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I Heard My Country Calling: A Memoir

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James Webb, author of Fields of Fire, the classic novel of the Vietnam War - former U.S. Senator; Secretary of the Navy; recipient of the Navy Cross, Silver Star and Purple Heart as a combat Marine; and a self-described “military brat” - has written an extraordinary memoir of his early years, “a love story - love of family, love of country, love of service,” in his words. W James Webb, author of Fields of Fire, the classic novel of the Vietnam War - former U.S. Senator; Secretary of the Navy; recipient of the Navy Cross, Silver Star and Purple Heart as a combat Marine; and a self-described “military brat” - has written an extraordinary memoir of his early years, “a love story - love of family, love of country, love of service,” in his words. Webb’s mother grew up in the poverty-stricken cotton fields of Eastern Arkansas. His father and life-time hero was the first of many generations of Webbs, whose roots are in Appalachia, to finish high school. He flew bombers in World War II, 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 his stern but emotionally invested father, loving and resolute mother, a granite-like grandmother who held the family together during his father’s frequent deployments, and an assortment of invincible aunts, siblings, and cousins. His account of his four years at Annapolis are 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 goodbye to his parents as he leaves for Vietnam, his role as a 23-year-old lieutenant through months of constant combat, or his election to the Senate where he was known for his expertise in national defense, foreign policy, and economic fairness. This is a life that could only happen in America.


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James Webb, author of Fields of Fire, the classic novel of the Vietnam War - former U.S. Senator; Secretary of the Navy; recipient of the Navy Cross, Silver Star and Purple Heart as a combat Marine; and a self-described “military brat” - has written an extraordinary memoir of his early years, “a love story - love of family, love of country, love of service,” in his words. W James Webb, author of Fields of Fire, the classic novel of the Vietnam War - former U.S. Senator; Secretary of the Navy; recipient of the Navy Cross, Silver Star and Purple Heart as a combat Marine; and a self-described “military brat” - has written an extraordinary memoir of his early years, “a love story - love of family, love of country, love of service,” in his words. Webb’s mother grew up in the poverty-stricken cotton fields of Eastern Arkansas. His father and life-time hero was the first of many generations of Webbs, whose roots are in Appalachia, to finish high school. He flew bombers in World War II, 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 his stern but emotionally invested father, loving and resolute mother, a granite-like grandmother who held the family together during his father’s frequent deployments, and an assortment of invincible aunts, siblings, and cousins. His account of his four years at Annapolis are 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 goodbye to his parents as he leaves for Vietnam, his role as a 23-year-old lieutenant through months of constant combat, or his election to the Senate where he was known for his expertise in national defense, foreign policy, and economic fairness. This is a life that could only happen in America.

30 review for I Heard My Country Calling: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Gerry

    I have several “favorite” parts in this book – each part is captured within a timeframe of one James Webb growing years. The love he held for his parents, siblings, Nanny, and Aunt Lena only proves his solid footing. Early on within the book we discover the effects of the period of Reconstruction to the Southern States in America. FDR rightfully had ordered the National Emergency Council in 1937 an investigation to the economic conditions as they existed in the Southern States – in short, the re I have several “favorite” parts in this book – each part is captured within a timeframe of one James Webb growing years. The love he held for his parents, siblings, Nanny, and Aunt Lena only proves his solid footing. Early on within the book we discover the effects of the period of Reconstruction to the Southern States in America. FDR rightfully had ordered the National Emergency Council in 1937 an investigation to the economic conditions as they existed in the Southern States – in short, the report was devastating and there are simply too many issues to list here of how whatever was produced was being shipped North and “It’s citizens reduced to wage laborers.” To add insult to injury here with 28% of nations population located here; only 16% of the tangible assets, including machines, factories, and the tools with which people make a living. With half the country’s farmers in the South has less than a fifth of necessary implements in which to farm….1930 there were nearly twice as many farms with 20 acres or less than there had been in 1880. This as 97.8% of the population in the Southern States which were native born.” This last statistic on population totaled 36 million living souls. In short, what this means is that when the report hit the desk of the then President he understood that when Depression hit – Southern States populated with all these people couldn’t tell the difference, Senator Webb confirms this for the reader. Some of my favorite parts of this book bring to life the true Senator Webb, he described his father as “Garrulous, smart, and given his extroversion naturally entertaining, my dad was a born lecturer.” In a Post WW II Europe when the Webb family is assigned to England for two years we learn of a young boy in Jim Webb who “In the ponds of Kennsington Gardens and Hyde Park, boys my age dressed in woolen shorts and knee-high socks spent their days racing homemade wooden boats equipped with pencil masts and paper sails. Nearby under blankets in the grass and on the benches of the parks, teenage lovers curled together openly, even as proper Britishers turned their eyes away from such public displays. The openness of their love-making was a tacit recognition that almost everyone’s privacy had in some manner been blasted away during the war by German bombs that had devastated homes.” This description for me held a somewhat Hemingway-esqueness to the description. Senator Webb continues with life, family, moving as his father was a career U.S. Army Air Corps pilot – later turned effective and intelligent Administrative Officer in the U.S. Air Force and later James Webb, Jr. ends up himself in the “technical college of the U.S. Navy Academy” where he decides to become a Marine Officer. During his last year at the Academy and a four striper Upper Classman, part of his specific duties as Administrative Officer was to bring to the Brigade First Lieutenant the casualty reports from Vietnam. The Lieutenant would then update the pictures of “To Those Who Went Before Us” boards in the Rotunda. The board was filling up with many faces known to Naval Cadets at the Academy – in this particular instance one Chuck Warner, USMC who was one of the previous Upper Classmen that tormented Cadet James Webb was one of the first he had to report that had been killed in the fields of Vietnam – to say this had an internal impact for the time is to only state the obvious – the words he wrote at this particular location of the book simply have to be read to gain full appreciation. I was a Marine serving at the time of Senator Webb’s tenure as Navy Secretary during the Reagan Presidency. This was certainly a time of effective leadership – compared to when I first had entered in January of 1980 during the Carter Administration where the military was still debilitated and feeling “beat” from the effects of the Vietnam War – by the time then Senator Webb became Secretary of the Navy we had returned to a tide of time whereby some of the respect for the military was on full throttle of acceptance to civilian America. The Vietnam War Memorial was already up by that time. My favorite chapter by far was the last chapter the “Aunt Lena’s Test” – by this point we have discovered the internal torment that Senator Webb confronts with PTSD, but this chapter should more have been entitled “Aunt Lena’s Test and Politics.” It is here after his appointment by President Reagan as Navy Secretary he takes a scolding for working for a Republican President. She points out to (then) Secretary Webb that neither party cared for effects upon Southern States and that Politicians are filled with “smiles and empty promises.” There is more of course but this chapter encapsulates a book that is nothing short honest, open, and clear. Senator Webb doesn’t write a rosy picture of himself – he has made errors and he acknowledges this. In this manner this book is true to form, true to self and reminds all of us that there is more to people than how they vote politically. Senator Webb certainly would make a true and great American President if in the future he put forth the effort in a better way than he did in 2015 for the Democratic Primary. His sense of self, family, Scot-Irish background and work ethic among his loyalty to country make him in my view the leader this Nation of our needs. I recall that first Democratic Primary Debate in which when asked “Who’s Your Enemy” Senator Webb answered that “he is lying dead somewhere in Vietnam”; previous to this Secretary Clinton stated “Republicans.” As a Veteran I do not consider persons who vote different from me as my “enemy” – most times it is simply too hard to distinguish between the lapel pins on the collar against the voting records of the many on Capitol Hill. As an everyday normal guy and American I do not feel that either party fairly represents “me”; the current Administration certainly created more division than unity and this is where the failure and legacy will lay – continuously President Obama thinks we are all “idiots” and his condescending nature of speaking on topics only proves this. Most certainly every time he speaks of a Senator or Candidate for President abroad in negative fashion – he proves his inexperience and lack of sound judgement to which our Allies abroad have come to believe they can have no faith in the United States. This is my opinion of course, and it is free to me under my First Amendment right under the U.S. Constitution.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mark Mortensen

