Wednesday, November 28, 2012

General Albert C. Wedemeyer: America's Unsung Strategist in World War II by John McLaughlin

General Albert C. Wedemeyer: America's Unsung Strategist in World War II by John McLaughlin. Be there no doubt, the author is a fan of General Albert C. Wedemeyer. The book is a statement of admiration for the general. This is not bad. I am very knowledgeable in military history as a historian by education and a former US Army officer. This book made me aware of a large gap in my knowledge. Yes, I had heard of General Wedemeyer. I was aware of his leadership in China. No, I had no idea he was the architect and strategist of the "Victory Program" which conceived the plans for US mobilization and included the D-Day invasion.

In the late 1930s he was an exchange student at the German Kriegsakademia, the Nazis' equivalent of Fort Leavenworth's Command and General Staff School. Because of this,he recognized the revolutionary tactics of Blitzkrieg once they were unleashed, and he knew how to respond.

The book is researched with the skill of a scholar and told in a straight forward way that is very engaging. We learn of a man who held key roles of strategizing on both the European and Asian fronts.

General Wedemeyer was an amazing intellect, one of the brightest  minds the US has ever had. Dr. John McLaughlin did a great job of giving us the facts, telling the story, and leaving a tribute to General Albert C. Wedemeyer who was America's Unsung Strategist in World War II. The book is very good. It has lessons for military leaders, politicians, and strategic strategist.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

"The Battle For Tinian: Vital Stepping Stone in America's War Against Japan" by Nathan N. Prefer from Casemate Publishers.

Mr. Prefer has written an outstanding book on the battle for Tinian.  While only 240 pages, it is an excellence examination of the battle and planning. Persons interested in World War Two in the Pacific will enjoy its direct and easily understood style. The author is a master communicator. I highly recommend the book. Not only is it the tale of how to plan and execute a battle, it is a model on how to write the history of a battle.

The author starts the book with an historical overview of the Mariana Islands giving the background by placing in context why we are the based on the whereabouts, topography, and military significance. We learn why this location is so important to both the Japanese and the United States.

We look at the Battle for Tinian through the scope of the Battle for Saipan. The planning of the battle, the lessons learned, and the future implications of the education received are enduring.  

The author does an excellent job of describing the Japanese stronghold on Tinian down to both their defenses and leadership issues. The unfolding of the decision-making process of the US in selecting the landing sites is a lesson in leadership by itself.

The photographs and simple maps added to the book. Sometimes simple is better. I found myself repeatedly referring back to the maps to locate landing sites and follow the action. The way Mr. Prefer narrated the daily actions and events on landings, attacks, counterattacks had me feeling as if I were there. It was able to touch my emotion through his writing.

He does an extraordinary job pulling it all together and summarizing the campaign. The inclusion of the appendixes with key leadership, causality information, information of the ships, citations, battle orders add significant value to the work. The bibliography will help the serious student or scholar in their further study as will the excellent indexing of the book.

Nathan N. Prefer and Casemate Publishers have hit a home run with the book. Like the order of battler for Tinian, they both have set the example of how book on a battle should be written. 

Friday, September 07, 2012

"With Musket and Tomahawk Volume II: The Mohawk Valley Campaign in the Wilderness War Of 1777" by Michael Logusz

I have not read "With Musket and Tomahawk: The Saratoga Campaign and the Wilderness War of 1777" by Michael O. Logusz. I am proof you don't have to read volume I to enjoy volume II. I'll confess I have a good background in the history of the American Revolutionary War. I have a BA in history. I took every undergraduate course offered on the American Revolution at my university. I also studied it when taking United States military history. The author does a good job of telling the story. The book is a good balance on scholarly level research and documentation wrapped around a very good story. You feel like you are there at of Fort Stanwix and the Battle of Oriskany. You learn that in many ways the neighbor versus neighbor and family versus family first happen in this war, not the US Civil War. You learn there were Indians fighting on both sides as well. You experience the wilderness of this war right down to the lay of the land. You experience the military strategies and maneuvers as well as the frightening viciousness of battle. You learn of the key role western New York played in this war. This watershed campaign helped seal England’s demise and America’s eventual triumph. The book doesn’t read like an after action report with mind numbing details and numbers. It tells the story and held my attention. If you’re looking for reality based “leather-stocking” tales, this is it.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Battered Bastards of Bastogne by George Koskimaki

