Friday, September 17, 2010

The American Aircraft Factory in World War II by Bill Yenne

The American Aircraft Factory in World War II by Bill Yenne is truly magnificent. When I first had the book in my hand I thought “coffee table book”. After reading the book and looking at the pictures it is so much more. It is a wonderful tribute to the men and women who built the airplanes. It is an excellent history of the aircraft industry in the Unites States. The author gives a great background and understanding of the founders and companies like Boeing, North American, Curtiss, Consolidated, Douglas, Grumman, and Lockheed.

I learned of the Air Mail Act of 1934. The act required the separation of the airlines from manufactures. It caused some like William Edward Boeing to leave the industry. He gives great tribute to the gender shift in the work place and the ramping up of the industry for the war. He takes us through the construction of the facilities as well as the transition back to a peace time production.

The photographs in the book are amazing. I have never seen so many high quality photographs of this era in one collection. Without the pictures the book is a wonderful history of the aircraft industry. With the pictures it is transformed into a work of art.

I highly recommend the book for all aviation and World War II buffs. It would be an excellent addition to community and public school libraries as well. This is a masterpiece that will stand the test of time.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

“The Roer River Battles: Germany's Stand at the Westwall, 1944-45” by David Higgins

“The Roer River Battles: Germany's Stand at the Westwall, 1944-45” by David Higgins gives a detailed examination of the “broad front” where the United States forces encountered some of their most difficult battles in Europe. Parts of this geographic area and time-period of World War II are frequently over looked by historians, while other areas (the Ardennes Offensive) receive detailed examination.

The book is excellent. For the military historian it would be an excellent first book on the Roer River Campaign. For those who study the campaign in depth and are enthusiastic collectors this book will be a valuable addition to your collection.

My personal interest in the book comes from serving in the 9th Infantry Division during the 1970s. During this period, I attended a meeting of the Octofoil Association at Fort Lewis, Washington. Testimonials of veterans of the 9th’s campaign in the Hürtgen Forrest explained the misery, mud, high casualties, and stalemate. They planted the seeds of my curiosity that the book helped answer.

David Higgins does a good job of getting the troops off the beaches at Normandy and moving them to the west wall. That story itself volume be a separate volume, but is outside the scope of this work.

The story is well organized, concise, and easy to understand. The tactical reporting while to the point is first-rate. The author does a very good job of explaining the intentions of the operations and scrutinizing their implementation. We clearly see the difficulty of reaching the Roer River. You encounter the fighting in the villages, bunkers, and massive forest. You see how the German had excellent fields of fire and killing zones.

You will take pride with the breaching of the bunkers of the West Wall. A clear, you are there, kind of picture is painted as you experience the encirclement and capture of Aachen as well as the clearing the Stolberg Corridor. You experience the repeated drives on the way to Schmidt plus the battles for and capture of places like Linnich, Julich, Duren and the key dams. David Higgins does a great job of taking us to these and the many other objectives the Allies forces secure as they strive for the Roer River.

The book has excellent footnotes at the end of each chapter. The book has a very good index. The table of contents of the book provides a great road map for your journey. The appendix on the West Wall contributes to an understanding of the West Wall’s history. I appreciate the pictures in the book. There are enough pictures to add to the story, but not so many to have them become the focus of the work. Many writers today miss getting all the facts of the story told by filling a book with anecdotes from participates in the events without helping the reader see the overall picture. Mr. Higgins has us clearly seeing the objectives and strategies.

The book is worthy of its selection as a Military History Book Club selection. It is both enjoyable to read and a great addition to any military history buff’s library and well as the scholar. It would be a great addition to a community or university library as well.