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Thirteen Soldiers

A Personal History of Americans at War

About The Book

A personal history of war from bestselling authors John McCain and Mark Salter, told through the stories of thirteen remarkable American soldiers who fought in the nation’s major military conflicts, from the Revolution of 1776 through the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As a veteran himself, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and a long-time student of history, John McCain brings a distinctive perspective to the experience of war. With Mark Salter, Thirteen Soldiers tells the stories of real soldiers who personify valor, obedience, enterprise, and love. You’ll meet Joseph Plumb Martin, who at the tender age of fifteen fought in the Revolutionary War; Charles Black, a freeborn African American sailor in the War of 1812; and Sam Chamberlain, of the Mexican American War, whose life inspired novelist Cormac McCarthy. Then there’s Oliver Wendell Holmes, an aristocratic idealist disillusioned by the Civil War, and Littleton “Tony” Waller, court-martialed for refusing to massacre Filipino civilians.

Each story illustrates a particular aspect of war, such as Mary Rhoads, an Army reservist forever changed by an Iraqi scud missile attack during the Persian Gulf War; Monica Lin Brown, a frontline medic in rural Afghanistan who saved several lives in a convoy ambush; and Michael Monsoor, a Navy SEAL, who smothered a grenade before it could detonate on his men in Iraq. From their acts of self-sacrifice to their astonishing valor in the face of unimaginable danger, these “inspirational accounts of thirteen Americans who fought in various wars…aptly reveal humanizing moments in such theaters of cruelty” (Publishers Weekly).

About The Authors

Photograph by the office of Senator McCain

Senator John McCain entered the Naval Academy in June of 1954. He served in the United States Navy until 1981. He was elected to the US House of Representatives from Arizona in 1982 and to the Senate in 1986. He was the Republican Party’s nominee for president in the 2008 election.

Mark Salter has collaborated with John McCain on all seven of their books, including The Restless Wave, Faith of My Fathers, Worth the Fighting For, Why Courage Matters, Character Is Destiny, Hard Call, and Thirteen Soldiers. He served on Senator McCain’s staff for eighteen years.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (November 11, 2014)
  • Length: 384 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781476759678

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Raves and Reviews

“Inspirational accounts of 13 Americans who fought in various wars….McCain and Salter aptly reveal humanizing moments in such theaters of cruelty.”

– Publishers Weekly

"Messrs. McCain and Salter have chosen a thoughtful array of subjects....the authors have drawn a diverse group portrait of 'ordinary Americans'....Following ancient and medieval precedent, their hope is simply to use each soldier's deeds to represent a particular aspect of war: fear, duty, honor, comradeship, sacrifice and so on....We can all admire Messrs. McCain and Salter's 'ordinary people doing extraordinary things.'"

– The Wall Street Journal

"Discerning and praiseworthy."

– U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings

“The wide variety of characters involved makes for many fascinating accounts….The bulk of each section contains the history of the featured individual's engagements, pleasantly interwoven with their personal experiences. The text as a whole offers insights into life during battle….Casual readers interested in a wide sampling of U.S. military history should enjoy this book.”

– Library Journal

“Written with thrilling immediacy, insight, and reverence for the men and women who have risked and sacrificed their lives for their country. Much more than a military history, Thirteen Soldiers brings famous battles and campaigns down to the individual scale, enhances our understanding of the costs and consequences of battle, and introduces a human dimension to the history of armed conflict.”


“Deeply personal stories that track real soldiers through conditions of trying morale…. A patriotic though unsentimental look at the major wars fought by the United States as told through the difficult experiences of ordinary soldiers…. Arizona Sen. McCain and his longtime staffer and co-author Salter again sound the themes of courage and honor represented by the regular Americans of all branches of the military.”

– Kirkus Reviews

“These are great and powerful stories that deserve to be retold, and McCain and Salter do an admirable job of showing us why.”

– Stars & Stripes

“An intriguing read covering a wide swath of military history, much of it probably little known to many Americans. It takes a microscopic, individualized look at famous battles, describing them from the point of view of the soldiers who fought them…. "13 Soldiers" whets the appetite for history lovers, blending lesser-known facts into well-known battles. But it's approachable for novices, too…. McCain and Salter, a long time storytelling duo, have crafted a worthwhile read that abstains from romanticizing war yet instills a sense of pride that will touch any reader.”

– Fayetteville Observer

"Highly enlightening."

– The VVA Veteran

“This instructive book is crammed with battlefield details, struggles, and strategies, along with an intriguing cast of characters and their untold stories.”

– The Daily Beast

“McCain and Slater tell the historical story of the ordinary Americans that went to war, told in a way that may help the average reader understand the sacrifice, the lost blood and treasure of sending our sons and daughters to war.”

– Medium

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