932762205).

This book is such a good read that I had trouble putting it down. Lt. Gen. Gordon Sumner has written a fascinating series of vignettes of his life in the Army in three wars, starting in World War II.

Sumner spices his book with stories about the real heroes he admired and the phony “heroes” who admired themselves. He speaks with great admiration of Gen. Abrams, former Chief of Staff, U.S. Army, and of General MacArthur. (A whole chapter is devoted to MacArthur.) But he is kind to the phonies: he lets them off with less condemnation than they deserve.

Along the way, he uses plain language that any veteran will appreciate, but not every journal will print.

Sumner points out that, as Chairman of the Inter-American Defense Board, he realized the critical importance of the Panama Canal. His superiors asked him to speak in favor of giving away our Canal. Heavy support for the giveaway would have been provided by such testimony from the Chairman, Inter-American Defense Board. He was offered a fourth star if he would testify for the giveaway. Sumner declined the bribe, testified against the giveaway, and retired from the Army.

Every book has some errors; this book is no exception, but the only error I could find is the statement that “the Democratic Senators who voted for the (Panama Canal giveaway) treaties were all voted out of office in the next election.” That’s not literally true, but it can be called “true in spirit”: of the Senators running for re-election, a majority of those who supported the giveaway were defeated in 1978 and again in 1980, while no Senator who was steadfast for holding the Canal was defeated in either year.
Don’t miss this book.