Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"Predator: The Remote-Control Air War Over Iraq and Afghanistan: A Pilot's Story" by Matt J. Martin

Wow! This is one well written book. The story is well told. The book is surprisingly interesting exceeding my expectations.

My thought going in is a book about flying remote control airplanes from half a world away? What I found was a compelling story that kept my interest and had me viewing modern warfare through a new set of eyes ... and I am a former US Army officer! The book will make an amazing movie.

You travel with Gen-X author Matt Martin from his graduation at Purdue University and commissioning as a second lieutenant in the US Air Force through his navigator training and his RC-135 crew experience. We see how his passion to pilot an aircraft fly leads him to apply for the Predator.

The stories are amazing. I laughed when his growing up on a farm experience lead him to identify the suspicious object between the two builds as a manure pile that was generating heat. The chases of the green Toyota was both educational and spell binding. The story of the rocket man and their motivation to get the bad guys had me turning each page.

I loved the chapter with the Peugeot chase and surveillance, especially with the Abrams Tank pointing its main gun at the driver. In another chapter I was amazed when they blew off the front end of the vehicle with the machine gun surviving. The story of the double air strike’s success in taking out the mortar crew made me glad I am no longer a mortar platoon leader as I was 35 years ago!

I enjoyed the human side of the stories in the book. You realize how warfare has changed. You realize people go to war for their shift and then go home at the end of their work day. You learn how both restrictive the rules were on the US and yet see how hard we work to protect the innocent.

Lt. Col. Martin gives some of the best historical background on the conflict I have read. It helps explain both Iraq and Afghanistan. He also looks at the morality of war in a very personal way that helps show the human side of our military. The book deserves more attention as it is a significant contribution to the literature of modern warfare. When I first received the book to review my initial thought was we are too close to the war. I highly recommend the book giving it five out of five stars. You will not be disappointed when you read "Predator: The Remote-Control Air War Over Iraq and Afghanistan: A Pilot's Story" by Matt J. Martin.

The book has a few typos that a forward explains. They did not impact my enjoyment of the book. It looks like "quarters" being replaced with "Bobby" ... so you have the word "headBobby" instead of headquarters a few times as well a "quarters" being replaced with "Bobby". It was no big deal.

Well done!

Saturday, July 02, 2011

"The Pacific War: The Strategy, Politics, and Players That Won The War" by William B. Hopkins

"The Pacific War: The Strategy, Politics, and Players That Won the War" is the best book I have read on the Pacific War Theater of World War Two. The book presents the decision-making processes, strategies, and at times politics that guided the Allied Forces to victory. You are there decision by decision and campaign.

This is both an extremely readable book filled with recent scholarly research. It is as entertaining as a novel. The prose is amazing. I cannot over emphasize how well written the book is. It has an amazing freshness readers will enjoy and is a book you will read from cover to cover. The book covers all the familiar episodes as well as censored or little known events that played a major role in final victory.

The book begins with the first few chapters setting the background. The chapters that follow tell the story chronologically. The chapters are so well written they could stand as independent historical journal articles. They cover the various campaigns.

You receive insights into all aspects of the war. You learn about the big picture items like Plan Orange (a series of United States Joint Army and Navy Board war plans for dealing with a possible war with Japan during the years between the First and Second World Wars) and it's implementation.

You learn of the economic mobilization of the USA. You learn of the size of the role of Australia's involvement in the defeat of Japan as well as the size of General MacArthur's ego. You learn of the role of breaking code and how it was critical to victories in the Coral Sea and Midway.

The battle between the Army and Navy over command and control amazed me. The infighting between services was childish. It shows the need for strong command and control - I think of the removal of an Army general by a USMC general which from the facts given was justified, but caused inter-service strife. You learn how 1944 presidential candidate Thomas Dewey was made aware of the role of the code breaking by General Marshall to keep him from causing grave injury to the war effort.

The role of the submarines is given due credit. The problems with the torpedoes at the war's beginning and their resolution show bureaucratic failures and American ingenuity.  The decisions to keep US Army Divisions out of Burma and China as well as the struggles between Generalissimo and Madame Chiang Kai Shek and Lieutenant General Joseph W. Stilwell, Commanding General, China Expeditionary Forces. You learn the details of the Battle of Leyte Gulf and Philippines as well as realize General MacArthur's personal obsession with the Philippines.

I highly recommend the book. It should be required reading for every Army, Navy, and USMC officer. It should be included in every military and university library as well. This is a very import addition to the history of the Pacific War in World War Two.