In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section America's All Volunteer Army after Vietnam to the Present Day

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews and Context
  • Journals
  • Autobiographies and Memoirs
  • Biographies and Published Papers
  • The All-Volunteer Army
  • Department of the Army Policy and Organization
  • Education and Training
  • Doctrine
  • The Deployed Army
  • Women in the Army
  • The Social Army
  • Pre–Goldwater-Nichols Operations, 1975–1986
  • Panama—Operation Just Cause
  • Iraq—Operations Desert Shield and Storm
  • Post–Desert Storm Expeditionary Operations
  • Balkan Intervention—Operations Joint Endeavor and Joint Guardian
  • Afghanistan—Operation Enduring Freedom
  • Iraq—Operation Iraqi Freedom
  • Total Force
  • Veterans

Military History America's All Volunteer Army after Vietnam to the Present Day
Stephen A. Bourque
  • LAST REVIEWED: 14 April 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791279-0101


Spanning the end of the Vietnam War and the demise of the draftee army to the closing days of the presidential administration of Barack Obama, academic historians have only begun to address this recent historical period. As such, students will note the large number of books published by official historians from the US Army’s Combat Studies Institute at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and the Center of Military History in Washington, DC. These official histories present an institutional perspective and emphasize the organization’s positive aspects. However, with some notable exceptions, they are first-class studies constructed on firm foundations of primary sources, after-action reports, and interviews. Many journalist and first-person accounts provide balance to the official narratives. Because army leaders often brought reporters into their confidence, these are usually insightful accounts of what transpired. Researchers should also note that it is becoming increasingly difficult to discuss the US Army in isolation. The passage of the Goldwater-Nichols Defense Reorganization Act of 1986 required close cooperation among all services, and historians will find it almost impossible to write of the US Army without regard to the US Marines, US Navy, US Air Force, and other governmental agencies. Also, more than in the past, the US Army routinely worked as part of a coalition of military organizations from other nations. Therefore, while the focus of this bibliography is the US Army, researchers should be alert to resources in the broader military and political environment. Finally, this is the era of the professional US Army, and its organization and culture are fundamentally different from that of the conscription military. Students should be alert to these differences and recognize the transformational process that continues to take place into the 21st century.

General Overviews and Context

This period is so recent that scholars are only beginning to construct its historical narrative. Patterson 2005 is the best scholarly treatment of this era. The most recent and complete general history of the US Army is Stewart 2005. Brown 2011 examines the later part of this period from the perspective of the service’s senior leadership. Balancing the official histories are two studies that provide different perspectives. Lewis 2007 posits that the American public is no longer part of the conduct of war, as it was in the past. Bacevich 2016 challenges the official histories and is a comprehensive study of interventions throughout this period. A related volume, Bailey and Immerman 2015, provides a wealth of early scholarship on the latter portion of this era. Digital capabilities now allow researchers to review many books and documents by way of the Internet. The US Army Center of Military History located at Fort McNair, Virginia, publishes official histories and holds many documents not yet retired to the National Archives and Records Administration. The US Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, is the army’s primary document repository and public education facility. The library at the US Army Combined Arms Center, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, now supports the entire service’s professional scholarly information requirements (Combined Arms Research Library).

  • Bacevich, Andrew J. America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History. New York: Random House, 2016.

    One of the great critics of American intervention in the Middle East, Bacevich examines the state of perpetual war the United States pursued from Morocco to Afghanistan since 1991. This book provides a comprehensive critical study of this entire time-frame. It includes a section on operations in the Balkans. No bibliography, but detailed notes.

  • Bailey, Beth, and Richard H. Immerman, eds. Understanding the U.S. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. New York: New York University Press, 2015.

    One of the first scholarly works to address America’s wars in post 9-11 Iraq and Afghanistan. Excellent background on all aspects of these conflicts.

  • Brown, John Sloan. Kevlar Legions: The Transformation of the US Army, 1989–2005. Washington, DC: US Army Center of Military History, 2011.

    Superbly researched, it is written from the perspectives of chiefs of staff and the Department of the Army. As a former chief of military history, the author had access both to a wide range of personalities and to notes and records not available to most authors. It contains a comprehensive list of abbreviations, which are always confusing, and an excellent bibliography.

  • Combined Arms Research Library. Fort Leavenworth, KS.

    This organization’s website has an impressive array of digital archives, including all of the publications from the Combat Studies Institute, old military manuals, and master’s theses and monographs from both the Command and General Staff School and the School of Advanced Military Studies.

  • Lewis, Adrian R. The American Culture of War: The History of US Military Force from World War II to Operation Iraqi Freedom. New York: Routledge, 2007.

    This is the first critical survey of the American military in many years. It contains a select bibliography with excellent notes.

  • Patterson, James T. Restless Giant: The United States from Watergate to Bush vs. Gore. Oxford History of the United States. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

    The last volume in this distinguished series, written by the preeminent scholar of the period, it provides a readable narrative through the end of President William J. Clinton’s administration. The bibliography is topically organized and researchers should consult it early in the research process.

  • Stewart, Richard W., ed. American Military History: The United States Army in a Global Era, 1917–2003. Vol. 2. Army Historical Series. Washington, DC: US Army Center of Military History, 2005.

    This is the second volume of the US Army’s official history. Written at the undergraduate level, it includes maps, pictures of prominent personalities and events, and end-of-chapter recommended readings. Chapters 12–14 cover this period, ending in 2003.

  • US Army Center of Military History.

    Allows for digital retrieval of most of its publications and other documents, including interviews and chronologies.

  • US Army Heritage and Education Center.

    Holds a broad range of resources, especially private papers and photographs; has excellent finding aids for both its traditional holdings and its expanding digital archive collections.

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