    James Webb Jr. has a story to tell. Among his many credentials he has thus far served as Assistant Secretary of Defense, Secretary of the Navy and U.S. Senator from Virginia where after one term he voluntarily walked away from office on his own terms. This memoir captures his early days through his Marine Corps service in Vietnam and very briefly touches upon his political career. Having written several novels the multi-talented Webb has a flair for writing. As a military brat, the son of a dema James Webb Jr. has a story to tell. Among his many credentials he has thus far served as Assistant Secretary of Defense, Secretary of the Navy and U.S. Senator from Virginia where after one term he voluntarily walked away from office on his own terms. This memoir captures his early days through his Marine Corps service in Vietnam and very briefly touches upon his political career. Having written several novels the multi-talented Webb has a flair for writing. As a military brat, the son of a demanding Air Force career officer, the Webb family zigzagged across America and for a period England, moving sometimes 2 or 3 times a year. James Jr. noted his father was totally focused even in his spare time driving cross-country, as if on a B-29 mission: “As he drove, my mother became the navigator, and we were the crew, although it wasn’t clear whom he wanted to bomb….His eyes were intent never leaving the road in front of us.” James Jr. saw through the toughness of his father and he desired to create his own mark. Some higher education schools excel and maintain an excellent reputation because they seek a different path to success. Webb sought to enter the Naval Academy and fortunately one major interviewer was looking for: “…leaders who might turn into scholars, not scholars who might or might not turn into leaders.” He was admitted to the Annapolis institution graduating with an engineering degree in the class of 1968. Physical conditioning was important to Webb and the gifted boxer garnered a reputation for beating the best in his weight class. With a disdain for communism and socialism and a belief that military service trumps politics Webb committed to Marine Corps service ensuring 9 years of his life (college and military) would be devoted to dedication and sacrifice at the full discretion of others. He served as a combat officer in Vietnam during the roughest period of 1968-69 receiving two Purple Hearts. His unit was the 1st Battalion 5th Regiment of WWI fame that my grandfather fought with. Webb’s path in life was far from easy but he rose through his own determination to become a role model not just for those of the Vietnam era, but for other generations before and after. The man with both an engineering and law degree could be a Democratic challenger to Hillary Clinton in 2016.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Charlie

    I barely gave this book a 3. Gave it a three only because it was well written. I really had a hard time trying to read this memoir of ex-senator James Webb because of way too much info. Yes, it is all about James Webb and for me it got very tiring to read. I didn't know much about him before and really not sure if I want to know much about him anyway, unless of course he becomes the next President. LOL. I did receive this book FREE from Goodreads.com for a fair review from me. What I will do is I barely gave this book a 3. Gave it a three only because it was well written. I really had a hard time trying to read this memoir of ex-senator James Webb because of way too much info. Yes, it is all about James Webb and for me it got very tiring to read. I didn't know much about him before and really not sure if I want to know much about him anyway, unless of course he becomes the next President. LOL. I did receive this book FREE from Goodreads.com for a fair review from me. What I will do is to pass this book on to someone else that would appreciate a memoir of James Webb. So, not all is lost.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Justin Daniel