George Koskimaki wrote three books on the 101st Airborne Division. They are 1) D-Day with the Screaming Eagles, 2) Hell's Highway: Chronicle of the 101st Airborne Division in the Holland Campaign, September - November 1944, and 3) Battered Bastards of Bastogne. This is a review of book three, Battered Bastards of Bastogne. George Koskimaki offers unique insights, as he was 101st Airborne Division commanding general, General Maxwell Taylor’s radio operator.

Battered Bastards of Bastogne fleshes out in vivid detail the entire story of the Screaming Eagles' valiant struggle. It gives us information not covered in the other books by interweaving the stories of 530 soldiers interviewed who were on the ground or in the air over Bastogne. They lived, made this history and much of it is told in their own words.

The story of the Battle of the Bulge is amazing. We learn how little time had passed from the Holland Campaign before the 101st is pulled from being their reserve role. We see ill-equipped they were in terms of weapons. We find out their equipment and uniforms had not been replenished after Market Garden/Holland Campaign. We hear the often-told story of the lack of winter weather gear. We see how stupid some were in tossing their limited cold weather gear like over shoes when the weather was a little less cold at the beginning of the battle. We see circumstances with General Taylor being called back to the USA for a staff conference, the shifting of key senior NCO's due to enjoying their time off line too much, and how the division moved into combat via ground transportation for the first time.

I especially enjoyed the detail and interweaving of the soldiers stories. It is amazing to view moments on the battlefield through multiple points of view. Some readers may find the book hard or even tedious to get through because of the detail. I did not. I found it added to the story. As in the author's two previous works on the 101st I find the personal accounts gave vitality to the story. It kept it flowing instead of reading like a military after action report. Once again, Mr. Koskimaki did a superb job of telling the history the 101st Airborne Division. I appreciated the way the book is both descriptive and detailed. It gives you a feel that you are there with the men. The author did an outstanding job in this area. This is must reading for any student of World War II history.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Hell's Highway by George Koskimaki

George Koskimaki was 101st Airborne Division commanding general, General Maxwell Taylor’s radio operator. He wrote the three-book history of the 101st Airborne during World War Two. Hell's Highway: Chronicle of the 101st Airborne Division in the Holland Campaign, September - November 1944 is the second book in the series.

I had previously read Cornelius Ryan’s “A Bridge to Far”, Stephen Ambrose’s “Band of Brothers” and “Citizen Soldiers”, Robert Kershaw's “It Never Snows in September: The German View of Market-Garden and the Battle of Arnhem, September 1944”, Martin Middlebrooks’s “Arnhem 1944: The Airborne Battle” (focusing on the British specifically at the Arnhem sector), and James Gavin’s “On to Berlin”. All of the books gave good presentations and different points of view of Operation Market Garden. George Koskimaki’s book is based on interviews with more than six hundred paratroopers journals the soldiers intense personal accounts. It gives the vivid previously untold versions of the Screaming Eagles' valiant struggle.

Hell's Highway gives us something not covered in the other books. It tells of the Dutch people and members of the underground and their liberation after five years of oppression by the Nazis. It shares how they have never forgotten America's airborne heroes and how the 101st endangered and even sacrificed their lives for the freedom of the Netherlands and Europe.

While some readers may find the book hard or even tedious to get through because of the detail, I did not. The personal accounts gave vitality to the story. It kept it flowing instead of reading like a military after action report. Mr. Koskimaki did a superb job of telling the history the 101st Airborne Division during Operation Market Garden.

