To the Last Man: A Novel of the First World War

by Jeffrey M. Shaara

Hardcover, 2004

Call number




Ballantine Books (2004), Edition: New title, 672 pages


Fiction. Literature. Thriller. Historical Fiction. HTML:Jeff Shaara has enthralled readers with his New York Times bestselling novels set during the Civil War and the American Revolution. Now the acclaimed author turns to World War I, bringing to life the sweeping, emotional story of the war that devastated a generation and established America as a world power. Spring 1916: the horror of a stalemate on Europe�??s western front. France and Great Britain are on one side of the barbed wire, a fierce German army is on the other. Shaara opens the window onto the otherworldly tableau of trench warfare as seen through the eyes of a typical British soldier who experiences the bizarre and the horrible�??a �??Tommy�?� whose innocent youth is cast into the hell of a terrifying war. In the skies, meanwhile, technology has provided a devastating new tool, the aeroplane, and with it a different kind of hero emerges�??the flying ace. Soaring high above the chaos on the ground, these solitary knights duel in the splendor and terror of the skies, their courage and steel tested with every flight. As the conflict stretches into its third year, a neutral America is goaded into war, its reluctant president, Woodrow Wilson, finally accepting the repeated challenges to his stance of nonalignment. Yet the Americans are woefully unprepared and ill equipped to enter a war that has become worldwide in scope. The responsibility is placed on the shoulders of General John �??Blackjack�?� Pershing, and by mid-1917 the first wave of the American Expeditionary Force arrives in Europe. Encouraged by the bold spirit and strength of the untested Americans, the world waits to see if the tide of war can finally be turned. From Blackjack Pershing to the Marine in the trenches, from the Red Baron to the American pilots of the Lafayette Escadrille, To the Last Man is written with the moving vividness and accuracy that characterizes all of Shaara�??s work. This spellbinding new novel carries readers�??the way only Shaara can�??to the heart of one of the greatest conflicts in human history, and puts them face-to-face with the characters who made… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member santhony
I am a huge fan of historical novels and history in general, yet despite being an avid reader for over 35 years, do not recall ever reading a novel dealing with the First World War. Why is this?

I've read many novels centering on the Revolutionary War, dozens dealing with the Civil War (one of the
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best, Killer Angels, written by Jeff Shaara's father, Michael), likewise World War II and Vietnam. Maybe a couple on Korea, but never World War I, which is a shame, because as this novel so clearly demonstrates, it is an event rich with material.

Written in a style identical to that frequently used by his father (selecting several combatents and following the events through their eyes), Shaara successfully takes us from the trenches, to the skies and finally to Pershing's AEF headquarters, with all the political intrigue surrounding it.

I must admit to being almost embarressed by my lack of knowledge of this key era in American history. My only familiarity with The Red Baron (Baron von Richtofen) having been provided by Snoopy's narrative as he pilots his Sopwith Camel. This novel has left me wanting to learn more about the conflict and the personalities involved.
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LibraryThing member oldman
I have just completed Jeff Shaara’s To the Last Man, a story of World War I. As with many of Shaara’s books, the story is a weaving of historical fact into a novel format by expressing the thoughts and feelings of the characters followed. Four people are followed in this book, General John
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Pershing, Raoul Lufbery, Roscoe Temple and Baron Manfred von Richthoven. Many others, familiar to me and others new, are come in and out through the book.

The opening is a superficial view of the economic, political and social climate in Europe when the time war began. From that point on chapters, or several chapters at a time, are devoted to a one person’s experience. At first the war is a gentlemanly pursuit, but gradually the violence escalates. The Americans come in late, but are the last impetus to bring a close to the killing. World War I is the first war where massive munitions, airplanes and gas are used. The mechanization of war far outstrips the ability of any man to survive – luck of the draw seems to rule whether you live another day or die now. The killing, maiming and destruction are described in enough detail to give some understanding of what these men endured. The book gradually builds, through the experiences of the characters, to climatic explosions, death and crushing, life-long damage to the souls of the men who survive.