    James Webb is a retired: Marine Captain, journalist, producer, Secretary of the Navy, and most recently, United States Senator from Virginia. He is also a prospective United States Presidential Canidate for the Democratic Party. From this brief list of his accolades, James Webb has a lot to say about his interesting life. From the many moves of his early childhood as a military brat to the rice paddies of Vietnam, this was certainly an entertaining reflection of a life well spent. For my readers James Webb is a retired: Marine Captain, journalist, producer, Secretary of the Navy, and most recently, United States Senator from Virginia. He is also a prospective United States Presidential Canidate for the Democratic Party. From this brief list of his accolades, James Webb has a lot to say about his interesting life. From the many moves of his early childhood as a military brat to the rice paddies of Vietnam, this was certainly an entertaining reflection of a life well spent. For my readers who follow this blog, you all know that I am pretty into military history and, more importantly, Marines. Webb had a lifelong passion to join the military in the footsteps of his father who retired as an Air Force Colonel and who also served in the last days of WWII. Webb details his life with unrelenting detail, illustrating his childhood and the conditions that led up to his decision to join the Naval Academy. He was a semi-professional boxer, excellent student, an avid reader, and really an intellectual from an early age. During his time at the academy, he details the harsh realities of "Pleb" year and how that benefitted him during his combat tours in Vietnam. Webb joined the Marine Corps as a 2nd Lieutenant and shortly after "the Basic School" in Quantico, Virginia, the Marine Corps training school for fresh Lieutenants to become a platoon commander, he was shipped out to Vietnam. He received two purple hearts during his time there and wrote a famous book entitled, "Fields of Fire," which I plan to read soon. After his time in Vietnam, he ceases to be as detailed about his life. Perhaps he thought his book was running too long to carefully notate everything as he did earlier. I would have loved to hear about his experience as Secretary of the Navy and about his time in the Senate. Instead, he leaves us with a moving passage about being true to the people he represented instead of following money on Capitol Hill. This is a very well-written account by James Webb and his life. What I find a little annoying is all the political jargon amidst the careful anecdotes of his life. Early on he dictates the conditions his mother lived through during the Great Depression, but sidesteps the facts to detail a long diatribe on how the South has always been more poor and more taken advantage of then the North. While this may be true, it really is irrelevant to the story. All the detail in this several-page rant could be boiled down to something that would have been more significant than a politically driven agenda. But I suppose what can we expect from someone who just retired from the Senate? He has another sort of rant that speaks about the change in our military (which I found more interesting). Back in the day, he explains, the military was a single man's game. After the Korean War, money was diverted to programs that are geared more towards families such as base housing and food chains on base. He mentions Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, where I just came from, and says that one could live their entire deployment on the base without having to leave. This is largely true and a by-product of these innovations in the 1950's and 60's. Overall, James Webb is an incredibly interesting man, and although I may disagree with some of his politics, he chose to lay his life on the line for his country as a servant, from the many moves that comes with being in a military family, to being a platoon commander in Vietnam, to eventually becoming a United States Senator. I believe that this, not politics, is the heart of the book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Edward Carroll

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I sped through this book -Jim Webb is a great writer and I admire him. I finished it and scratched my head - what did I just read? And, the more I think about it, the more I feel cheated by this story. Jim Webb is an impressive person with many accomplishments, a Naval Academy graduate, infantryman in Vietnam, a Georgetown Law graduate, a successful writer, Secretary of the Navy and a U.S. Senator. We learn about those accomplishments but almost nothing about his experiences in each. Much of the I sped through this book -Jim Webb is a great writer and I admire him. I finished it and scratched my head - what did I just read? And, the more I think about it, the more I feel cheated by this story. Jim Webb is an impressive person with many accomplishments, a Naval Academy graduate, infantryman in Vietnam, a Georgetown Law graduate, a successful writer, Secretary of the Navy and a U.S. Senator. We learn about those accomplishments but almost nothing about his experiences in each. Much of the book talks about his young life, with much, sometimes excruciating, detail about his birth family, their moves and his young life. He spends probably two-thirds of the book in this area. Then, it begins to get more interesting as he enters the Naval Academy. He describes some about his life there, and then about his time as an infantryman in Vietnam. He gives us a snapshot of those times but nowhere near the detail that he had about his family. He does show how his background encouraged him serve and do his duty, in the most difficult way, in the highly unpopular Vietnam war. After that he talks about his life after Vietnam, but he skims over most of it. He omits anything about being Secretary of the Navy, being a journalist, or being a Senator (other than a brief vignette and some impressive statistics.). What is stunning about the book is not what he includes but what he leaves out. He tells us all about his birth family but nothing about his adult family. He cursorily mentions his first wife twice, his second wife not at all and his current wife a few times, with no detail. He mentions camping with his daughter, but that is the only mention of his children in the book that I could find; his other children and life with them is not mentioned. He does not mention how he himself felt about his son being called to duty in a war that Jim Webb opposed (the Iraq War), which might have the most interesting part of all. He mentions some of his distinguished class mates at the Naval Academy but omits that one of them was Oliver North (yes, the Colonel Oliver North) and that he once lost a boxing match to Oliver North on points. The biggest disappointment is that he did not discuss much of the experiences of his adult life. Curiously, he includes a line in the book that says "someone once said that a successful life is really a series of minor failures'. This book, tells of his successes but doesn't tell of his failures or shortcomings. It is a fine book to read but I finished the book with the feeling that I knew very little about Jim Webb as a person. If he had continued his narrative in his adult life as he did growing up, this would easily be a 4 or 5 star book.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Karl Alexander