The book is just right for beginners and experts of the 101st Airborne Division. The three books George Koskimaki wrote on the 101st Airborne Division are 1) D-Day with the Screaming Eagles, 2) Hell's Highway: Chronicle of the 101st Airborne Division in the Holland Campaign, September - November 1944, and 3) Battered Bastards of Bastogne. I highly recommend the book.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

D-Day With The Screaming Eagles By George Koskimaki

George Koskimaki the noted historian of the 101st Airborne Division wrote “D-Day with the Screaming Eagles”.  Mr. Koskimaki  was 101st Airborne Division commanding General Maxwell Taylor’s radio operator. The book was written in 1970. Interviews with hundreds of paratroopers contributed to the book. Their stories are attention grabbing and captivating. They cover the first hours of Normandy. The fact that the book covers only the first couple of days of the D-Day invasion allows fascinating details to be covered.

The book gives you the feel that you are there during the frenzied first hours of the invasion. Detailed accounts of the activities of the pathfinders were enthralling. You encounter stories where paratroopers are sleepily drugged by the motion sickness medication they took preflight. You are under antiaircraft fire with them as they make their final approaches to the drop zones. In some cases, you are within the aircraft as it is going down in flames. You feel the fear of being captured by the Germans. You experience the myriad of broken legs, sprained ankles and other injuries from jumping at too fast of air speeds and too low of altitudes while being shot at. You land with them in the trees and nearly drown in the flooded areas during your parachute landing. You feel the downright confusion of the event. 

The coverage of the glider units landing later during the D-day is information rarely covered in other books. Familiar stories like Lieutenant Dick Winters leading troops taking out the guns on Normandy are shared with a freshness that predates “Band of Brothers” by nearly twenty-five years.

I strongly recommend the book. It is necessary for any military history library, college library or community library.  Books like “Band of Brother’s”, "D-Day: June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II”, “Citizen Soldiers” and “The Greatest Generation” follow the historical method used by Mr.  Koskimaki. 

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Exodus from the Alamo: The Anatomy of the Last Stand Myth by Phillip Thomas Tucker

If you remember the 1960 movie "The Alamo" with John Wayne and use it as your primary source for understanding the Alamo you will not like this work. The book presents an interpretation that is different from the traditional view and anything I previously encountered. 

As I started reading I was at first shocked finding the book unsettling. It just wasn't the story being told the way I had learned.  My family's roots are in Gonzales County, Texas near the Cost community.That is where  the Battle of Gonzales happened in Oktoberfest 1835. As a sixth generation Texan, member of Texas First Families (member # 5255), holder of a bachelor of arts in history from the University of Texas at Arlington, a person who has studied Texas and military history on the university level, and one who has been to the Alamo over a dozen times I found myself realizing the book lives up to its title - "Exodus from the Alamo: The Anatomy of the Last Stand Myth ". The title is accurate. The author cuts open and examines the story of the Alamo.

The historian in me started looking at the research and documentation of the author. After all, I was reading the story from a point of view totally foreign to my experience. The author used letters and reports of Mexican officers written immediately after the battle. The book is well referenced. I knew we had slavery in Texas prior to the battle of the Alamo, but keeping the "peculiar institution" had never been listed as a primary motivating factor for the Texas War of Independence in my previous study. Most shocking to me was the author's conclusion that the battle of the Alamo was a short predawn clash that held no real military significance. He concludes that the inexperienced defenders of the Alamo were overconfident, caught asleep in their beds, run scared when attacked (hence "The Exodus") and routinely killed by Mexican cavalry who were guarding the rear exits. This is not the heroic last stand the 1960 movie told.

Comment: The research is hard to argue against. Just because the story doesn't match the myth doesn't mean the story isn't true. I'm still reflecting on the book. I say let the scholars read and react to his research. Let the average white person reflect on the content. Let those of Hispanic heritage hold their heads high. I had never viewed the Alamo as a bunch of rebels trying to break free from the legitimate government or the Mexican Army as simply soldiers trying to suppress a rebellion. Time will tell how this point of view and research is received. I hope this is just the first  of several works to reexamine the battle of the Alamo. 

Myth or fact? The research is pretty straight forward. Read all of it with an open mind before drawing your own conclusions. You just might surprise yourself. Remember, as the book's title warns, the author is challenging a 175 years old myth.

