My American Journey

My American Journey

by Colin L. Powell, Joseph E. Persico


$21.60 $24.00 Save 10% Current price is $21.6, Original price is $24. You Save 10%. View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Monday, March 2
44 New & Used Starting at $1.99


“A great American success story . . . an endearing and well-written book.”—The New York Times Book Review

Colin Powell is the embodiment of the American dream. He was born in Harlem to immigrant parents from Jamaica. He knew the rough life of the streets. He overcame a barely average start at school. Then he joined the Army. The rest is history—Vietnam, the Pentagon, Panama, Desert Storm—but a history that until now has been known only on the surface. Here, for the first time, Colin Powell himself tells us how it happened, in a memoir distinguished by a heartfelt love of country and family, warm good humor, and a soldier's directness.

My American Journey is the powerful story of a life well lived and well told. It is also a view from the mountaintop of the political landscape of America. At a time when Americans feel disenchanted with their leaders, General Powell's passionate views on family, personal responsibility, and, in his own words, "the greatness of America and the opportunities it offers" inspire hope and present a blueprint for the future. An utterly absorbing account, it is history with a vision.

Praise for My American Journey

“The stirring, only-in-America story of one determined man's journey from the South Bronx to directing the mightiest of military forces . . . Fascinating.”The Washington Post Book World

“Eloquent.”Los Angeles Times Book Review

“Profound and moving . . . Must reading for anyone who wants to reaffirm his faith in the promise of America.”—Jack Kemp, The Wall Street Journal

“A book that is much like its subject—articulate, confident, impressive, but unpretentious and witty. . . . Whether you are a political junkie, a military buff, or just interested in a good story, My American Journey is a book well worth reading.”San Diego Union Tribune

“Colin Powell's candid, introspective autobiography is a joy for all with an appetite for well-written political and social commentary.”The Detroit News

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345466419
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/18/2003
Edition description: Updated
Pages: 656
Sales rank: 178,526
Product dimensions: 6.11(w) x 9.21(h) x 1.44(d)

About the Author

One of the most prominent figures in American public life, General Colin L. Powell served as the twelfth Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under both President George Bush and President Bill Clinton. He was a major architect of Desert Storm, the dramatic Allied success in the forty-three-day Gulf War, which began in January 1991.

General Powell was born in New York City in 1937 and raised in the South Bronx by his parents, who had immigrated to America from Jamaica. He came up through the New York City public school system and received a commission as an army second lieutenant upon graduation from the City College of New York in 1958.

Early in his career, General Powell was stationed in Germany and in a number of posts in the United States, and served two tours in Vietnam, 1962-1963 and 1968-1969. He was also a battalion commander in Korea from 1973 to 1974 and later commanded the 2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and V Corps in Germany.

General Powell was appointed Deputy National Security Advisor by President Ronald Reagan in January 1987 and in December 1987 became National Security Advisor, a post he held until January 1989. He served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from October 1989 until his retirement on September 30, 1993.

General Powell has received numerous U.S. military awards and decorations, as well as civilian awards honoring his public service, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which he was awarded twice. He has also been decorated by the governments of Argentina, Bahrain, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Jamaica, Japan, Korea, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, the United Kingdom, and Venezuela, and received an honorary knighthood (Knight Commanders of Bath) from the Queen of England.

Read an Excerpt

My American Journey: Excerpt
Point Two - Get mad, then get over it.


By the third week in February, the air war had been going on uninterrupted for thirty-five days. I wanted to make sure the President understood that war was going to look a lot different once fighting began on the ground. I took advantage of one of our almost daily briefings to paint the contrast. "Once the ground war begins," I said, "we don't get these antiseptic videos of a missile with a target in the cross hairs. When a battalion runs into a firefight, you don't lose a pilot or two, you can lose fifty to a hundred men in minutes. And a battlefield is not a pretty sight. You'll see a kid's scorched torso hanging out of a tank turret while ammo cooking off inside has torn the rest of the crew apart. We have to brace ourselves for some ugly images." I also made sure that Cheney and the President understood that ground combat cannot be reported as quickly as air strikes. "There's going to be confusion. You won't know what is happening for a while. And so in the early hours, please don't press us for situation reports."

