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Archive for the ‘Military history’ Category

A weekend nonfiction book review…because sometimes even Pastors need a break from heavy theological reading.

Mitchell Zuckoff.  Lost in Shangri-la. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, April 26th 2011. 384 pp.

4 out of 5

Purchase: Amazon

The subtitle of the book describes this work as “A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II.”  At first I didn’t know what to make of this book as it wasn’t your typical story of survival and rescue of American servicemembers in World War 2.  But as I progressed reading the book it got more and more interesting.

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This is a weekend non-fiction leisure reading review.  ‘Cause ministers need a break from heavy reading too.

Jonathan Jordan.  American Warlords: How Roosevelt’s High Command Led America to Victory in World War II. New York, NY: Penguin Group, May 5th 2015. 624 pp.

5 out of 5

Purchase: Amazon

What an incredible book on military history and history of military leadership.  This work is a look at the important men during World War Two that played a pivotal role in Franklin Roosevelt’s War Department towards winning World War Two.  This is a book that is a gold mine of information, a well-researched that surprisingly is also very readable for general readers.

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Another weekend, another weekend leisure reading review.

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Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger. Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates.  New York, NY: Sentinel, November 3rd 2015. 238 pp.

5 out of 5

I remember as a kid reading old books on Marine Corps history that talked about a conflict I rarely hear people talked about in which the Marines was at the tip of the spear waging a war against Barbary Pirates in the Mediterranean and North Africa in the early part of the 1800s.  It sounded so exotic and I was fascinated with how the United States’ Navy and Marines as small as they were back then went about trying to execute their mission despite limited manpower and military capabilities.  It was during a time when the United States was still a new country and the leaders of the US was still trying to figure out what to do and how to do it.  So I am glad that over two decades later I came across this book on the United States response to the Tripoli pirates.

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Leo Barron. Patton at the Battle of the Bulge: How the General’s Tanks Turned the Tide at Bastogne.  New York, NY: NAL Caliber, October 28th 2014. 432 pp.

This is another work on the European Theatre of World War Two that I enjoyed in the fall of 2016. In this instance I listened to this book in audiobook format.  This book is more operational history and is what probably many who are interested in World War Two battles want to read and hear.  It tells us the story of General Patton’s attempt to break the German military stronghold surrounding the US Army 101st Airborne Division in a town called Bastogne from the perspective of one of Patton’s favorite outfit: The Fourth Armored Division.

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A Veteran’s Day weekend reading recommendation.

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Alex Kershaw. The Longest Winter: The Battle of the Bulge and the Epic Story of World War II’s Most Decorated Platoon.  Boston, MA: Da Capo Press, November 22nd, 2004. 344 pp.

This Fall I started reading more books on the European Theatre of World War Two and this is one that I enjoyed and I’m glad I finished this on the eve of Veteran’s Day.  The book tells the story of the most decorated platoon of World War Two.  It is about the Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon from the 394th Infantry Regiment of the 99th Infantry Division who fought the Germans against overwhelming odds during the Battle of the Bulge.

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Today’s the Marine Corps Birthday and as a Marine Veteran myself, I thought I post this review of a book I really enjoyed recently!

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Hampton Sides. Ghost Soldiers: The Epic Account of World War II’s Greatest Rescue Mission.  New York, NY: Anchor Books, May 7th, 2002. 344 pp.

5 out of 5

I am finally glad I got to finish reading this book after first seeing this book fourteen years ago as a young Marine on the eve of the Iraq war.  Back then I saw another Marine have a copy of this book, I got to thumb through it briefly and found the stories very fascinating but somehow I never got around to reading this again until recently.  This was an epic book and I’m truly humbled reading about the heroes in this book just as I was fourteen years ago.

The book is about the incredible military operation conducted by 6th Ranger Battalion to rescue American Prisoner of Wars who were the survivors of the Bataan Death March.  It was a daring raid since it took place deep within enemy lines at the Cabanatuan POW camp.  As the book pointed out the raid was also all the more daring given that military special operation at that time was still in its infancy.

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Tonight’s weekend reading review…as always, because Pastors also need a mental break.

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David Smith.  The Price of Valor. Washington DC: Regnery History, January 1st, 2015. 258 pp.

