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Archive for the ‘Veteran’s Day’ Category

A Veteran’s Day weekend book review.

James Wright. Enduring Vietnam: An American Generation and Its War.  New York, NY: Thomas Dunne Books, April 4, 2017. 464 pp.

5 out of 5

Purchase: Amazon

I read this book as a son of a refugee of the Vietnam War and also a Marine veteran of post-Vietnam military conflict.  Although I have read some individual biographies and accounts of the Vietnam War this is probably the first work I read in which looks at the bigger picture of the conflict such as evaluating the generation that fought in Vietnam, an evaluation of the political landscape and decisions of policy makers, the anti-war sentiments and the experiences of the guys doing combat operations.  The author James Wright did a good job of weaving veteran’s stories, statistics, and social discussions and offered to the readers a larger picture of the political narrative.  Being an academic historian, former Marine officer and an avid advocates for veterans puts him in a unique place to write this work.

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Some of you know that I’m a former Marine.  Since today is the Marine Corps Birthday I thought it is appropriate to share my weekend review of a story involving an incredible Marine that is part of the Marine Corps cherished heritage.

John Grider Miller. The Bridge At Dong Ha.  Annapolis, Maryland: U.S. Naval Institute Press, March 15th 1989. 224 pp.

4 out of 5

Purchase: Amazon

This book tells the story of the Marine legend John W. Ripley.  I have heard the name “Ripley” before as a Marine, and some vague summary of him blowing up a bridge to stop invading North Vietnamese communist forces during the last years of the Vietnam War.  Recently I saw something on facebook about Ripley that sparked my interests to read more about Ripley and this book was what I picked up to learn more about Ripley and the famous incident with the bridge at Dong Ha.  It was a treat for me to read this book.  I was blown away (pun intended) with what Ripley accomplished against overwhelming odds.  His story is one of courage, commitment and mission above self.

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A Veteran’s Day weekend reading recommendation.

the-longest-winter-by-alex-kershaw

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!

ghost-soldiers-the-epic-account-of-world-war-ii-greatest-rescue-mission

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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Happy Veteran’s Day to all you who served that reads this blog!  I think this book review is appropriate for today.

When Books went to war Molly Guptill Manning

Molly Guptill Manning. When Books Went to War: The Stories that Helped Us Win World War II.  Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, December 2nd, 2014. 288 pp.

This book is about books and it wasn’t boring!  The subject of this book is about the effort of average Americans and later the US government in providing books to members of the military during World War Two.  The bulk of the time in war is boredom.  Servicemembers need something to occupy their time.  I’ll remember my time in Iraq in which individual Marines blasted rap, country and heavy metal (I can’t picture guys listening to Justin Beiber, I’m just saying).  In a world where MP3 players, DVD players and PSPs were not existent, the GIs in World War Two read.

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MarineFallujah

Happy Veteran’s Day.

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Note: For the next few weeks on Sunday we will feature a review of books outside of theology, philosophy and apologetics.  Each review of a non-Christian book will also have a section titled, “What’s in it for the Christian?” The Generals American Military Command from World War II to TodayPurchase: Amazon

This book is a wonderful study on generalship in the United States Army from World War two to the present with Iraq and Afghanistan.  The author has written in the past about the military before, most notably about the Marine Corps boot camp.  I was pleasantly surprised at how much the author Thomas Ricks has grown in his understanding of the military since his first book on the military in 1997.

The thesis that the author argues for in the book is that the Marshall concept of Generalship worked in World War Two.  To be more specific, the concept is on how the Army manages General, and how under the old Marshall system it was expected that generals would be relieved and fire in order for the system to work and battles to be won.  Under the Marshall system, relief from command wasn’t necessarily the end of one’s military career like how it is understood today; generals were moved to other command since sometimes those who were not effective in combat command but were better leaders in other area of the Army (logistics, training, etc).  The Marshall’s way of managing generals was very effective but since World War two the book argues that the US Army has deviated from this concept.  Today generals are never relieved by the military itself (though there are political removals such as the infamous case of Douglas MacArthur by President Truman).  The book argues that as a result of the neglect of the Marshall system this has led to a crop of many poor generals who negatively affected the outcome of operations, battles and entire wars, not to mention the waste of lives and money.  What’s worst is that there are often no repercussions for generals who failed; in the modern military a private who lost his rifle will face more punishment than a general who lost a war.