The cold bath of reality was important. Notwithstanding Panama, Cheney had never seen war on a grand scale. The President had, but only from the air during his own long-ago fighter pilot days.

As the bombing continued, one downside of airpower started to come into sharp focus, particularly what happened on February 13. That day, two of our aircraft scored direct hits on the Al Firdos bunker in Baghdad, which we regarded as a command and control site and which the Iraqis claimed was an air-raid shelter. Whatever use the structure served, a large number of civilians died in the strike, which the whole world witnessed on television as victims were hauled from the smoking rubble. Schwarzkopf and I discussed this tragedy. Did we still need to pound downtown Baghdad over a month into the war? How many times could you bomb the Baath Party headquarters, and for what purpose? No one was sitting there waiting for the next Tomahawk to hit. Schwarzkopf and I started reviewing targets more closely before each day's missions.

If nothing else, the Al Firdos bunker strike underscored the need to start the combined air/ground offensive and end the war. During a quick visit Cheney and I had made to the war zone between February 8 and 10, Schwarzkopf had told us that he would be ready to go by February 21. As soon as Cheney and I got back to Washington, we reported this date to an impatient George Bush. Three days later, however, Norm called and told me that the 21st was out.

"The President wants to get on with this," I said. "What happened?"

"Walt Boomer needs more time," Schwarzkopf answered. Boomer's 1st and 2nd Marine Divisions were deployed to drive head-on from the center of the line toward Kuwait City. But first they had to breach a savage complex of entrenchments that the Iraqis had spent months erecting. The Marines would have to penetrate belts of antipersonnel and antitank mines, tangled rolls of booby-trapped barbed wire, more minefields, and deep tank traps, and then climb twenty-foot-high berms and cross trenches filled with burning oil. All the while, they would be under fire from Iraqi troops and artillery. Boomer wanted time to shift his point of attack twenty miles to the west, where one Iraqi defensive position had been largely abandoned under air attack and another line farther back was incomplete. He also wanted more airstrikes to weaken the enemy defenses before his troops moved.

"It'll cost a few days," Norm said. He wanted to put off the ground offensive until February 24.

"Remember the strategy," I reminded him. The frontal assaults were intended only to tie down the entrenched Iraqis, and that included the Marines' mission. "If Boomer hits serious resistance, he's to stop," I said. Having engaged the enemy, his troops would have accomplished their mission by allowing VII Corps and XVIII Airborne Corps to pull off the left hook in the sparsely defended western desert. "We don't need to kill a bunch of kids singing 'The Marines' Hymn,' " I said.

One of my fundamental operating premises is that the commander in the field is always right and the rear echelon is wrong, unless proved otherwise. The field commander is on the scene, feeling the terrain, directing the troops, facing and judging the enemy. I therefore advised Cheney to accept Norm's recommendation. Cheney reluctantly went to the President and got a postponement to February 24.

I backed Norm, though I thought he was being overly cautious. Over the previous weeks, I had watched VII Corps, with its tens of thousands of troops and hundreds of tanks, pour into Saudi Arabia. We had secretly moved our armored and airborne forces to Iraq's exposed western flank, and we had been holding our breath to see if the Iraqis responded. All they did was send another undermanned division to that part of the desert. That's it, I told myself. They had been sucked in by our moves hinting at a major frontal assault and an amphibious landing on Kuwait from the Persian Gulf. They had shown us everything they had, and it was nowhere near enough to stop our left hook. Earlier we had worried that the desert soil on the western flank might not be able to support heavy armored vehicles. The engineers had tested the sands, however, and gave us a "Go." We questioned local Bedouins, and they confirmed the solidness of the terrain.

