THE LONG GRAY LINE
by Rick Atkinson
Houghton Mifflin; 592 pages; $24.95
A veteran examines a 20-year-old photograph of his graduating class. "The guy on my left is dead now," he notes. "So is the guy on my right. The three of us didn't fare too well in Viet Nam. I came out the best." He points with the hook that serves as his right hand.
Rick Atkinson's epic of West Point's class of '66 is marked by such piercing incidents. A Washington Post reporter, he begins by following some 600 freshmen, ruddy and damp in their new gray wool uniforms....