    MEMOIR OR MYSTERY? A good book envelopes you with its world and leaves you wanting more. When that same book leaves you with more questions than answers—much like bomb craters in the An Hoa Basin—you wonder how it really went down. The best parts of “I Heard My Country Calling” are the Vietnam War memories. As a marine veteran from that same war, I can relate to C-rations (now MREs), immersion foot, malaria and booby traps (now IEDs) that either build character or kill you. And, yes, the book remi MEMOIR OR MYSTERY? A good book envelopes you with its world and leaves you wanting more. When that same book leaves you with more questions than answers—much like bomb craters in the An Hoa Basin—you wonder how it really went down. The best parts of “I Heard My Country Calling” are the Vietnam War memories. As a marine veteran from that same war, I can relate to C-rations (now MREs), immersion foot, malaria and booby traps (now IEDs) that either build character or kill you. And, yes, the book reminded me of that special camaraderie that comes with being a marine. That alone made the read worthwhile. Almost. Webb also details his early years as a military brat, yet there is a strange Disneyesque tone to these sections despite the hardships. In fact, Webb spends so much time idealizing his father that we wonder why he keeps bringing it up. Is he over-compensating? Or hiding something? There are other “craters” in this memoir that should have been written about. Obviously, Webb gets divorced from his first wife. For many of us, divorce is a painful and existential process, yet Webb never mentions this time in his life. The last time we hear of Barbara Webb, she is a psychiatric social worker in Riverside, California. Webb mentions his children, but never describes his relationships with them or how he raised them (if he did) while he was moving from place to place, in law school, trying to find himself and unemployed. I admire him for writing “Fields of Fire.” I’d admire him more if he was bonding with his kids at the same time. Though an Air Force colonel, Webb’s father tried to talk him out of serving in the Marine Corps because of the Vietnam War. Webb says that he, too, tried to talk his own son out of another absurd war, this one in Iraq. He never elaborates. To raise this parallel and then just drop it is a travesty. Webb never goes into detail about his tenure as Secretary of the Navy, either? Why not? What did you do, Jim? And what did you try to do when you were a senator? I knew before reading this book that James Webb was a bright, remarkable man, and after his combat experiences, lucky to be alive. He tells us more than once about the times he has won and succeeded in life. He leaves out loss and failure, yet you know it’s there somewhere. I was left frustrated by this book, wanting to know the other side of James Webb. —Karl Alexander, author of “Two,” “Time After Time,” and other books.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Marc

    Unlike other memoirs by Vietnam veterans, this one doesn't concentrate on the author's tour of duty. In fact, Webb doesn't get to Vietnam till more than 250 pages in. He concentrates, instead, on the story of his family as he grew up. And it works. Webb is a good writer and he conveys his childhood and adolescence very well, including his time at the U.S. Naval Academy.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Robert Davidson

    Very good memoir by Mr. Webb who who has lived a full life and exemplifies the best of America in always trying to do " The Right Thing" despite many difficult situations. He does not mince words probably due to his Marine Corp training and so gives some interesting opinions on the Times in which he grew up. A Memoir also about Family and how important it is in shaping one's life. Great read.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Greynomad

    I got the feeling that I was reading a want to be for his next run at office……………….