Interesting note: I checked the Alamo Museum's on-line gift store, book selection. They have 193 books on the Alamo for sale. This book is not listed.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Campaigns for Vicksburg, 1862-63: Leadership Lessons by Kevin Dougherty

Five stars plus! I loved reading this amazing book by Kevin Dougherty. “The Campaigns for Vicksburg, 1862-63: Leadership Lessons” is too good of a book to be relegated as just another history of Vicksburg. Bookstores should not limit the book to assignment in the military history section. It deserves a prominent place in the business section with the books on leadership and management as well as the military history section. As I read the book I was reminded of a book I read in the early 1990s, "Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun". The book is that good!

Kevin Dougherty does a great job of providing leadership lessons from the key military and political leaders of the time.  He helps us understand Vicksburg. He does this by sharing the challenges, characteristics, and styles associated with leadership during the Civil War. He follows with an overview of the entire Vicksburg Campaign.

Next, he provides thirty case studies or leadership vignettes. He starts with General Winfield Scott’s Anaconda Plan. He carries us systematically through the campaign. We meet and learn about the key leaders and engagements. Each of the thirty vignettes begins with the short summary. It follows with a succinct history of the event (e.g. Chickasaw Bayou: William Sherman and Knowing When to Quit). Sharing the resulting leadership lessons learned from the event follow. The chapters (vignettes) conclude with a sidebar of “Takeaways” which provide a succinct summary of the lessons learned.

As you are enjoying reading the book, you learn valuable lessons on the difference between management and leadership. You gain an understanding of servant leadership. You see the value of clear communication from leaders to their subordinates. You comprehend the worth of personal presence of the leader in an organization. 

The author ends the book with conclusions about leadership during the Vicksburg campaign. The areas covered are strategy, confidence, unity of effort, frame of reference, situational awareness, risk taking, problem solving, personal bravery, and technical skill. The inclusion of the Vicksburg Campaign Order of Battle as an appendix is appreciated and helps with the understanding of the size of the leadership task faced by General U.S. Grant.

“The Campaigns for Vicksburg, 1862-63: Leadership Lessons” is a valuable addition to the study of leadership and Vicksburg.  It would be an excellent study for business leaders as well as the professional officer and soldier. I recommend its addition to the personal library of all students of military science. My hope is it would be included in the reading lists of the officer basic or advanced courses. As in "Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun", the lessons presented in "The Campaigns for Vicksburg, 1862-63: Leadership Lessons" are timeless.

Well done, Lt. Col. Kevin Dougherty, Ph.D. , US Army (retired) Adjunct Professor, Tactical Officer at The Citadel. I enjoyed your book. Well done, indeed!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Michael Yon Online Magazine

Michael Yon Online Magazine. Michael Yon is a former Green Beret, native of Winter Haven, Fl. who has been reporting from Iraq and Afghanistan since December 2004.  No other reporter has spent as much time with combat troops in these two wars.  Michael’s dispatches from the frontlines have earned him the reputation as the premier independent combat journalist of his generation.  His work has been featured on “Good Morning America,” The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, CNN, ABC, FOX, as well as hundreds of other major media outlets all around the world.

In 2007 and 2008 he won the Weblog Award Poll for 'Best Military Blog'. He won the 2005 Weblog Award for 'Best Media/Journalism Blog'. 

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Free France's Lion: The Life Of Philippe Leclerc, De Gaulle's Greatest General by William Moore

Most students of World War II are familiar with General Charles de Gaulle. Only the most serious know of General Philippe Leclerc. I consider myself very knowledgeable when it comes to World War II history. William Mortimer Moore's biography of Philippe Leclerc filled a void in my education. The book is well-written. It held my attention.

The story begins with Leclerc’s death. We learn of his ill-fated November 1947 airplane flight and fatal crash in Algeria. We next are educated on the details of his family history including his coming from an old line of nobility being made aware of the role of his Catholic faith and heritage. We travel with Leclerc following the fall of France in 1940 to London. We go with him to Africa, as he becomes governor of French Cameroon, travel with him as he battles the Axis in Chad and moves his troops across West Africa where he distinguished himself in Tunisia.

General Leclerc commands the French 2nd Armored Division. They land in Normandy; he participates in the battle of the Falaise Pocket, and the liberation of Paris. Leclerc and de Gaulle had to persuade Eisenhower to send troops help the Parisians.