Students of military history would love the author’s discussion about how General Eisenhower balanced the various charismatic generals during World War two such as General Patton, British General Montgomery and General Bradley.  The book also surveyed the Generals in the Korean War as the first war that failed to implement the Marshall system and how various Generals blundered but were not relieved.  This would continue on into the Vietnam War where it was even more pronounced with General Westmoreland and other lesser known generals.  The book also surveyed the more recent Iraq War and I agree with the author that the beginning of Iraq the military had some pretty bad generals (personally, General Sanchez comes to mind).  The book even covered the Iraq War right up to the surge (the author focuses on the surge in two other books after this volume) with General David Petraeus and notes how long it took before the right generals were in place leading the war effort was also the same duration that the US military took to win World War two in the Marshall system.

While it was not the main focus of the book, I did appreciate the author’s contrast between the Army’s handling of general officers versus that of the Navy and the Marines.  The Navy holds their officers to higher accountability and how they regularly relieve officers for ships that hit ground and get stuck.  Unfortunately, the author said that the sample size for the Marine Corps was too small, but Ricks does note how the Marine generals led their Division out of Chosin Reservoir as a combat effective unit while an adjacent Army unit with poor leadership ended up being hammered.  Ricks also talked about how during the Iraq War the Marine General Mattis who commanded the first Marine Division relieved a regimental commander of the first Marines for going to slow during the invasion and that this became international news.  However, during world war two such an event was frequent occurrence and not even worthy of being international news since it was assume the goal of victory was more important than allowing commanders to save face.

This is an excellent book for civilians and military like.  I think those in military should read this book, whether officers or enlisted so one can get the bigger picture.  In summary, the book presents a strong case to modify the maxim that “Amateurs study strategies, professionals study logistics;” we may add, “The Army leadership must study management of personnel.”

What’s in it for the Christian: A big theme in the book is accountability.  Christians have stressed the importance of accountability, given our fallen nature.  Accountability is something that is needed even outside of the military—and especially in the ministry, which is concerned with matters of eternity.  The author notes how different officers have different abilities, and just because one might not be able to lead in combat command that does not mean they are not useful for the military elsewhere.  Christians who are familiar with the Bible’s teaching of spiritual gifts—that we all have different gifts though it is different from each person to person.  As a Christian, this book was also insightful concerning human nature and the art of balancing different personalities in a group or a church that one leads—it has challenged me to appreciate how being a team player is a virtue.

UPDATE: If you are interested in more books like this check out our post, .

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On a Saturday before Veteran’s Day, what better read for our country’s latest military veterans than a work that relates to our decade plus war–Osama Bin Laden.

Manhunt Bin Laden

This a thoroughly well researched book by a CNN journalist who was able to interview Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan during the 1990s.  Despite the raid to kill Osama being perhaps the biggest news of our decade, much of the back story is still little known by the general public.  The author did a good job telling the story of the ten year search for the world’s most wanted man, focusing mainly on the characters of politicians, high ranking military officers and senior level intelligence officials.  Unfortunately, you won’t be able to find a “grunt’s view” of the SEALs who did the actual operation, and to date No Easy Day is the only raiders’ account.  But the story of the hunt for Osama Bin Laden goes further back in time, before the first SEAL step on Osama’s compound that fateful day in 2011.  What this book did well was describing the difficulties, personalities and dedication of those involved in the hunt of Bin Laden.

Prior to this book I was not aware that the infamous event of the biggest loss of CIA officers and contractors a few years back in Aghanistan was part of the team hunting Osama.  The author captured the determination of the team after this incident, making the hunt very personal with the deaths of their colleagues:  Some even decided not to move on to other tasks in the CIA, forgoing advancement in their careers in order to be part of the mission.

Of course the telling of the 10 year hunt for Osama also has some of its disappointment and frustration such as Bin Laden’s escape in Tora Bora, with much of what we know about it coming from the Delta Force commander on the ground name “Dalton Fury.”

From this book I also changed my view of General McChrystal, which I had a rather negative view of in the past.  Through the book, I got to appreciate McChrystal’s contribution in enhancing the capabilities of our country’s special operation forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, which indirectly contributed to the success during the operation to raid Osama’s compound.