  10. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    I Heard My Country Calling is the memoir of a modern American hero, written after he left the U. S. Senate in 2012, perhaps, in anticipation of a 2016 presidential campaign. This is a man who knows how to write and who has demonstrated courage and intellect well beyond the reach of most presidential aspirants. And he gives us a tour of ourselves after WWII that is well worth the ride. A Naval Academy graduate and highly decorated Marine, James Henry Webb Jr. was an Air Force brat from a hard-scra I Heard My Country Calling is the memoir of a modern American hero, written after he left the U. S. Senate in 2012, perhaps, in anticipation of a 2016 presidential campaign. This is a man who knows how to write and who has demonstrated courage and intellect well beyond the reach of most presidential aspirants. And he gives us a tour of ourselves after WWII that is well worth the ride. A Naval Academy graduate and highly decorated Marine, James Henry Webb Jr. was an Air Force brat from a hard-scrabble Appalachian Scots-Irish family. His father—-a doppleganger for Pat Conroy's Great Santini—-flew B-29s in WWII and jets in the early 1950s until a flying accident forced him to the desk. Brought up as a patriot, Webb chose the USMC after graduation from the Naval Academy and earned top honors for leadership. He served as a platoon commander and company commander in Viet Nam, earning a Navy Cross (second only to the Medal of Honor), a Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, and two Purple Hearts. He returned with a love for that country--he speaks Vietnamese and his third wife is Vietnamese-American. He has written several outstanding books (His 1978 Fields of Fire is among the best Viet Nam books I’ve read--see review), including a nonfiction study of the role of the Scots-Irish in Amercan history. During the Reagan administration Webb served in several Pentagon-related positions, ending with brief service as the Secretary of the Navy, a position he resigned to protest plans to cut the Navy. In 2006 he was narrowly elected a democratic senator from Virginia; turned off by the Senate’s dysfunctionality, he decided not to run for reelection in 2012. He is a moderate democrat whose past experience has given credibility to his support for a strong military and a firm opposition to foreign interventions. He is a man to respect—-a political moderate, an intellectual warrior, an articulate and thought-filled man, a man who takes no prisoners (he was once described as “constantly blurting out the truth.”) This last might explain why his half-life in politics has been so short. Webb’s youth was familiar to many of us who were military brats. Dad was rarely around, but when he was home the entire family stood at attention. While Webb Sr.'s flying years were cut short, he stayed in the Air Force and eventually became part of the Strategic Air Command’s First Missile Division. The family moved repeatedly at Uncle Sam’s bidding: in one year they had four different postings. Webb’s recollections of life as a peripatetic military child spell out a memory common to many of us baby-boomers: the boredom of cross-country drives to new digs, marked by Burma-Shave jingles strewn along the highway; living on military bases, always the most unattractive surroundings in the general area, then leaving new-found friends as the family moved on; developing an ability to read a room quickly to identify its magnetic lines of force as we acclimated to new schools and new neighbors. A new America was formed after WWII, promoted by a new mobility. Webb captures this well in his discussions of the poverty so common in the south and of the North-South economic rift that led to northern migration. He shows an appealing sensitivity to the social issues created by wide and widening income distribution because he has been there. But I think he discounts new forces inducing mobility after the war. America has always been mobile, but before WWII mobility came primarily from individual initiative as families moved to improve their opportunities; it was motivated entirely by personal choice, and it is the mobility that Webb recognizes. After WWII, mobility was induced by the new large organizations that shaped our lives and provided our employment: a federal government that commanded a standing military and sent families like the Webbs hither and yon, and the new large corporations with national and international reach, which moved employees around like chess pieces. Mobility has always been a matter of choice, but the choices available changed after the war as job security within a bureaucracy replaced the “place” security of home and neighborhood. Webb’s description of life at the Naval Academy conforms to other reportss. Plebe year was more than difficult, though the hazing allowed (and encouraged) served a broader purpose than a civilian could understand—-it established a conformity to command that suppressed the natural desire for democracy and debate that is destructive in the fragile setting of combat. It was harsh, but it was designed to save lives and achieve the mission. But there were moments of hilarity. On top of the harassment, the exhaustion from never resting and always being on a tight schedule (“trying to stuff ten pounds of shit into a five-pound bag”), and the pressure to study (one F was grounds for dismissal), midshipmen were expected to learn to dance. This was done through mass instruction with each midshipman following the shouted directions of an instructor, all dancing alone. Field experience came at the end-of-semester Tea Fight. For Webb’s class, this began with 600 classmates formed at one end of the room facing 400 imported female college students at the other end. When the men were released to choose their date for the dance, a spontaneous moan of “Moo Moo Moo” issued from the men. Then, as they stampeded toward the women they broke into the theme song from the hit TV western Rawhide—“Roll ‘em, Roll ‘em, Roll ‘em.” The cadets certainly knew what this was all about—a cattle call—and the women must have been scared to death. Graduation brought a trip to Viet Nam as a new Marine second lieutenant. Webb discusses some larger lessons from the experience, and does a credible job of outlining the complexities that led uds to win the battles but lose the war. He does not highlight his own heroism, not even mentioning the events that earned him the Navy Cross. With two purple hearts, he was forced to leave the field in spite of his objections; his injuries ultimately caused his demobilization. Webb’s memoir is about who he is. What he has done is secondary, brought in only to illustrate how it has shaped the man named James Henry Webb Jr. Notable in its absence are his heroism in Viet Nam—-just how did he earn such high awards for valor?—-and the details of his public service after the war. If this book is designed as an introduction to a man with Presidential aspirations, it does its job very well without the self-appreciation most commonly found in that genre. Before reading it I knew the basics of his service and had read (some of) his books, but I knew nothing of him as a person and as a potential leader. I am not “of his party,” and the little he says about domestic issues identifies problems but suggests no solutions. Still, this is a man I would look to for leadership in a difficult world—-a moderate with a concern for the disadvantaged but an awareness of the unintended consequences of policies to address that, a person of personal courage, a citizen-scholar with a vision for the U. S. role in its global future, and a man with remarkably appealing personal attributes. Could he actually be a good president? It might be worth finding out. We have done worse on slimmer evidence. Four stars.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Rob

    Webb is a terrific writer, a great war novelist. "Fields of Fire," his combat experience as a Marine in Vietnam, is a favorite. An Annapolis graduate, former Secretary of the Navy, and U.S. Senator from Virginia, Webb’s memoir begins in the 50s and 60s where he grew up as a military brat, reflecting a unique sense of honor and patriotism experienced by military families. Further into his career, Webb is not shy in offering a critical inside look at Annapolis, the Defense Department, Congress, an Webb is a terrific writer, a great war novelist. "Fields of Fire," his combat experience as a Marine in Vietnam, is a favorite. An Annapolis graduate, former Secretary of the Navy, and U.S. Senator from Virginia, Webb’s memoir begins in the 50s and 60s where he grew up as a military brat, reflecting a unique sense of honor and patriotism experienced by military families. Further into his career, Webb is not shy in offering a critical inside look at Annapolis, the Defense Department, Congress, and the political realities of being a senator from Virginia. For military history and political junkies, it’s an intriguing, well written book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    David

    Excellent memoir of Senator James Webb, who came from a long line of military veterans in his family who have served America, "when they heard their country call." Describes in detail the sacrifices that all military members and their families must make to keep the core value of "Service Before Self." Vivid illustrations detail James' life from childhood through and including his Senate years and illustrate how duty and sacrifice is indeed bred into many Americans by family environment. Semper F Excellent memoir of Senator James Webb, who came from a long line of military veterans in his family who have served America, "when they heard their country call." Describes in detail the sacrifices that all military members and their families must make to keep the core value of "Service Before Self." Vivid illustrations detail James' life from childhood through and including his Senate years and illustrate how duty and sacrifice is indeed bred into many Americans by family environment. Semper Fi James Webb!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tgandco2

    James Webb now one of my favourite authors writes another great book. An interesting memoir on his life while adding fantastic insights into military family life, the Vietnam war, US politics as a senator and much more. One of the most thoughtful and best written authors every (in my view). I also think it says a lot about the state of the US political system that a person like James Webb decides not to rerun for US senate because he does not want to get sucked into the corruption of the politic James Webb now one of my favourite authors writes another great book. An interesting memoir on his life while adding fantastic insights into military family life, the Vietnam war, US politics as a senator and much more. One of the most thoughtful and best written authors every (in my view). I also think it says a lot about the state of the US political system that a person like James Webb decides not to rerun for US senate because he does not want to get sucked into the corruption of the political process but the US votes in a person like Trump. Really with readying the book

