Sunday, March 21, 2010

In Their Honor by Linda Swink

“In Their Honor” by Linda Swink is an excellent reference book.  It is a compilation of 524 biographies of military heroes whose names grace the forts, camps, barracks, bases, and fields in the U.S. Air Force; Air National Guard; Army; Army Airfields, Stagefields, and Heliports; Army National Guard, Army Barracks and Kasernes in Germany; Army Camps in South Korea; Marine Corps; and Navy.  It is a wonderful record that will be just as useful for researchers and historians as it will for the men, women, and their families who are currently serving in the United States military.  The book is one that you do not have to read from cover to cover.  You will find yourself dipping into it to explore places you or family members have served.
 
I found myself immediately looking up the names of the military installations where I lived growing up as  an United States Air Force dependent.  Next, I looked up the military installations where I served as an US Army officer.  Growing up I lived at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, Arizona from 1958 to 1963.  Below is an excerpt of the entry/information for Luke Air Force Base.

Luke Air Force Base
Location: Glendale, Arizona
Status: Active
Named for: First Lieutenant Frank Luke, Jr.
Date of Birth: May 19, 1897
Place of Birth: Phoenix, Arizona
Date of Death: September 29, 1918
Place of Death: Murvaux, France
Decorations and Honors: Medal of Honor; Distinguished Service Cross with oak leaf cluster, posthumously; Croix de Guerre (Italy); inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame (1975)
Place of Burial: Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery and Memorial in Romagne, France, Plot A, Grave 13

First Lieutenant Frank Luke, Jr., known as the “Arizona Balloon Buster,” was an ace pilot and the first American aviator to receive the Medal of Honor.

Luke enlisted in the Signal Corps’ aviation section on September 25, 1917. He soloed on December 12 at Rockwell Field in California, was commissioned in January 1918, and sent to France where he was assigned to the 27th Aero Squadron of the 1st Pursuit Group.

Luke was recognized as the most spectacular air fighter of World War I for shooting down eighteen airplanes and balloons, making him an ace pilot. Later, he went on to surpass Eddie Rickenbacker’s record. Thirteen of his victories were obtained in a single week. He was only twenty-one years old when he was killed.

His Medal of Honor citation for action during World War I reads as follows:  After having previously destroyed a number of enemy aircraft within seventeen days he voluntarily started on a patrol after German observation balloons. Though pursued by eight German planes which were protecting the enemy balloon line, he unhesitatingly attacked and shot down in flames three German balloons, being himself under heavy fire from ground batteries and the hostile planes. Severely wounded, he descended to within fifty meters of the ground, and flying at this low altitude near the town of Murvaux opened fire upon enemy troops, killing six and wounding as many more. Forced to make a landing and surrounded on all sides by the enemy, who called upon him to surrender, he drew his automatic pistol and defended himself gallantly until he fell dead from a wound in the chest.

Highly Recommend:
I highly recommend “In Their Honor” to all military historians, both professional and amateur.  This is an exceptional reference book that should be included in every community library in the United States.  It provides a reference for the good citizens of America to get a snapshot of where their sons or daughters are serving.  I also recommend the book as a tool that should be provided for all the newly commissioned officers in any branch of the United States military.  If you have a son or daughter in the military it would be an excellent gift.   To the author who served herself in the United States Air Force and is the daughter of a United States Marine Corps veteran, bravo and thank you for your work.  It approaches the subject from a point of view that other works on the US Military Institutions missed, honoring the memories of the persons who were honored with a military post bearing their name.

Read and reviewed by Jimmie Aaron Kepler, March 2010

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Through Blood and Fire at Gettysburg: My Experiences with the 20th Maine Regiment on Little Round Top by General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

"To the front for them lay death; to the rear what they would die to save." These words describe the events that take place in this magnificent book of remembrances. In July 1863 around the Pennsylvania town of Gettysburg was staged the greatest conflict ever fought on American soil. There for three days the battle raged and brave men on both sides died. It was here the Confederacy reached its zenith.