I do not know if the characters are all real. I do not know if the thoughts and feelings depicted here are exactly what these people felt. I do believe the responses Shaara paints are real and did happen to some of the participants in the upheaval. The end summary of each man, true or not, draws a picture of people haunted by what they experienced. Most of them died young. Most of them suffered their whole life from what they did and saw.

This book is one of the first I have read drawing the picture of the hell on earth these people endured and how it changed them, not all for the better, for all their lives. I was haunted by the end where the living thought the lucky ones were the ones left behind – maybe they were.

I have read several of Jeff Shaara’s books and learned from and enjoyed them all, so I may be biased in my review. Being a veteran and working with veterans though gives me a picture of what these people live with.

I give this book five stars.
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LibraryThing member meegeekai
Jeff Shaara will never hold a candle to his dad, but this is a pretty good novel on the First World War. It is told from many different perspective, something that is a trademark of the author. He uses both fictional and real historical figures to tell the story. There are some good stories here,
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but it is a novel, just the same. He has a new book out now on WW2 that I am reading presently. Once again, good book, just light on history.
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LibraryThing member bingereader
One of the only books I have read by Shaara. Never having an interest in the civil war, I thought I would give this book a try. I was fairly disappointed and good not get past the first couple of chapters.

Though an unfair comparison, I would prefer re-reading All Quiet on the Western Front than
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this nonsense.
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LibraryThing member Karlstar
For those unfamiliar with Jeff Shaara's work, this is a history of World War 1 from the point of view of 4 men. Raoul Lufberry, Manfred von Richthoften, Black Jack Pershing and Rosoe Temple. Shaara does not detail much about units or battles or timelines, instead he follows each individual through
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their daily lives as they move through the war. Unlike some of his books, 2 of his subjects don't survive the war and their story ends suddenly. If you aren't looking for a lot of numbers, information on weapons or precise battle detail, this is a great book. He presented enough information, with enough detail, and enough about the daily events of each person that the horror of this war comes through. If you have already closely studied any of the subjects, this book may not be for you as you may not agree with his interpretations. For everyone else, this is a great story of the war in France and Belgium.
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LibraryThing member brainella
World War I seen through the eyes of Raoul Lufbery, Manfred von Richthofen, Charles Pershing, Henri Petain and Roscoe Temple, among others. The aviators, Lufbery and Richthofen, one American fighting with the French; Richthofen, a German ace -- give in depth accounts of the details and daily life
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in the newly built air corps. Pershing's perspective talks about dealing with the British commanders, the French politicians, American politicians who only hear of the war's happenings through the skewed media, and his own military's politics and formation. This was the first large scale army taken into war by a commanding general in charge of the whole group. Very interesting what Pershing's history and experience lead him to do.