The offensive timetable was further clouded as Mikhail Gorbachev tried to play peacemaker. On February 18, the Iraqi foreign minister, Tariq Aziz, went to Moscow to hear a plan under which we would stop hostilities if the Iraqis withdrew from Kuwait. President Bush was in a bind. It was too late for this approach, he believed. After the expenditure of $60 billion and transporting half a million troops eight thousand miles, Bush wanted to deliver a knockout punch to the Iraqi invaders in Kuwait. He did not want to win by a TKO that would allow Saddam to withdraw with his army unpunished and intact and wait for another day. Nevertheless, the President could not be seen as turning his back on a chance for peace.

On February 20, Norm called saying he had talked to his commanders and needed still another delay, to the 26th. He had the latest weather report in hand, he said, and bad weather was predicted for the 24th and 25th, maybe clearing on the 26th. Bad weather equaled reduced air support, which equaled higher casualties. I was on the spot. So far, Cheney had accepted my counsel. But now I did not feel that Norm was giving me sufficiently convincing arguments to take back to Cheney and the President, first that Boomer needed to move his Marines, then that the Marines needed more air support, then that the weather was bad, and on still another occasion, that the Saudi army was not ready. What should I expect next, a postponement to the 28th?

"Look," I told Norm, "ten days ago you told me the 21st. Then you wanted the 24th. Now you're asking for the 26th. I've got a President and a Secretary of Defense on my back. They've got a bad Russian peace proposal they're trying to dodge. You've got to give me a better case for postponement. I don't think you understand the pressure I'm under."

Schwarzkopf exploded. "You're giving me political reasons why you don't want to tell the President not to do something militarily unsound!" He was yelling. "Don't you understand? My Marine commander says we need to wait. We're talking about Marines' lives." He had to worry about them, he said, even if nobody else cared.

That did it. I had backed Norm at every step, fended off his critics with one hand while soothing his anxieties with the other. "Don't you pull that on me!" I yelled back. "Don't you try to lay a patronizing guilt trip on me! Don't tell me I don't care about casualties! What are you doing, putting on some kind of show in front of your commanders?"

He was alone, Schwarzkopf said, in his private office, and he was taking as much heat as I was. "You're pressuring me to put aside my military judgment out of political expediency. I've felt this way for a long time!" he said. Suddenly, his tone shifted from anger to despair. "Colin, I feel like my head's in a vise. Maybe I'm losing it. Maybe I'm losing my objectivity."

I took a deep breath. The last thing I needed was to push the commander in the field over the edge on the eve of battle. "You're not losing it," I said. "We've just got a problem we have to work out. You have the full confidence of all of us back here. At the end of the day, you know I'm going to carry your message, and we'll do it your way." It was time to break off the conversation before one of us threw another match into the gasoline.

Within half an hour, Norm was back on the phone with the latest weather update. The 24th and the 25th did not look too bad after all. "We're ready," he said. We had a go for the 24th.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