At the end of World War II in Europe, he received command of the French Far East Expeditionary Corps, and represented France during the surrender of the Japanese Empire, signing the surrender document for France. Leclerc is the commander over French Indo-China after World War II. He approved negations with Ho Chi Minh which were unsuccessful. He returned to France.

The book is a must read for any serious student of World War II in Europe. The book is extensively footnoted. The footnotes are heavy with secondary, rather than primary sources. It has an excellent index. It would be an excellent addition to any community, college or personal library. "Free France's Lion: The Life Of Philippe Leclerc, De Gaulle's Greatest General" is written by William Moore. The publisher is Casemate Publishers.

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Pacific War Uncensored: A War Correspondent's Unvarnished Account of the Fight Against Japan by Harold Guard with John Tring

When I first received my review copy I thought, oh great a memoir written by the grandson. As I started reading, the book was a pleasant surprise. It is well written, entertaining, and insightful. I found myself not wanting to put the book down. It is the story of Harold Guard. He’s from England. This wonderful book gives use the story of his life with the focus on his role as a war correspondent with the United Press International.

Mr. Guard led an interesting life. The story begins with him in the British Navy serving on submarines. We experience the accident that shatters his right knee joint. The right knee joint is removed leaving his leg stiff. The stay at the hospital allows him to get reacquainted with a Queen’s Army schoolmistress, Marie Guppy. He had met her originally in Hong Kong during his Navy travels. She becomes Mrs. Harold Guard and they accompany each other on their many adventures over the next three decades.

After they marry, Marie has to return to Hong Kong. We get the story of their travels back to the Far East. On they arrive in Hong Kong Harold has to find work. Ultimately, because of ingenuity if starting a magazine and a financial newsletter he is offered a position of getting the United Press office started in Hong Kong. We are given a wonderful depiction of 1930s and early 1940s Hong Kong.

Because of his position with United Press, Harold Guard is an eyewitness to history reporting on many of the critical battles of the Second World War. The United Press moves Harold to Singapore where he opens their office. The coverage of Singapore, the lack of preparation of the British and local authorities, and ultimately the Japanese attack and invasion are breath taking.

Harold’s escape and evasion from the Japanese forces and decisive retreat to Java and then to Australia will keep you turning the pages. Harold’s coverage of events has made him a celebrity by the time he arrives in Australia.

The book does an excellent job of describing 1940s Australia. Credit for the role of the American engineers occurs numerous times in the book. We see this in everything from the building of roads across the Outback to the making of corduroy roads in Java. I especially enjoyed the coverage given to the common soldier and airman in Harold’s articles and in the book. He comes across as selfless. An example is when he writes the dispatches for United Press and then for the other newspaper correspondents sending the cables when he has the breaking news of the Battle of the Coral Sea. His getting to fly on missions with the United States Army Air Forces and report on them amazed me. I also chuckled when reading his account of General MacArthur. No wonder his truthful story failed to be published.

Without writing a summary of the book, I would point out that Harold’s adventures moved on to the Burma front, helping the United Press’ establishment in India. This would allow him to get back to London. We learn of the political unrest in India. A funny story during his India time was traveling back to Australia. On arrival he was treated as if he was a general when a sister airplane carrying several general had to turn back because of mechanical problems. Because of radio silence, no one knew the plan had turned back.
Harold gets back to England just as the war ends. We see his further adventures as he helps establish the United Press office in Prague. He then covers such events as establishment of the nation of Israel, Princess Elizabeth’s death, the London Olympics, the death of the British King George VI and then goes on a world tour for the Foreign Office to give an assessment of what is happening in the world.

The grandfather would be proud of the book the grandson produced. This is well written and very enjoyable. Hollywood would do good to buy the movie rights and make an action adventure movie on Harold Guard’s life. I strongly recommend the book.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Inferno: The Epic Life and Death Struggle of the USS Franklin in World War II by Joseph A. Springer.

