Spiller, Roger 1944- (Roger J. Spiller)

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Spiller, Roger 1944- (Roger J. Spiller)

PERSONAL:

Born October 19, 1944.

CAREER:

Writer, military historian, combat strategist, and educator. U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, KS, former professor of combined arms warfare and deputy director, Combat Studies Institute, George C. Marshall Professor emeritus of military history.

WRITINGS:

"Not War but Like War": The American Intervention in Lebanon, Combat Studies Institute (Fort Leavenworth, KS), 1981.

(Editor) Dictionary of American Military Biography, three volumes, Greenwood Press (Westport, CT), 1984.

(General editor) Combined Arms in Battle since 1939, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College Press (Fort Leavenworth, KS), 1992.

(Author of introduction) Tadayoshi Sakurai, Human Bullets: A Soldier's Story of the Russo-Japanese War, translated by Masujiro Honda, edited by Alice Mabel Bacon, University of Nebraska Press (Lincoln, NE), 1999.

Sharp Corners: Urban Operations at Century's End, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College Press (Fort Leavenworth, KS), 2001.

An Instinct for War: Scenes from the Battlefields of History, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2005.

SIDELIGHTS:

Author Roger Spiller is a military historian, combat strategist, educator. He is the George C. Marshall Professor emeritus of military history at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. There he also served as a professor of combined arms warfare and as the deputy director of the Combat Studies Institute.

Sharp Corners: Urban Operations at Century's End, is "full of case studies of sieges that went bloodily wrong, for the attacker, the defender, the civilians in between—or for all of the above. But while recounting this grim history, Spiller holds out real hope of a more artful path to victory: instead of a blunt, frontal medieval siege, a subtle, postmodern one," commented Sydney J. Freedberg, Jr., writing in the National Journal. Spiller assesses the components of city warfare, providing military planners and tacticians with cogent observations on how to structure combat operations in urban environments. He advises that effective city warfare demands that planners know how a city is constructed, and the characteristics of the three-tiered anatomy of most cities consisting of the street level, the underground environment of sewers and subways, and the elevated level of high-rise buildings and skyscrapers. Spiller also looks at urban warfare from a historical perspective. Unfortunately for military operations specialists, Spiller notes that "cities bring out the worst in armies, and that armies bring out the worst in cities," Armor reviewer Kevin C.M. Benson reported.

Freedberg stressed the point that Sharp Corners "is not a detailed operational manual for urban warfare. There is no such manual for seizing an entire city." However, within the book, Spiller offers real-life tactical lessons for commanders and soldiers who find themselves facing the difficulties of urban warfare. Benson advised readers, "Get this book, study this book, think, think, and think again. The use of force cannot preclude the use of intellect; indeed, in our age, the use of force demands the use of intellect."

Spiller departs from the strictly factual framework of nonfiction military history with An Instinct for War: Scenes from the Battlefields of History, a collection of thirteen fictional pieces that explore the concept and experience of war over a time span of some 2,500 years. The collection is a "brilliantly unorthodox piece of work," a "strange, brave, and absolutely fascinating book," commented Fredric Smoler in American Heritage. All the stories in the book are "powerful, most of them are disturbing, and each contains lessons that can be subtle, multiple, and contradictory, as so many of war's lessons are," Smoler observed. Throughout each of the stories, Spiller "skillfully combines imagination and meticulous research to shrewdly engage and challenge the reader," remarked Military Review critic Andrew M. Roe. Prominent military figures from the past often appear in Spiller's tales. One story addresses Cortez's conquest of the Aztecs; another concerns Civil War general McClellan and the lessons he learned from Napoleon; yet another portrays a Japanese general caught up in an investigation in the years following World War II. In one of the collection's most striking pieces, Spiller describes a far-future war of apocalyptic power and destructive force. "Spiller's stories can be read as parables. They neither celebrate nor condemn war but raise fundamental questions faced by soldiers and civilians," remarked USA Today reviewer Bob Minzesheimer.

"An Instinct for War offers timely insights into the human challenges of armed conflict. It is skillfully written and always thought provoking," Roe stated. Throughout his collection, Smoler concluded, "Spiller displays great learning, always lightly worn; great moral seriousness, never ponderously displayed; and literary flair. This is a remarkable book, initially disconcerting and eventually enthralling."

Spiller is also an advocate of presenting military viewpoints of other warriors from history. He provided the introduction for Human Bullets: A Soldier's Story of the Russo-Japanese War by Tadayoshi Sakurai. This memoir offers Sakurai's firsthand accounts of life and combat during the early- twentieth-century war between Japan and Russia, from 1904 to 1905. He recounts how many of his contemporaries preferred to commit ritual suicide rather than face the shame of not being called to fight in the war, noted Jeff Plaks, writing in the Historian. At the time, no one believed that Japan could successfully wage war against a powerful enemy such as Russia, but the Japanese proved to be equal to their European enemies both in land battles and naval engagements. "In his touching memoir, Lieutenant Tadayoshi Sakurai relates many such firsthand testimonies to Japan's national spirit," which, he believed, accounted for "Japan's extraordinary victory over European Russia," Plaks stated. Sakurai provides a detailed account of the siege of Port Arthur, a military engagement that resulted in the loss of his right arm. In 1905, after an unprecedented defeat in battle and strong resistance to the war from the Russian homeland, the tsarist Russian state capitulated and agreed to negotiate peace. Plaks called Spiller's introduction "insightful," and concluded that "both students and advanced scholars of Japanese, Russian, and military history will find this engaging and insightful memoir of great interest."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

American Heritage, November-December, 2005, Fredric Smoler, "Wartime Lessons: An Audacious New Book Offers Intimate Glimpses of 2,500 Years of Strife," review of An Instinct for War: Scenes from the Battlefields of History, p. 22.

American Libraries, May, 1985, review of Dictionary of American Military Biography, p. 339.

Armor, May-June, 2003, Kevin C.M. Benson, review of Sharp Corners: Urban Operations at Century's End, p. 49.

Historian, winter, 2001, Jeff Plaks, review of Human Bullets: A Soldier's Story of the Russo-Japanese War, p. 438.

History: Review of New Books, spring, 2006, James E. Sefton, review of An Instinct for War, p. 99.

Library Journal, December, 1984, George F. Scheck, review of Dictionary of American Military Biography, p. 2264; April 15, 1985, review of Dictionary of American Military Biography, p. 42.

Military Review, March-April, 2006, Andrew M. Roe, review of An Instinct for War, p. 114.

National Journal, April 5, 2003, Sydney J. Freedberg, Jr. and James Kifield, "Sharp Corners, Soft Sieges," review of Sharp Corners, p. 1058.

St. Petersburg Times, March 18, 2001, Margo Hammond, "Military," p. 5.

Times Literary Supplement, March 10, 2006, Brian Holden Reid, "Back to the Woods," review of An Instinct for War, p. 10.

USA Today, November 10, 2005, Bob Minzesheimer, "Perspectives of War Hit Home in Soldiers' Stories," review of An Instinct for War, p. 04D.

ONLINE

Harvard University Press Web site,http://www.hup.harvard.edu/ (May 28, 2008), author profile.

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Spiller, Roger 1944- (Roger J. Spiller)

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