The book also captures the political aftermath of the raid, in particular the relationship with Pakistan.  You don’t have to like Obama as president to appreciate the incredible difficulty the man has to face and the responsibility before him.

If there is a criticism I have with the book it is with with the author’s epilogue and his confidence that Al Qaeda is dying down.  While I believe Al Qaeda has suffered much strategic defeat in the last few years, I think it’s also evolving to become a more dangerous, de-centralized entity that makes it harder to track and combat.  And we’re not even beginning to consider copy cats, lone wolves and other like minded terrorists groups such as the Taliban.  Think of Major Hasan, Boston Marathon bombing and Bengazi.

Radical Islam is a threat and the author thinks that it can’t be compared to the threat of the Nazis and Communism since it doesn’t effect Europe like the way both ideologies have in the past.  My question is, why is what is going on in Europe the measure of what is dangerous?  September 11th itself was an attack on America.  My second question to the author would be whether or not he has considered the incredible growth rates of Islam in Europe already and it’s growing problems with the West’s multiculturalism?

I did get emotional reading about the day Americans found out about the raid, how CIA director left the White House surprised to hear the cheers of a spontaneous American crowd celebrating the news.  Since 2001, for over a decade America has been at war since 9/11.  It’s not only Afghanistan and Iraq but all around the globe from the Philippines to Africa.  Some of those lives lost or injured are those I served with or have known.  Like many people, it’s the memory of that day watching the news on September 11th, 2001 that the death of Bin Laden has brought some closure.  Of course complete justice will be with God one day but sometimes he allows “poetic justice” to take place this side of eternity in this case.

Definitely a worthwhile book.

Order it on Amazon!

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Taking a break this Veteran’s Day friday evening from our regularly scheduled apologetics and theology blogging to remember those who served.  This is a 1951 movie that I recently found online and I was surprised that a movie like this was made in the early 50s and that it was made that close after the war.  If you don’t know anything about the Japanese American infantry unit known as the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, you ought to do a little online reading this weekend which would be more than appropriate for Veteran’s Day.  They are still today the most decorated Army unit on the record, with the highest casualty rate sustained by any unit.  And they were serving in a time when Japanese American loyalty were being questioned and their family held in internment camps back in the States which makes the amount of sacrifice shown by these brave men even more phenomenal.  I kind of wish a 21st century movie of this unit would have been made today of the quality of Band of Brothers and Saving Private Ryan.  I think it would sell.

I was struck with how the movie capture so much reality rather than being another sugar coat war propaganda movie: they did a good job showing the reality of racism, conveying GI culture, referencing specific things that’s Japanese American and made honest allusion to the reality of the internment camp experience.  That was probably the more surprising part of the movie, to see that being acknowledged back in the 50s!  The US government would acknowledge this sad chapter in American history in the 1980s (but that’s another subject, another post and another time!).  On the lighter side of things, I found it funny the movie’s reference to one of the guys being a graduate of USC (I’m a UCLA Bruin) and the small size of Asian infantryman.  As an American Marine of Asian descent, the last part struck a chord with me.  More than one time throughout the movie I was surprised at how it did not caricature Japanese American compared to other movies showing Asian during this time period.  I highly commend this movie in able to capture of slice of reality, conveying bravery and folly, sadness and humor, irony and patriotism with even a consciousness of civilians caught in the mix of war.  Well done film for it’s time.

Enjoy!  I just hope I didn’t hype it too much.

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There’s probably hundreds of videos like this on Youtube of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines coming back home surprising their loved ones.

No matter how many times you may see this, I think it has a way of moving you; to see a young love one loss all sense of their surrounding, all their dreams come true, all their worries finally ended, their loved one gone from them being now present…their father is before them and nothing else matters as they run to embrace the father they loved and missed…

It makes me think about this worship song and our relationship with God…

One day I will be before the throne of God, which is made possible because of what Jesus has done…one day you will before the Father too and the question is whether you would long for His presence or be utter terror in your sins…

Fortunately, God has sent His Son to die for our sins…to redeem us, and give us eternal life by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.  God did not just give us eternal life; He has also work through the Spirit in regenerating those who are saved, in the process of forming our will to love Him and anticipate Him one day…

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