Joseph A. Springer sets the standard for how oral histories should be written with "Inferno: The Epic Life and Death Struggle of the USS Franklin in World War II”. You feel as if you are on-board as the story of "Big Ben", the USS Franklin, in World War II unfolds. It is necessary read for anyone who claims to be a World War II history buff.

The book divides into two parts. The ship's change of commanders is the dividing point - Captain Shoemaker's command and Captain Gehres' command.  It is a well-structured book. It starts with the specs and construction of "Big Ben". It takes us through the training of the crew and shakedown voyages. We travel through the Panama Canal to San Diego and on to Pearl Harbor laying all the appropriate groundwork along the way.

The author rapidly moves us into naval carrier operations. You are there in the South Pacific for many of the famous battles. You experience Iwo Jima, Peleliu, Luzon, Manila, Leyte, and Honshu.

Mr. Springer takes great care in organizing and selecting interviews. You are in the aircraft cockpits experiencing the words and emotions of the men who lived through the survived the events. The stories are breath taking eyewitness accounts and survival stories. He manages to get you inside the heads of the pilots and ship's crew. You feel the fear and experience the heroism.

The USS Franklin's size and importance led to one of the Navy's first encounters with Japan's Kamikaze attack planes. The suicide pilots delivered terrible damage to "Big Ben" in October 1944 off the Philippines. The damage forced Big Ben back to Bremerton, WA for repairs and a change of command.

In March 1945, "Big Ben" experienced the devastating bomb attack off Honshu, Japan. That attack defined her crews' extraordinary valor. Somehow, they saved the ship. "Big Ben" traveled back to New York. She was rebuilt, but would never be the same.

Mr. Springer makes good arguments to restore the entire crew of the USS Franklin's honor. You learn how the spiteful and hateful actions of  her second captain attempted to segregate the crew into two groups. Group one was the sailors and airmen that remained on board during the entire ordeal. Group two was the person who did not stay onboard for the entire ordeal. Unfortunately, Captain Gehres made no differentiation for those who may have been blown overboard by exploding ordnance, forced off due to flames and heat, removed to a rescue vessel as a result of injury or simply because they were ordered to abandon ship. Joseph A. Springer wins the argument that All Hands of the USS Franklin were the real heroes of this gut-wrenching ordeal and fight for survival. This includes those on the rescue vessels.

The book gets my highest rating. It has excellent photographs, maps, illustrations. The reference material at the end of the book will make ever the most critical historian smile. Buy the book. "Inferno: The Epic Life and Death Struggle of the USS Franklin in WWII" is an excellent book.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

"Voices of the Bulge: Untold Stories from Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge" by Michael Collins and Martin King

Oral histories are fashionable these days. When the oral history is tied to a battle or events that have been reported on repeatedly it is a challenge. "Voices of the Bulge: Untold Stories from Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge" by Michael Collins and Martin King is a book where the writers have used a dozen years’ worth of research and interviews with veterans along with historical accounts of the battle to tell the story through the eyes of the participants.

The book is a clear and direct account of the Battle of the Bulge. The authors give good coverage to the first ten days. As I read the book, I was at first taken aback by the redundancy of many of the soldier’s accounts. Their interpretations of the events were focused on the weather and retreating or being away from the front lines, either for rest and recuperation or on leave and then riding or marching to the recuse of their fellow Americans. So many of the G.I.’s included a mention of Bastogne that I wondered if this was coverage of the Battle of Bastogne. The personal recollections included are general experiences of the common G.I. There is token coverage at best of the German side of the story. If that’s what you want, it isn’t here.

The book has a number of issues I won’t address in detail.  One I will mention is when a veteran’s memory of events don’t match what actually happened (e.g. saying soldiers of the 3rd Parachute Division were dropped well behind US lines and then telling apocryphal tales) they needed to have a note saying the events recalled were incorrect and then tell what actually happened. There are a few sidebars included in the book. Unfortunately, they are somewhat redundant. 

The book needs a bibliography. It needs a listing of secondary sources. It would be helpful to have both a listing of the interviews with the units of service for the individuals. Did they verify the individuals were actually in the unit at the time of the Battle of the Bulge?

