Saturday, November 27, 2010

Patton's Third Army in World War II: An Illustrated History by Michael Green and James D. Brown

Patton's Third Army in World War II: An Illustrated History (Hardcover) by Michael Green and James D. Brown is spectacular. The book is a large sized at 12 inches by 11 inches with 288 thick, glossy pages. While the appearance  is that of a "coffee-table book", it is that and much more.

The book is both war gallery with some of the best photographs you will every see of World War II and part war summary giving you an excellent overview of of the US Third Army's fighting in France, Belgium and finally Germany in 1944 and 1945.

Eisenhower placed Patton in command of a decoy unit, the First U.S. Army Group. It was nearly seven weeks after D-Day before General Patton finally took the Third  U.S. Army into battle. We see in picture and word how he began a ten-month journey across France, driving through Germany and into Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia and Austria. During this journey we see the way Third Army forces entered the Battle of the Bulge and helped break the siege of Bastogne.

The book covers Patton's command of Third Army. It places the focus you would expect on Armor (tank) operations. We see how Patton evolved a new style of fighting - an American version of the lightning war. We see him avoiding entrenched infantry warfare allowing him to keep pushing forward. General Patton's rough, hard charging personality shows through the books pages. US Military photos and frequent quotes complete the picture of Patton as well as his men as they fight their way across the Third Reich.

The book details in detail on the use of armor divisions, how to conduct tank reconnaissance, the role and how to of infantry in combat, as well as the use of antitank weapons like the bazooka, as well as other issues.

The book is a must have for any student of Armored warfare and fan of General Patton. It would be an excellent addition to any community or school library as well. It is a wonderful blend of story and picture.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Naked in Da Nang by Mike Jackson and Tara Dixon-Engel

I loved Mike Jackson and Tara Dixon-Engel’s “Naked in Da Nang.” Jackson was a Forward Air Controller flying over Vietnam in 171 to 1972.  He flew 210 combat missions.

I appreciated the humanity of the pilots and soldiers that ran through in his book. It was I picture that related more to my own experience in service during the same era.

I enjoyed reading “Naked in Da Nang.” The stories of flying left me feeling I was in the aircraft with the author. I learned respect for the difficulty of just getting the aircraft support on station and the key roll the FAC had to keep friendly fire off the good guys. 

I loved the way this wasn’t a typical hubris memoir. The word humanity kept coming to mind as I read the book. The human story was the thread running throughout the book. I loved the “Other Voices” being included in the story. I was especially touched by his then eighth grade sister’s recollection of Mike’s going into the Air Force after college, his parents crying, and the map she hated in the basement. His sister sharing her outburst at school when the flower child teacher calls the troops in Vietnam baby kills is touching. We feel the fear her family had in not hearing from Mike for two weeks prior and the family love she had in defending him. The chapter that the book draws its title from is humorous. We have the power going out causing the lights to go out while Mike Jackson is stuck outside, naked, in the typhoon.

My research found the book is now in its third printing. That is amazing for a military memoir. It also tells you something is different about this one – it tells the human story. It will touch your emotions. It really felt at times like I was sitting at the dining room table with a cup of coffee and the author sitting across reminiscing about his time in Vietnam, both how he got there, how it touched his family, and what he has done since. I highly recommend the book.