Good book. I found many parts of it fascinating but it's exceedingly long on details and drags horribly in certain places. I love a good war novel but this one took forever to get through. I'm not scared of thick books but I got really tired of this after a while.
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LibraryThing member stuart10er
World War I was a war of "too much". Too many people died for too few reasons from too many countries. Why the author would want to add to this by writing a book trying to cover too much ground is beyond me. He does try to focus on a few people, much like in the Civil War novels. However, instead
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of just one battle (Gettysburg) or one campaign in the war, he spreads his novel over almost the entire breadth of the war - which leaves the book long and disjointed. The Kindle version that I read also didn't help by having odd typo problems that I'm convinced were fixed in the printed edition. The critical last few months of the war, as seen by a US Marine Private was jarring as it moved from early September to early October then back again before moving forward. This, it turns out, was from a series of typos that said September when it was really October. Seems like a minor nit - but in a war that ends in November (spoiler!), the difference between September and October is pretty important. Anyway - I gave it low marks as it didn't really work for me because the author bit off way too much material and thus I never felt like he had done any justice to the people or the events that he was writing about. A Cliff Notes version (in the form of a novel) of World War I. If this is your goal, then this is your book.
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LibraryThing member williamf.b4
This book if you couldn't tell by the title is about world war 1. It also combines elements of his other books like The Rising Tide to paint a livid picture of life on the western front and in the sky above. This book first takes you to a British reinforcement column making it's way up to the front
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when all, but one man are blown to pieces. Then this book takes an unexpected turn to the sky where the young world traveler Luberfry becomes the personal mechanic to a French air acrobat. When this performer goes into service at the beginning of the war naturally Luberfry follows, and when this performer dies Luberfry natures a deep hate for Germans which gets him killed later in the book. The there is Richtinhoften this young pilot who originally flew bomber support in Russia becomes the infamous Red Barron which gets him killed too. Then is also Pershing who commands the Americans every step of the way. Then there is Temple a young marine who is the sole survivor of his original squadron and participates in almost every major American land engagement of the war.
This book like it's predecessors is made good because of it's mix of roles. First there are generals like Pershing and others most of whom only get one chapter to make different points. Then there are front line grunts like Temple and Richthofen who eventually enjoyed killing. Then there are peaceful and serene people like Lubefry who at first nurtured a hate for all kinds of Germans who fought France and the United States, but before his death came to terms with himself. and his enemy.
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LibraryThing member MichaelHodges
To The Last Man by Jeff Shaara - (WW1 Historical Fiction)
Having previously over the past 10 years read 20 books concerning primarily the origins and background to WW1, I found that this novel succinctly provided a good historical overview of the US involvement in the conduct of the later stages of
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the war. By nature the conduct involved a repetition of the airmen’s daily activities in the first half of the book and the details, concerning ground combat in the second half.

Overall however I believe this book offers a great overview of US participation from the US declaration of War on 2 April 1917 through to the Treaty of Versailles in June 1919.

The novel succinctly details the lives of the air aces such as the Red- Baron, Manfred von Richthofen with 82 kills and his western adversaries, notably Captain Lufbery of the Lafayette Escadrille, and Captain Edward Rickenbacker of the US 94th Aero Squadron.

The novel provides great insight into the difficulties faced by General Jack Pershing in coordinating with the Allies to gain recognition for the US as an independent entity that contributed significantly to the wars outcome as a win for the western allies.

In short the book provides a succinct overview of the total US contribution to the winning of the war. The story clearly delineates relationships amongst the allies and also amongst the German hierarchy of the Kaiser, Paul Von Hindenburg, Ludendorff and the civilian leader, Chancellor Max Von Baden.

The US lost 50,000 men out of a million deployed men over a six month period. The Europeans averaged a lost rate of 5000 combatants per day and overall 10 million men lost their lives over a 51 month period as the war raged across 52 countries of the world. “The War to end all wars!”
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LibraryThing member DeaconBernie
This is a re-telling of a familiar story told in Shaara's particular style of seeing history being made through the eyes of a few of the participants. What is new for me is the revelation of the lack of support in the homeland insofar as providing the things needed as opposed to the nonsense. It is
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also a revelation that Gen. Pershing was so opposed to the armistice. Even today, his rank of General of the Armies is higher than that of Marshall, Eisenhower, MacArthur who had the rank of General of the Army. One can see genuine steel in Pershing in sticking to the idea of an American Army commanded by American officers in its own share of the front. Shaara also confirms other writings that the British and the French were and still are unable to give proper credit to the US Forces in WW I. No doubt, this thinking is what contributed to the unwillingness of the British to acknowledge American generalship in WW II.
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LibraryThing member Schmerguls
58 To the Last Man A Novel of the First World War, by Jeff Shaara (read 18 Apr 2023) This was published in 2004 and most of characters are historical and I think the history is fairly accurate. The history is informative and good reading. Some of the battle accounts are too long. But the final
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pages are really excellent, so I enjoyed the book usually.
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