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lee

    Lots of good historical perspective on the Vietnam War, the changes in how our military functions and has evolved, but needed to keep forcing myself to read on. I'm impressed a man, Jim Webb, can be so determined, focused when necessary and diverse in talent, skill and accomplishment. I rate 3 stars because the read was not always enjoyable, maybe because the US history and values during the time span of this book are not that admirable.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Don Kent

    Most autobiographies are rightly accused of being self-agrandizing and this book is no exception. However, this excellent author paints a clear history of military life and the Vietnam war and most importantly to me a timely analysis of the extant political situation in the USofA. The very last chapter is especially meaningful.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    3.5 stars I found this memoir by James Webb to be . . . uneven. I enjoyed the format: The beginning of each chapter set the period in historical context with some most interesting perspectives. That then was followed by Sen. Webb’s life experiences. Although he (and some GR reviewers) commented on his writing talents, the style was sometimes a bit flowery for me, and the end really didn’t fit with the rest of the book. I also thought that while he was understandably proud of his achievements, the 3.5 stars I found this memoir by James Webb to be . . . uneven. I enjoyed the format: The beginning of each chapter set the period in historical context with some most interesting perspectives. That then was followed by Sen. Webb’s life experiences. Although he (and some GR reviewers) commented on his writing talents, the style was sometimes a bit flowery for me, and the end really didn’t fit with the rest of the book. I also thought that while he was understandably proud of his achievements, there were times when it seemed a bit boastful. I skimmed the Academy years, but read closely his time in the Bush. Finally, admittedly I am not the historian that he is, but I did bristle a bit at what I saw as a one-sided discussion of the merits of his plan for Guam (without the countering facts of the environmental damage that overdeveloping it is causing) and at his failure to mention WHY the Okinawans wanted the Marines off their island and thus the reason for their possible placement on the American-owned territory. Having said all that, here is why I WOULD recommend this book: Sen Webb was among the vanguard of SAC brats (USAF dependents whose fathers were in the newly-organized Strategic Air Command). He is about a decade older than I am and I too spent my youth and adolescence as an Air Force dependent on SAC bases. I had never given any thought to the infrastructure that needed to be so hurriedly put in place to accommodate military families. While all military brats can rattle off the dozen or more schools they attended and lament the difficulties of the lifestyle, he brought the point home that, for example at Vandenburg, there WERE no schools and few amenities (i.e., the ubiquitous base teen centers, etc.) that Boomers even a few years his junior took for granted. He does a fine job in the first third of the book explaining the life of the military family of the Cold War era, and for that reason, I would recommend it to the brat tribe.

  17. 4 out of 5

    R.

    "I Heard My Country Calling: A Memoir" by James Webb, is really two books. In the first instance, Webb's latest book is a well-written reminiscence of a childhood and an America that once was. At times a bit overly written and overly dramatic, Webb recounts his travels throughout childhood across a nation coming into its own during the Cold War. True to form, Webb also writes of his time in Vietnam, but focuses more on the people that the war changed and less on his own exploits resulting in thi "I Heard My Country Calling: A Memoir" by James Webb, is really two books. In the first instance, Webb's latest book is a well-written reminiscence of a childhood and an America that once was. At times a bit overly written and overly dramatic, Webb recounts his travels throughout childhood across a nation coming into its own during the Cold War. True to form, Webb also writes of his time in Vietnam, but focuses more on the people that the war changed and less on his own exploits resulting in things such as Bronze Stars and a Navy Cross. Webb also sketches an outline of his post-war, post- school years. This version of his memoir is okay, but context is everything. If this had been someone other than Webb, the reader would be shaking their head trying to figure out why there are so many gaps and holes in the narrative. Enter the second version, or second part, of this book. Webb recently dropped out of the Democratic primary race, and now is loudly toying with the idea of a run as an Independent. Like every good politician, Webb uses the platform of this book as a narrative of his background and of the events that shaped his wold view. Unlike most other national politicians, Webb still maintains a sense of quiet humility that has been a trademark of his public career. It may also be his undoing on the national stage. This memoir does nothing to describe Webb's position on the issues of the day, which may further burden his recognition and appeal. At the same time, the memoir does a very good jog of lacing together the story of what motivates Webb, and explains the forces that resulted in the man he has become today. In that regard, the book may prove to be brilliantly done. Together, the "two books" are frustratingly good reads. This review is the product of a complimentary copy of the book provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

  18. 5 out of 5

    H.W. Bernard

    James Webb is a unique individual. A glance at his resume tells you that. Naval Academy grad, Marine combat veteran (two Purple Hearts in Vietnam), accomplished author, Congressional committee counsel, an assistant secretary of defense, Secretary of the Navy, Emmy Award-winning journalist, U. S. senator, and on and on. Before I was even aware of Webb's many other accomplishments, I already was a fan of his novels, FIELDS OF FIRE being perhaps his most famous. I HEARD MY COUNTRY CALLING: A MEMOIR James Webb is a unique individual. A glance at his resume tells you that. Naval Academy grad, Marine combat veteran (two Purple Hearts in Vietnam), accomplished author, Congressional committee counsel, an assistant secretary of defense, Secretary of the Navy, Emmy Award-winning journalist, U. S. senator, and on and on. Before I was even aware of Webb's many other accomplishments, I already was a fan of his novels, FIELDS OF FIRE being perhaps his most famous. I HEARD MY COUNTRY CALLING: A MEMOIR is a combination memoir/history book. Being just a few years older than Webb, I identified with the memoir portion of his story, especially growing up in the '50s and '60s. And while I wasn't a combat solider in Vietnam, I was there. The chapter titled "Hell in a Very Small Place," is a vivid reminder--I keep hoping we don't need any more, but we always do--that when we wave flags and shout Hooray and send our military off to fight, that the "military" isn't an abstract notion or faceless entity. It's our sons and daughters, our husbands and wives, our grandsons and granddaughters. When we put our military in harm's way--and yes, I understand that's its job--we irrevocably change the lives of the youth who comprise our combatant forces. Such decisions must always be made with that notion as a key element. Webb understands that. He's thoughtful, wise, and totally dedicated to his country. As a U. S. senator, he actually believed you should be beholden to the good of the country, not lobbyists' dollars or getting reelected or party dogma. After six years in Congress, Webb realized he was never going to effect change from within that petrified branch of our government. He didn't run for reelection. He wrote a memoir instead. Everyone should read it. And maybe hope there are a few more men like James Webb, listening for the call of their country.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Book

