The Unknowns by Patrick K. O’Donnell

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline for The Unknowns:

You have to give it to Americans. We may not do it better, but we always do it bigger.

Quick synopsis:

An overview of American involvement in World War I through the lens of the body bearers of the Unknown Soldier.

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like:

Germans were scared of American Indians. They believed they had mystical powers and targeted them whenever they could. Germans being racist. Unheard of.

Fun Fact for History Nerds:

The first few waves of American soldiers in World War I used Civil War tactics. In other words, they ran at machine gun in waves. If you are not a military person, I can assure you that is the worst way to do it.

My Take on The Unknowns:

This book isn’t only about the Unknown Soldier. If you are looking for a book with a laser focus on the Unknown Soldier entombed in Arlington National Cemetery (on Robert E. Lee’s land because screw him) then you are going to get a lot more. And that’s a very good thing.

O’Donnell writes about the American involvement in World War I from right before it through the end and the efforts to establish the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. He focuses on the body bearers, or the men who would bring the Unknown Soldier to his final resting place. They were all highly decorated war veterans and O’Donnell traces all their exploits.

You will learn how the U.S. was not exactly ready to fight from a tactics perspective. You will also learn just how murderous half-baked battle plans could be for the people on the ground. This is one of those war books which make you feel just how utterly helpless a soldier may feel charging a machine gun nest. But they do it anyway.


A great book which has a lot of stories you won’t find somewhere else. Buy it here!

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