The inclusion of the DVD is nice. I was disappointed at the brevity of the DVD. I was expecting more. Yes, Oral histories are fashionable these days. All in all, it could have been better.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

"Sacrifice On the Steppe: The Italian Alpine Corps in the Stalingrad Campaign, 1942-1943" by Hope Hamilton

When Hitler had Germany invade Russia in June 1941, Prime Minister of Italy Mussolini declared war on Russia. He quickly sent a hastily organized Italian Expeditionary force of 62,000 men to join the Russian campaign even though Adolf Hitler discouraged such a move. Italy was unprepared militarily. Mussolini's motivation was to join Hitler in receiving the spoils following an imagined rapid Nazi victory against Russia.

Hope Hamilton's book draws on personal interviews, exhaustive research and the written accounts of Italians who participated in and survived Mussolini's tragic decision of Italian involvement. Mussolini compounded his mistake by sending even more troops the following year. The author does a good job of showing the human side of the Italian involvement on the Russian front. This is not a scholarly work on the tactics and logistics of the Italian involvement. Rather, it is the story of the people who made the terrible trek from Italy to Russia to support their German ally. The German's had little trust of and kept the Italians minimally informed and I believe misused the Alpine troops by not maximizing the troops mountain fighting ability by their placement along the Don River.

The author does a great job of telling the soldier's story. Her writing style focuses on the individual accounts of the soldiers. She discusses how the Alpine Corps was caught up in the German campaign capture Stalingrad in the autumn of 1942. She takes us through the Soviet offensive that followed in late November. We experience the collapse of the entire Axis front and the Alpine Corps’ withdrawal to the Don. I could have used a more background about the Stalingrad Campaign. The book does not take a strategic view of the campaign. Little attention is given to the big picture. The story is told from the Italian point of view instead of looking at it from the Axis point of view.

The book includes good notes, is well indexed, and has a great bibliography. I enjoyed the book. If you are looking for an after action report of the Italian participation or a critical analysis of the campaign this is not the book for you. If you're looking for a good overview and an understanding of what the Italian soldiers experienced then you'll enjoy the book. I give it four stars. It is a must addition to any military historian’s library. It is a good first volume to fill a long void of an English language account of the Italian involvement on the eastern front.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

"Tiger Tank Manual: Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger 1 Ausf.E (SdKfz 181) Model (Owner's Workshop Manual)" by David Fletcher, David Wiley and Mike Hayden

"Tiger Tank Manual: Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger 1 Ausf.E (SdKfz 181) Model (Owner's Workshop Manual)" by David Fletcher, David Wiley and Mike Hayden and published by Zenith Press.  The Tank Museum in South Dorset in the United Kingdom (UK) was in a unique position to write a new chapter in the Tank story with its own discoveries on restoring and running Tiger 131, which is the centerpiece of the manual.

"Tiger Tank Manual" is unique as we follow the story of Tiger 131 from April 1943 in Tunisia in North Africa to its arrival in the UK in October 1943 to its renovation and refurbishing thanks to the national Lottery. It is a short work of only 164 pages. "Tiger Tank Manual" gives an amazing insight and inside look into purchasing, owning, and even operating one of the world’s most outstanding engineering feats and fighting vehicles.

The use of personal remembrances of what it was like to operate and command such a vehicle in wartime gives you a "you were there" feeling. The recollections of what it was like to be on the receiving end of the Tiger's 88 mmm gun shared by Lieutenant Gundgin in the Foreword really helps set the book's tone.

The pictures, illustrations, line drawings, statics are amazing. The "Tiger Tank Manual" gives the necessary background on the history and development of the tank. You get the story of Tiger 131 down including forensic and crime scene analysis of the battlefield damage to the tank to include the ammunition used against the tank!

You are given a specular cutaway drawing of the tank from the School of Tank Technology. Note: I am a former US Army Ordnance Corps officer whose military occupational specialty was maintenance. I supported the old US Army M60A2 tank. The detail in "Tiger Tank Manual" rivals any Technical Manual. I cannot over emphasize the quality and variety of the pictures. They left me with the felling I had crawled all over the vehicle as well as I examined every detail inside the tank. They are amazing.