    "‘I Heard My Country Calling"’ written by James Webb are great memoir of a man who can say that he truly lived a rich life, but most of all that he was a true American patriot who always above all put the interest of the community and the country where he was born. James Webb in his life went through many interesting, exciting and dangerous events - as a Marine he received Navy Cross, Silver Star and Purple Heart, while in his political career he managed to become Secretary of the Navy and U.S. S "‘I Heard My Country Calling"’ written by James Webb are great memoir of a man who can say that he truly lived a rich life, but most of all that he was a true American patriot who always above all put the interest of the community and the country where he was born. James Webb in his life went through many interesting, exciting and dangerous events - as a Marine he received Navy Cross, Silver Star and Purple Heart, while in his political career he managed to become Secretary of the Navy and U.S. Senator. Born right after the WW II finished, in a family of former WW II airman it was not a wonder that James wanted to continue on the path that his father had outlined. Though describing events from his youth, for me the best part of book were actually the part that deals with war in Vietnam and the role he personally played in it. After being awarded medals for courage, Webb will return to US, graduate Law School and began to write. In everything he did James was successful and therefore it is not surprising that his novel "‘Fields of Fire"’ became one of the most important books about conflict in Vietnam. In the final part of the book he talks about his political career and his opposition to wars and US interventions, far to the east, while the book ends with Webb'’s well-earned retirement after a turbulent life. "‘I Heard My Country Calling"’ is a story in which there are no sentiment, instead reader will be introduced to a man who never complained about himself, a man who on the first place always tried to help his country. And therefore James Webb'’s autobiography full of interesting and patriotic stories is definitely worth a read.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Celia Crotteau

    Webb reviews his life up to his return from Vietnam, though he does refer to other events such as his Senatorial service and his writing career. Mostly, however, this book tells the story of a military brat. As I call myself, for lack of a better term, an oil brat, moving frequently worldwide due to my father's career, I related to many of the experiences Webb details. More: Webb graduated from the Naval Academy in 1968, the same year as my husband, who spent 24 years in the Navy. I found the le Webb reviews his life up to his return from Vietnam, though he does refer to other events such as his Senatorial service and his writing career. Mostly, however, this book tells the story of a military brat. As I call myself, for lack of a better term, an oil brat, moving frequently worldwide due to my father's career, I related to many of the experiences Webb details. More: Webb graduated from the Naval Academy in 1968, the same year as my husband, who spent 24 years in the Navy. I found the lengthy chapter on Webb's Academy experiences interesting since it shed a fresh light on how my spouse became the man he is today. And, of course, there is the Vietnam War, still a sore point among many of my generation. As a former military nurse, I witnessed the ghostly pall this conflict cast on service members into the 1980s and even early 1990s. Webb details his experiences in Nam and shrewdly examines that conflict's effect on our national psyche, not to mention on those who served and also those who did not. Obviously, I identify with this book for personal reasons. I finished it in two days, but it is not a light or easy read. Rather, it is compelling. When I started, I found it impossible to put down. At times brutally honest, it examines an often ignored component of our country's history, that of the so-called dependents, those family members who faithfully follow and support military members as they complete their missions.

  21. 5 out of 5

    James N. Roets

    Awesome Journey Anyone who grew up in a military family will immediately identify with Senator Webb's description of family life in a time of tremendous change in the fabric of society. I grew up in a Navy family, attending 2 kindergartens, 11 elementary schools, 2 junior high schools, and 3 high schools - most in different parts of the country. But more than that, this incredible book is a journey of a son who wants to emulate his father, and live up to his expectations while trying to find his w Awesome Journey Anyone who grew up in a military family will immediately identify with Senator Webb's description of family life in a time of tremendous change in the fabric of society. I grew up in a Navy family, attending 2 kindergartens, 11 elementary schools, 2 junior high schools, and 3 high schools - most in different parts of the country. But more than that, this incredible book is a journey of a son who wants to emulate his father, and live up to his expectations while trying to find his way in an increasingly restless world. The journey of Jim Webb reads like classic literature, but it's a journey of an intellectual in an insane world, and his attempt to make sense of it. He succeeded - and my wish is that this book be made required reading in high schools. We're not too far removed from the Vietnam era. Senator Webb can teach us all about what being American is all about.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Gail Hedlund

    Lots of insight into the Vietnam war. Even though I am not a military brat, I did understand much of what James Webb, Jr. talked about in the travels of him as a young child with his family. We, too, traveled crowded in a car over bumpy roads to only places that Dad seemed to know where. Also the "3 shut up rule" was pretty much a mainstay, especially in a large family with seven kids! I thoroughly enjoyed the last 2 chapters. I love how he looked at how our government has seemed to have "lost it Lots of insight into the Vietnam war. Even though I am not a military brat, I did understand much of what James Webb, Jr. talked about in the travels of him as a young child with his family. We, too, traveled crowded in a car over bumpy roads to only places that Dad seemed to know where. Also the "3 shut up rule" was pretty much a mainstay, especially in a large family with seven kids! I thoroughly enjoyed the last 2 chapters. I love how he looked at how our government has seemed to have "lost it's way", forgetting it's reason for being. How the divide between what is right in Washington DC & what is popular is getting to be much like the Mariana Trench, which he speaks about in his book. Like him I too have a test of whether I am doing the right thing in bettering things around me. I always ask myself, "What would Daddy thing?" Or "What would Daddy do?" Hasn't failed me yet & it has kept me from getting "locked out of the house".

