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In Peace and War: A History of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point

1 rating: 5.0
A book by Jeffrey L. Cruikshank

Praise for In Peace and War    "A comprehensive, balanced, and compelling history of a first-class educational institution, and of the complex history it services."  --Sean T. Connaughton, Esq., Kings Point '83, Maritime … see full wiki

Author: Jeffrey L. Cruikshank
Publisher: Wiley
1 review about In Peace and War: A History of the U.S....

A well-balanced history that makes an obscure topic interesting

  • Apr 6, 2009
Rating:
+5
I think it's sort of charming that in the Foreword to this book, Admiral Joseph D. Stewart, then-superintendent of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, seems almost to apologize for the decision by the American Maritime History Project to begin the work that led to the writing of this book. After all, he says, a fine history of the USMMA already exists (We'll Deliver: The Early History of the United States Merchant Marine Academy, 1938-1956, by C. Bradford Mitchell). And although that book came out in 1977 and ends its narrative in the mid-1950s, Adm. Stewart seems concerned that readers will ask whether we really need *two* histories of Kings Point published within a mere 30 years of each other. Is that not, perhaps, wasteful? Somehow I don't imagine the supes of West Point or Annapolis wrestling with this issue as they contemplate what seems like the dozens of books published about their schools each year.

But then, it's in the nature of Kings Point to have to worry about resources, and also to have to justify itself to people. It's far from obvious why we have, or need, a Merchant Marine Academy -- and that's a question that's addressed only by the, I would imagine, relatively limited numbers of people who have heard of the place to begin with. I've had a casual project for some years of reading as much as I can about the Academy, and I can attest that there really are very few books in print about Kings Point -- when Adm. Stewart mentioned that history published in 1977, he really was talking about, so far as I can tell, the last substantive history of the school to have come out (there have been a few other books about Kings Point since, as summarized in my Listmania! list "America's Most Obscure Service Academy," but not many).

If we do have to wait three decades for the next KP history to come out, we're fortunate that this book is as good as it is. Although "In Peace and War" will, by virtue of its subject, never constitute the sort of "popular history" readers will flock to after they finish the latest massive biography of a Founding Father, this book is actually a very good example of how an obscure topic can be made accessible and even interesting in the hands of skilled writers. This volume could have gone in all kinds of directions, or take distracting digressions into campus politics, legislative history, industry jargon, deep personality studies, dramatic war stories, or even forgotten athletic battles. I've seen Kings Point books do almost all those things. But "In Peace and War" maintains an excellent balance between these various inputs, so to speak, without going too heavily into any one of them. It made for a book that moves at a good pace, retained my interest nearly constantly (I did skim in a few places), and made me feel like I had really learned something at the end. Nothing to apologize for in any of that.

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