I enjoyed this biography on Audie Murphy, the most decorated soldier of World War Two.  It is about time I finally know more about him!  I was wondering whether to start with Audie’s autobiography or this biography told in a third person perspective but in the end I thought it was better to start with this work by David Smith.  I don’t regret it—that’s because I enjoyed it very much.

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No True Glory A Frontline Account of the Battle for Fallujah by Bing West

Bing West. No True Glory: A Frontline Account of the Battle for Fallujah.  New York, NY: Bantam Book, December 7th, 2011. 378 pp.

This book is about the US military’s operation in Fallujah from the time the first troops were on the ground in that city and leading up to the Marines’ assault towards the end of 2004.  There is so much that people don’t understand about the US military’s approach towards Fallujah and so many mistaken assumptions and factually incorrect claims of what the US military did.  I think this book makes an important contribution towards understanding what happened.

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As usual each Friday I try to post a review of weekend readings that pastors and others can read that serves as break from their spiritual readings.  Tonight’s book was one that was a great exercise of other parts of my mind.

The Insurgents David Petraeus by Fred Kaplan

Fred Kaplan. The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War.  New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, January 2nd, 2013. 432 pp.

What an amazing book.  I have so many good things to say.  But first a brief summary:  The author Fred Kaplan takes a look at the US Army’s wrestling with the idea and practice of counterinsurgency after the post-Vietnam era.  Kaplan makes the point that after the Vietnam War the leadership at the Pentagon never wanted to fight another counterinsurgency again.  Instead the military as a whole focused on the more traditional concept of warfare such as big tank battles, heavy artillery and mechanized heavy infantry.  A lot of this was due to the ongoing Cold War with the threat of Russia and the Eastern Bloc.  It was also what was most familiar to many of the Generals and Admirals.  But the collapse of the Soviet Union and the defeat of the fourth largest tank army during Desert Storm soon reduced the likelihood of the traditional warfare that the US wanted.  Unfortunately after Vietnam the Army has stopped thinking, teaching and training for counter-insurgency.  It didn’t even have a manual for that kind of warfare among its publications!  This book focuses primarily on how this mentality hurt the US military and also on the men and women who tried to change the Army’s way of fighting war.  It concentrate largely on the war in Iraq though it does give a brief look at Afghanistan.  Having recently read a number of books on military history I must say this book was one of the best military history nonfiction I read in the first half of 2016.

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I’m still posting book reviews from my Memorial Day Weekend.

First Seals The Untold Story of the Forging of America S Most Elite Unit

Patrick K O Donnell.  First Seals: The Untold Story of the Forging of America’s Most Elite Unit.  Boston, MA: Da Capo Press, October 28th, 2014. 320 pp.

The title of the book could be somewhat misleading.  One might think this is a book on the early history of the US Navy SEALs which began its origin with the Navy Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT) during World War Two.  Typically most books on the history of the SEALs trace their lineage to the UDTs.  Instead this book focuses the Office of Strategic Services’ Maritime Unit (MU).  After getting over the initial expectation that this was going to be about the SEALs or the UDT the book turned out to be an amazing account of the men and the operations of Maritime Unit that was much ahead in their days of Naval commando operations even compated to their contemporary UDTs with the MU’s advance technological breathing masks, sea-to-land direct actions, parachuting capabilities, support for partisan fighters behind enemy lines, sabotage and advanced reconnaissance.  Like the modern SEALs of today the role of those in the MU were at times blurred from land and sea operations.  This book tells the incredible stories of these men that read like a novel.  The most harrowing account in the book is the story of Navy Lt. Jack Taylor who was captured by the Nazis deep within enemy lines and was sent to a concentration camp.  Taylor was marked for death many times by the Nazis but camp clerks who were made up of prisoners themselves kept on erasing his name and/or going in line ahead of him whenever the Nazis gathered people to be killed.  Many of these European prisoners wanted Taylor to be alive so that America and Western Europe would have an American witness of the Camp’s atrocities and therefore convinced the West that the Holocaust was real.  It made me tear up seeing how those in the Concentration Camp can act almost like animals in survival mode but somehow in the midst of the all the salvage brutality the all too human concern for truth and justice manage to come out.  This is an incredibly good book.

Purchase: Amazon

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