My American Journey 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 53 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found MY AMERICAN JOURNEY by Gen., Powell, to be one of the most outstanding memoir ever written, more so because I were one of those African American soldiers that went & served before him. One of those whom backs he walked. To my comrades that gave their very all; I can truly say, my brothers, All were not in vain. Psychologically we Black Americans are encouraged from childhood, not to speak or write of our black heroic deeds. (Slavery &, etc.) We are encouraged not to do so by our parents, relatives and well meaning friends. The reasons,, they're fearful it'll make (some) people uneasy. So when those amongst us do it, we're accused of boasting, praising the evils of wars, or being some kind of radical. Some go as far as to say that such stories put wrong ideas in the heads of our younger generation, when in reality it leaves them with a sense of pride, and knowledge of their history. On March 27, 1950, I turned seventeen years old, and immediately set to work persuading my mother to give the consent required for me to join the military. Ten days later--April 6--I enlisted in the United States Army. In August of that year I was sent to Fort Belvoir, Virginia, for engineering training. During that training, I learned of the so-called police action taking place in Korea, and like many other adventurous young soldiers, I volunteered for combat duty there. Our worst fear was that the police action would be over by the time we arrived in Korea, I even cut short an eight-day leave to be sure I wouldn't miss anything. Such was our minds conditioned. I was shipped to Korea as a rifleman to serve in the U.S. Army's Last All Negro Unit the 24th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion, G-Company, 1st Platoon, 1st Squad. (formerly known as BUFFALO-SOLDIERS) where I was to serve from Dec. 4 1950 until Sept. 1st, 1951. Quite as its been kept, we were one of the first, and most outstanding combat units in the Korean War. In my book WHAT'S A COMMIE EVER DONE TO BLACK PEOPLE? I wrote of my experiences, detailing the psychological effect of the war, on a 17-year-old kid. It also tells the story of a black man's fight in a racist United States army. A war where we black soldiers soon realized the bitter irony of our situation--supposedly fighting to protect the rights and freedom of an ethnic people, many of us had never heard of before; even as that freedom was denied us in our own country. My experience was a rude awakening to the realities, not only of life and death, but of politics. Writing this book was one of the most difficult decision of my life. But perhaps it'll serve as an inspiration to other Black-veterans, to tell their stories, our history. Reflecting back now, at age 67, and realizing the advancements we Americans, of African decent have made, I feel very proud of my participation; and privilege to share them with you, the younger generation. Perhaps, if I had known then at the ages 17, what I know now, I too might've stayed home and remained in school. But I didn't. I chose the road of adventure, The Creator spared me, perhaps to add this chapter, to the history of African-Americans in the making of this our great country; to pass it on, so that all should know, that the freedom and privilege we now enjoy, many fought and died for it. Again I'll say, every American should make MY AMERICAN JOURNEY a must read.
Susan Kasedde More than 1 year ago
I read this book and it felt like taking a long walk with an acquaintance who, by the end of the walk down winding paths, up hills and past scenery, truly felt like a friend. This is a truly generous autobiography and I'm so glad General Colin Powell shared so much of himself in it. What an inspiring man!
dclkink More than 1 year ago
This book is a must read for anyone that calls themselves an American. Colin Powell is one of the GREATEST Americans in this nations history. I am a Soldier and can say that I am overly proud to have served for this man when he was Chariman of the Joint Chiefs. The book shows how a young boy for a very humble family can achive the American Dream. Thank you General Powell.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"My American Journey" by and about Colin Powell was one of the most compelling biographies/memoirs I have read. Learning about and actually taking the journey of this outstanding man- was powerful. Not only are readers taught what Colin Powell had to go through as a child to become the man he transformed into- they are guided through the journey with Colin. It is inspiring to hear about such a success story- especially an American success story from a boy who was born and raised in the Bronx. The story was so real- alot of young men and women are discouraged by school and sometimes the ROTC is the gate away from the normal routine for college students. Usually biographies and memoirs seem to be boring and are not as educated sounding as other novels. But- this biography was very well written and  compelling as a reader. I am researching the ROTC program for a project in my english class and this story has shown me how important the ROTC is to some people and how much it can change young peoples lives for the better. 
KD7UZ More than 1 year ago
A great story of a young man who graduated from a community college and in a ROTC program got his commision and did all his assignments very well and was able to rise to the top position in the Army. A must read to see how he did it.
Michael Goodell More than 1 year ago
great man, awesome story
Johneric Santos More than 1 year ago
this book is kind of long reding but tottlally worth it. it show the american dream as its best as well how the military change from being a obligatory service to a all voluntere service. excellent!
NormainCalifornia More than 1 year ago
Great, I am reading it now and don't want to put it down. What a President he would have made, but the system would destroy him and what he would want to do.
