Homer Lea: American Soldier of Fortune. By Lawrence M. Kaplan. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2010. Maps. Photographs. Notes. Appendices. Bibliography. Index [include all of these that apply]. Pp. x, 314. $34.00. ISBN: 978-0-8131-2616-6
There are few today who remember Homer Lea and the impact he had on our national thinking and policy. He deserves more attention, and this work attempts to do that. He was an amazing, almost unbelievable, figure. How could a young, handicapped American with a modest background, become a lieutenant general in a twentieth-century foreign army? More importantly, what was the power of his intellect and convictions, as expressed in his writings and presentation, that impressed and influenced both U.S. and foreign decision makers?
I read his books in our library at home when I was young and was fascinated by his story; but, more significantly, I became aware that he was a respected advocate of policy, much as Emory Upton and Alfred Mahan also were in the military field, and Henry George, Frank Norris, and Jack London were in their realms. I was impressed by the fact that he was a lieutenant general in a foreign army. At that time, only fourteen men had held that grade in the U.S. Army starting with George Washington during the quasi-war with France in 1788 (and only seven four-star generals, again starting with Washington). I had met only the two-star commanding generals of the IX Corps and 40th Division who came to our home in San Francisco, so this was pretty impressive for a young lad to contemplate.
In August 1900, Lea was appointed a...