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lola

    Jim Webb's father never let him & his siblings forget that they lived in the greatest country on earth. His father said "When it hurts, just grit your teeth and take it. Don't you ever back down. Never start a fight, but if somebody else does, never run away. If you run from a bully, you will never stop running, but if you fight he won't risk coming back at you again. Stand up. Fight back. Mark him. Give him something to remember every morning when he looks into the mirror. Then even if you lose Jim Webb's father never let him & his siblings forget that they lived in the greatest country on earth. His father said "When it hurts, just grit your teeth and take it. Don't you ever back down. Never start a fight, but if somebody else does, never run away. If you run from a bully, you will never stop running, but if you fight he won't risk coming back at you again. Stand up. Fight back. Mark him. Give him something to remember every morning when he looks into the mirror. Then even if you lose you win. And by the way, if you ever run from a fight I will personally beat your ass." This is James Webb's memoir of his life as a military brat, his time as a highly decorated combat Marine of the Vietnam war, including his four years at Annapolis, and his election to the United States Senate. THANK YOU for this free copy of his book that I received through the GOODREADS GIVEAWAY!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Danny

    Well. I went in expecting something different: I don't know why, as I've never read a memoir before. Biographies, yes, autobiographies, yes, war stories, yes. This was none of these. It's sort of a reflection of a 50s-60s kid growing up as an army brat, hauled across the US and never in one place very long. In many ways, the book was disjointed. I found it hard to read, and not worth it because it did not help me in any way to construct my life or worldview. I thought it might help me understand Well. I went in expecting something different: I don't know why, as I've never read a memoir before. Biographies, yes, autobiographies, yes, war stories, yes. This was none of these. It's sort of a reflection of a 50s-60s kid growing up as an army brat, hauled across the US and never in one place very long. In many ways, the book was disjointed. I found it hard to read, and not worth it because it did not help me in any way to construct my life or worldview. I thought it might help me understand the life of soldiers in WWII and Viet Nam, as I had family in both wars: it didn't. The book wasn't right for me. Perhaps this is because it is not the type that resonates with my worldview and interests, but nonetheless, I don't believe it will be remaining on my shelves. Some profanity is contained in here, though not as much as some war books.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jack Laschenski

    A very good memoir from: A retired senator from Virginia; A former Secretary of the Navy; A former Assistant Secretary of Defense; A former Marine Captain who served on the Vietnam battlefield and was severely wounded; An Annapolis Graduate; A successful boxer; The author of 10 books; An Airforce brat who never lived in one house for a full year while growing up. It is also a paean to his father, an airforce pilot who flew in WWII, Korea and the Berlin Airlift, and who helped create the Airforce's Missil A very good memoir from: A retired senator from Virginia; A former Secretary of the Navy; A former Assistant Secretary of Defense; A former Marine Captain who served on the Vietnam battlefield and was severely wounded; An Annapolis Graduate; A successful boxer; The author of 10 books; An Airforce brat who never lived in one house for a full year while growing up. It is also a paean to his father, an airforce pilot who flew in WWII, Korea and the Berlin Airlift, and who helped create the Airforce's Missile Command. It is about his early life - not his later executive and political life. Well written and revealing - a portrait of an era.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    After reading 'Born Fighting' by James Webb,I had hope that he would write about his family that he mention in that book and so when Goodreads offer his book 'I Heard My Country Calling :A Memoir,I enter the contest and was lucky to win, I was not disappointed as he continue the story of the Webb family, a close knit family from his strong will grandmother to his hard working parents.I like the chapter on his time in the Naval Academy as he wrote about what would be called hazing and how his up After reading 'Born Fighting' by James Webb,I had hope that he would write about his family that he mention in that book and so when Goodreads offer his book 'I Heard My Country Calling :A Memoir,I enter the contest and was lucky to win, I was not disappointed as he continue the story of the Webb family, a close knit family from his strong will grandmother to his hard working parents.I like the chapter on his time in the Naval Academy as he wrote about what would be called hazing and how his up bring got him thru it. I like the book but the last chapter sounded a little like a campaign speech.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    I really enjoyed this book and Learning more about James Webb. I thought it started slowly with all the discussion around his's father's military career. That is probably because I wanted to lean more about Webb himself. Once we got to the author's life, I became much more engrossed in the book. I was surprised how little de discussed his family life. Also of great interest to me were his political views and how screwed up D.C. Is today. It was a very good read.

  28. 4 out of 5

    A.J.

    Jim Webb delivers another well crafted narrative - this time describing his early life and the crafting of his character. Military brats will well recognize Webb's life and those who follow his politics will better understand how and why he holds the positions he holds. Webb's crie d'coeur comes through loud and clear, perhaps loudly enough to make this book the opening salvo of a 2016 campaign. If so, we would be lucky.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jerry Walz

    A very good memoir from ex Virginia Senator Webb. His boyhood as an “military brat”, the Naval Academy, service as a combat officer in Vietnam, and Secretary of the Navy, but only touches on his time as a senator. I supported him when he ran for the Senate. When he contacted me, and no doubt thousands of others, by email a few months with the announcement that he was ready to enter the “debate” I turned him down with some sort of reply that he had had his chance. I may have been too hasty.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Patrick44

    I really liked this book. Since Mr. Webb is from my generation and was in the service at the same time as me, I found it especially interesting. He was/is a very intelligent and talented man who achieved many successes throughout his life. His family history was very informative. I would like to have read more about how his personal adult life and family were affected by his intense drive and ambition.

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