Army_Strong More than 1 year ago
General Powell is an inspiration to many americans and an outstanding leader. I am in the Army and found this book to be on point. I believe his leaderships transcends the military and could be used in any sector of society. Mr. Powell brings forth a story with lessons for both the young and old. Highly Recommend.
NoelaniCA More than 1 year ago
My family sent me a copy of General Powell's book when I was deployed to Kuwait between December 2004 and May 2005. From the first day, after getting off of my 12 hour shift from 8 pm-8 am I would read each page with great admiration and was very anxious to read what was next. There were many morning's after work knowing that I had another shift that same evening that found myself reading to 12 noon and had to make myself stop reading and to get some shut eye! Every free moment I had available I wanted to keep reading and wanted to finish reading. Before I knew it I had finished the book from cover to cover. I, too like General Powell retired from the service (Air Force). But I retired after 20 years of being an enlisted member. It would have been and maybe there still may be a chance for me to one day to meet and be in the presence of the great General Powell. It is with great honor and pride that I salute you, General Powell!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found it very exciting. I'm glad I went to war while he was chief of staff. It proves you can live the American Dream!
Guest More than 1 year ago
General Powell's story is an amazing story of many fellow New Yorkers who went out in the world and made good of themselves. He is an amazing gentleman and it would be nice to see him run for president someday. He is highly capable at leadership and has already helped lead our country since Vietnam and the Nixon years. He is a great role model for young kids who want to make good and i admire his courage and forthrightness in saying what he believes. The general helped inspire me to complete graduate work at George Washington University. God Bless you Secretary Powell.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This books provides readers with historical information and a personal opinion. General Powell provides us with touching opinions on his life as military man and a family man. He gives us an incredible look behind the scenes of a system that 'civilians' are privy to. His book, although written a few years ago and based on his life for the past 50 or so years, provides us with chilling opinions that are so very applicable to our current military actions. I highly recommend this book to anyone curious about the military and/or Colin Powell. General Powell is not only one of the greatest military minds of our time, but his is an amazing human being.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A kid from the Bronx. City College Graduate. A soldier in the United States Army. I truly enjoyed this book, I could barely stop reading it at times. Though I am in opposition of some of his positions on certain issues... he's a mans man, and a soldiers brother. I will be entering the Army in the Spring, and subsequently a career in politics after I am through helping to fight terror, my only regret is that the General is retired, so I won't get to serve under him.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book is full of good stories about the army and the life of one of the greatest generals in us army history.i have wanted to know why is he so famous,so i read the book and i read all his done for this country,serving in vietnam,and bieng a commanding officer in korea and making brigadier general at 42 at that time he was the youngest general in the army.even though i like the book.the chapters that involded the pentagon and all that where boring.overall the book is great for the exception of a couple of chapters.iam 14 so this book is good for any kid that wants to join the army.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
JBD1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An excellent memoir.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not into history or military, but interested in learning more about Colin Powell including his challenges and motivation. This volume is very long but the story unfolds and holds your attention. I have even more respect and appreciation for this American hero. Thank you for the in depth sharing of your personal America journey. In particular thanks for sharing your rules (please read the book for more info regarding rules).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A pure joy to get to know Colin Powell. I hated for the book to end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found this treasure at a used book sale in a state library in, of all places, Waianae Oahu, Hawaii. I sank down in my comfy chair and didn't put the book down until I reached the end 2 days later. That was in 2002. In a recent chat with my big bro, he happened to mention Colin Powell. I didn't waste any time and ordered My American Journey for him. I just know he will appreciate this great read. People ask why Colin Powell chose to walk away from a potential career in politics. He explains, he's a soldier first. Always a soldier.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I like this book very much. It is illuminating to look back at some of the things that went on behind the scenes of the Reagan administration. Colin Powell is a very interesting man. Now I want to read about his life since the mid 90s.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book, great person and explains a lot of what is going on in the world today.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As a young soldier and old veteran I have often wondered how the Military officers were developed and what they knew that we did not know in the field. Colin Powell was there, done that, learned and used what he had learned to lead men, politicians, and armies. Great read and learning experience about how true leadership is developed and rewarded in th Military.