The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 107, July 2003 - April, 2004 Page: 148

148 Southwestern Historical Quarterly July
highest achievement of Alvin Wirtz is that it adds an alternate perspective on LBJ
less cluttered with presidential assessments. It also introduces important historio-
graphical corrections. Kesselus judiciously uses primary and secondary sources to
refute Johnson biographer Robert Caro's demonization of both LBJ and Wirtz
(p. 62, 146, 254, 264).
By better understanding contemporaries like Alvin Wirtz in their own right,
LBJ can be seen from a perspective that is more contextual and less interpreta-
tionally determined. Alvin Wirtz by Ken Kesselus succeeds in weaving together
the many strands of the remarkably talented Texan's life.
The Texas 36th Division: A History. By Bruce L. Brager. (Austin: Eakin Press, 2002.
Pp. ix+327. Introduction, postlude, appendix, endnotes, bibliography,
index. ISBN 1-57168-371-2. $29.95, paper.)
Bruce L. Brager's The Texas 36th Divzszon: A History invites comparisons to the
late Stephen Ambrose and his notable military histories. Like Ambrose, Brager
wants to create a "good read" for a broad audience (p. viii). And, like Ambrose,
Brager devotes much of his book to the "citizen soldiers" (p. 1)-average men
who made a difference in America's wars-by recounting their experiences in
their own words and creating a sense of what these men endured.
Unlike Ambrose, Brager's work is broader in scope. While Brager explores the
inherited traditions from the Texas 36th Division's ("T-Patchers") antecedents,
including the first Texas militia in 1823, Hood's Civil War Texas Brigade, and
the 1873 Houston Light Guard-the 36th's "oldest recognized ancestor" (p.
18), his focus is on the unit from its 1917 creation to its 1968 dissolution.
Brager details the 36th's World War I service and its ensuing peacetime activi-
ties, including riots and natural disasters, and its "federalization"-in terms of
personnel and incorporation into the American army (p. 108). The last half of
the book deals with the unit's training and action in Italy and France in World
War II.
Here the book becomes more personal and most reflects Ambrose's sensi-
bilities. Brager's uncle and namesake was Bruce Kouser, a 36th Division
replacement rifleman killed in France in 1944. Perhaps motivated by his
uncle's letters, Brager further transforms the organizational history of the
unit into a more personalized view of what the unit's common soldiers experi-
enced. Brager uses official military histories and reports to augment letters
and journals, and pieces together the unit's actions, defeats and victories, to
show how these soldiers persevered and how their conduct in combat reflect-
ed their training.
Brager's book is also about the evolution of the American military.
Throughout the work Brager examines the history of local militias and guard
units, and provides a history of the citizen soldier-that person called on occa-
sionally to provide defense-and how these units were viewed by and eventually
incorporated into the American military. The book is underlyingly about the

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 107, July 2003 - April, 2004, periodical, 2004; Austin, Texas. ( accessed July 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting Texas State Historical Association.