You get a glimpse into the mind of the museum as to why they restored Tiger 131. Again, detail pictures as well as description guides you through the process. Such details as paint selection and viewpoints from volunteers working on the project make you feel part of the project.

The "Tiger tank Manual" includes a chapter on running the tank. The detail given to the start-up procedures and riving the tank makes me want to get in the driver's seat and take it for a test drive.

The detail given to "The May back Engine" may appear to be overkill to some, but the tank enthusiast or automotive engineer will enjoy the examination of the engine and its auxiliaries. Everything from ventilation to the gearbox and transmission as well as the steering and drive shafts (final drive) is covered.

Having supported annual tank gunnery for several years had my curiosity peak in the chapter devoted to firepower. Excellent coverage is given to tank gunnery from the ammunition down to aiming and firing the gun.

The explanation of the deployment and tactics of the Tiger lets you have an understanding of the German's strategy. The book concludes with a nice appendix of the surviving Tigers.

While the book may not be for everyone, any military enthusiast will enjoy the book. Any tanker or former tank crewmember will enjoy the book. I believe it would be a worthwhile addition to any military history library as well as any collection dealing with World War II. Additionally, automotive engineers will find the book simply amazing.

Read and reviewed by: Jimmie A. Kepler February 29, 2012. Note: Jimmie is honorably discharged as a Captain in the ordnance Corps US Army where he served as a maintenance office and supported a tank battalion (2nd Bn 77th Armor 2nd Brigade 9th Infantry Division) in 1978.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Viper Force: 56th Fighter Wing - To Fly and Fight the F-16 by John M. Dibbs with text by Lt.Col. Robert "Cricket" Renner, USAF (Retired)

"Viper Force: 56th Fighter Wing - To Fly and Fight the F-16" by John M. Dibbs with text by Lt.Col. Robert "Cricket" Renner, USAF (Retired) and published by Zenith Press is a work of art. John Dibbs photography is gallery quality photography. The book blends world-class photography with a great narrative. Lt.Col. Renner is a talented writer.

The training of the pilots occurs at Luke Air Force base, Arizona. I lived at Luke AFB for six years growing up in a United States Air Force family. It was like a visit to an old friend for me.  Lt.Col. Robert "Cricket" Renner, USAF (Retired) gives in-depth details and insights into the training for flying the “Viper” as well as the explanations of the F-16 and its abilities. The stories of many former and current viper pilots give the pilot’s point of view in a powerful way.

The narrative of Lt.Col. Renner has John Dibbs photographs support and assisting in telling the story. It makes a spectacular book.  The book would be a welcome addition to any aviation buffs library as well as the military historian’s collection. Community libraries would also benefit from the book as it tells the tale of the F-16.

Monday, January 16, 2012

"Black Faces of War: A Legacy of Honor From the American Revolution to Today" by Robert V. Morris

With Black History Month just a couple of weeks away "Black Faces of War: A Legacy of Honor From the American Revolution to Today" commemorates the achievements by African Americans in the United States military from the American Revolution to the present. I loved the perfect blend of paintings, photography and prose to tell this story. The book includes contributions from prominent historian Hal Chase, W. Stephen Morris, and Luther H. Smith, one of the celebrated Tuskegee Airmen.

My own education of "The Black Faces of War" began when I was a college history major I visited Fort Davis, Texas and first learned of the Buffalo Soldiers at Fort Davis from 1867-1885. It showed a gap in my education concerning the role of African-American's in the US military.

Author Robert V. Morris' work includes black military heroes such as Crispus Attucks, the first man to die in the Revolutionary War. We learn the story of Lieutenant James Reese Europe. He brought jazz music to Europe in 1918. Lieutenant Charity Adams, commander of the only all-black Women's Army Corps unit during World War II narrative is told. The book also includes General Colin Powell, who served with merit in Vietnam. He became the first African-American Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Gulf War. He also retired a four-star general before becoming the first African-American Secretary of State.

This is a must addition to any military historian’s library as well as community library. The history of African-Americans in the US military is a too often neglected history. It is necessary that not only African-Americans, but also all Americans know of the import contributions made throughout history.