Following the battle of Gettysburg the Confederate States of America could only gather their broken forces and dread the certain end. The outcome of the battle was not decided until the third day and the disaster of Pickett's charge where 6600 men had died. Each succeeding day's battle had been more desperate than the one before. On the first day only a part of each army was engaged. July 2 witnessed the inferno of the Peach Orchard and the Round Tops. The last day was the most thrilling in our history. In this one battle was enough glory of heroism to immortalize the American soldier.

"Through Blood and Fire at Gettysburg: My Experiences with the 20th Maine Regiment on Little Round Top" by General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain deals with the Second day, when the slopes of the Round Tops were bathed in blood. The author, then colonel of the Twentieth Maine, was later given the Congressional Medal of Honor for his defense of these vital positions. It was the pivotal battle and point of the United States Civil War. The little book is a must read for every person with interest in the battle of Gettysburg and the US Civil War. It is a primary source document that gives the story of the second day at Gettysburg from the Union point of view focusing on Little Round Top.

The book reads both like an after action report and yet shows the scholarship of Chamberlain who was a Professor of Rhetoric at Bowdoin College in Bangor, Maine. Chamberlain was fluent in 9 languages (Greek, Latin, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Arabic, Hebrew, and Syriac), had a bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College and a master's degree from Bangor Theological Seminary. After the war he served as both president of Bowdoin College and four terms as governor of the state of Maine.

The material in this book was originally published in "Maine: Her Place in History" (1877), originally prepared as an address at the Centennial Exposition at Philadelphia, Nov. 4, 1876, and was published in "The Passing of the Armies" (1915), a book of reminiscence dealing with the final campaigns of the Army of the Potomac all by Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. Read and reviewed by Jimmie Aaron Kepler.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Scandalon: Running From Shame and Finding God's Scandalous Love by Susan Elaine Jenkins

I normally do not post nonmilitary history reviews on this site.  This book is the only exception.  It is written by my friend Susan Elaine Jenkins.  Even if she weren't my friend, I would still recommend the book.

Have you thought what it would like to get to know, work with the people in China, and live with them? Have you wondered what it would be like to grow up in a minister’s family? Susan Elaine Jenkins paints an insightful and sobering picture that answers these questions in her masterful memoir, “Scandalon: Running From Shame and Finding God's Scandalous Love.“

As I read the book her narrative format had me feeling like I was sitting in a recliner with a cup of coffee and she was sitting across the room telling me her story of how not just one, but a series of scandals hit her life. Some of events were self-inflicted. Other events were of someone else’s making. I found a bit of myself and my struggles as I read her story. Her writing and story were so interesting I didn’t want to put the book down! Yet, I feared I would read it too fast. I love the way her personality permeates the book.

In 1980, after three years of teaching in the USA in a private school (and saving her money) Susan made a trip to China. It was part of a gift she gave herself - a trip around the world. It was a prelude. In 1997 Susan accepted a two year teaching position in Tianjin, China. She would remain in China.

Susan employs a wonderful method of telling of her adventures in China with reflections on what took place in her earlier life in the USA. The transition between the USA story and the China story is via a short statement of spiritual truth or insight. It is these earlier events in the USA that lead to her seeking refuge half way around the world. We see God’s handiwork in her life. We see her improving her language skills, her understanding of the Chinese culture, and how her American culture sometimes exasperated her Chinese friends, especially Ouyang. We reflect back on her life adventure that includes how she was used and mistreated by those in positions of authority over her and learned he had previously mistreated others. We also see how she survived!

Susan stories range from hilarious to tear inducing. I have two favorites. First, the story about her being invited back stage in Hawaii to meet Don Ho. Her parents encourage her to go. Don Ho wanted to do more than meet her. I could feel the confusion she felt from her parents encouraging her into such a situation. I wanted to take her dad aside and say you are supposed to protect your daughter! Second is the story at the Friendship Store of the two broken vases and how Susan came to the rescue of the Chinese couple. She demanded they not have to pay for the broken vase since she didn’t have to pay for one she broke a week earlier. We learn how the Chinese have two sets of rules – one for foreigners and one for other Chinese. I could feel the compassion and empathy Susan has for others.

The book is a good read and would be a valuable addition to all community and church libraries. It would also be a good study book for women’s group and even for counseling. It gives a realistic insight into the struggles we all face. The book gives answers about Chinese culture, running and finding God and finding one’s self.