Last Stands: Why Men Fight When All Is Lost

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A philosophical and spiritual defense of the premodern world, of the tragic view, of physical courage, and of masculinity and self-sacrifice in an age when those ancient virtues are too often caricatured and dismissed.”
Victor Davis Hanson

Award-winning author Michael Walsh celebrates the masculine attributes of heroism that forged American civilization and Western culture by exploring historical battles in which soldiers chose death over dishonor in Last Stands: Why Men Fight When All Is Lost.

In our contemporary era, men are increasingly denied their heritage as warriors. A survival instinct that’s part of the human condition, the drive to wage war is natural. Without war, the United States would not exist. The technology that has eased manual labor, extended lifespans, and become an integral part of our lives and culture has often evolved from wartime scientific advancements. War is necessary to defend the social and political principles that define the virtues and freedoms of America and other Western nations. We should not be ashamed of the heroes who sacrificed their lives to build a better world. We should be honoring them.

The son of a Korean War veteran of the Inchon landing and the battle of the Chosin Reservoir with the U.S. Marine Corps, Michael Walsh knows all about heroism, valor, and the call of duty that requires men to fight for something greater than themselves to protect their families, fellow countrymen, and most of all their fellow soldiers. In Last Stands, Walsh reveals the causes and outcomes of more than a dozen battles in which a small fighting force refused to surrender to a far larger force, often dying to the last man.

From the Spartans’ defiance at Thermopylae and Roland’s epic defense of Charlemagne’s rear guard at Ronceveaux Pass, through Santa Anna’s siege of the Alamo defended by Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie to the skirmish at Little Big Horn between Crazy Horse’s Sioux nation and George Armstrong Custer’s Seventh Calvary, to the Soviets’ titanic struggle against the German Wehrmacht at Stalingrad, and more, Walsh reminds us all of the debt we owe to heroes willing to risk their lives against overwhelming odds―and how these sacrifices and battles are not only a part of military history but our common civilizational heritage.

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Editorial Reviews


“An unrelenting and rousing account of one of humanity’s most laudable wartime phenomena, and a book that hurls a gauntlet at the feet of a contemporary culture which, despite our living in a world that is still violently challenging, fails to find nobility in self-sacrifice. It engages in the very best sense: every reader will find something to agree with and something to argue against in these pages―but isn’t that the true meaning of ‘provocative?’ Walsh wanders through his comprehensive roster of quixotic military adventures with youthful enthusiasm, lyrical style, and academic ease; and Last Stands is a promise to heroism fulfilled.”
―Caleb Carr, New York Times bestselling author of The Alienist and Surrender, New York

Last Stands is a thoroughly original study of doomed or trapped soldiers often fighting to the last man, from Thermopylae to the Korean War. But Michael Walsh’s book is more than a military history of heroic resistance. It is also a philosophical and spiritual defense of the premodern world, of the tragic view, of physical courage, and of masculinity and self-sacrifice in an age when those ancient virtues are too often caricatured and dismissed. A much needed essay on why rare men would prefer death to dishonor, and would perish in the hope that others thereby might live.”
Victor Davis Hanson, The Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author of The Second World Wars

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“Michael Walsh is many things―ranconteur, fire-brand editor, patriot. In Last Stands he becomes something more―historian and therapist. Walsh takes the oft-told tales of the heroism of the Alamo, Little Big Horn, Thermopylae and allows the reader to come to grips with the why. Why do men fight to the bitter end? Why do they stay true when all is lost, and they know all is lost? Walsh does a service to patriots everywhere. His must-read book allows the reader to work ‘the why’ around in his mind―and come to an understanding of real heroism.”
―Stephen K. Bannon, former White House Chief Strategist

“In Last Stands, Michael Walsh examines ferocious truths―about war and human nature, about men in battle, about courage in the face of hopelessness, about honor, duty, sacrifice, and the profound respect that masculinity may command. Last Stands, a work of scholarship and fine storytelling, is a grimly riveting study of the realities of Horace’s Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.”
Lance Morrow

“As he has shown in The Devil’s Pleasure Palace and The Fiery Angel, there is no more astute chronicler of the relationship between culture and politics than Michael Walsh. In Last Stands, he offers a philosophic examination of the nature of honor and its relation to masculinity, a topic that runs against the main current of contemporary discourse. Walsh contends that it is the ancient virtue of honor that motivates men to face certain death. But as he notes, since World War II, ‘honor’ has ‘become risible, an archaic insult, the taunt of the atheist and the weakling against the strong.’ But challenging a culture characterized all too often by ‘men without chests,’ Walsh celebrates honor and its corollary, heroism, as they have manifested themselves in hopeless battles from Thermopylae to the Chosin Reservoir. In doing so, Walsh reminds us once again that civilization needs heroes: men who go to their death willingly rather than suffer shame, disgrace, and dishonor.”
―Mackubin Thomas Owens, editor of Orbis

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“Michael Walsh’s provocative book explores the toxic masculinitythat mixture of bellicosity, patriarchal attitudes and patriotismthat has fueled men at war dating back to 480 B.C. It’s also a book about fathers and sons and a tribute to his 94-year-old father, a Marine Corps Korean War veteran awarded a Bronze star for heroism. Michael and I often profoundly disagree on social and political issues but he always argues with passion and finesse.”
―Meryl Gordon, bestselling author of Mrs. Astor Regrets

“The qualities of which Walsh writes are real, and they are every bit as vital to a civilization as he says.”
The American Conservative

About the Author

The author of more than fifteen novels and non-fiction books, MICHAEL WALSH was the classical music critic for Time Magazine and received the 2004 American Book Awards prize for fiction for his gangster novel, And All the Saints in 2004. His popular columns for National Review written under the pseudonym David Kahane were developed into the book, Rules for Radical Conservatives. His books The Devil’s Pleasure Palace and The Fiery Angel, examine the enemies, heroes, triumphs and struggles of Western Civilization from the ancient past to the present time. He divides his time between Connecticut and Ireland.

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