This is a concise & engaging history of the United States Navy from before it even had a history; from the time when a Mr Deane first brought a moThis is a concise & engaging history of the United States Navy from before it even had a history; from the time when a Mr Deane first brought a motion before the Continental Congress on the 13th of October 1775 - that "a swift sailing vessel, to carry ten carriage guns, for intercepting such transports as may be laden with warlike stores for the enemy" be equipped and manned, until the months immediately before the attack on Pearl Harbor, at which point Mr Pratt describes with remarkable prescience the changes wrought in the way modern navies will be forced to contend with each other on the sea, above the sea, and under the sea.
In every era he describes, Mr Pratt's style includes various anecdotal incidents to illustrate the fundamental character of the navy as a whole, of its individual sailors and naval officers, and even the the 'character' of its ships.
One personal history illustrates this, that of Commodore George Dewey. Even non-naval enthusiasts are aware of the Battle of Manila Bay under the leadership of Commodore George Dewey, and his order: "You may fire when you are ready, Gridley!" Pratt's history introduces us to young Lt. Dewey when he was the last officer to leave the ship when the old USS Mississippi grounded under fire and had to be abandoned and blown up, during the attack on the Mississippi River batteries at Port Hudson on March 18, 1863. Later on as part of the peacetime navy, Dewey had command of the Pensacola and faced down a mutinous mob of seamen in 1886. Dewey confronted the men below decks holding a pair of pistols and accompanied by the ship's clerk:
"Call the roll!" said Dewey. "John Johnson." No answer. Dewey: "John Johnson, I see you. I'm going to have your name called once more, and if you don't go on deck you will be a dead man." Clerk: "John Johnson." No answer. Dewey coldly lifted his gun and fired. Down went John Johnson. "Now, men, the roll will be continued. As each name is called, you will answer and go on deck." It was, they did, and that was the end of the Pensacola mutiny.
When this incident was brought to the attention of Secretary of the Navy, Theodore Roosevelt, he immediately directed that Dewey be promoted over the heads of several senior officers to the command of America's Far East squadron, just in time to lead it to glory at Manila Bay. Dewey eventually went on to become the only Admiral of the Navy in US History.
Fletcher Pratt concludes with a discussion of the increasing importance of both airpower and the submarine to modern naval strategy (as of 1941), and ends with ominous foreshadowing of the coming war with Japan.
At the close of the book, Mr Pratt lists every ship ever to serve in the US Navy, including its armament, place of construction, and its ultimate fate (whether being captured, sunk, broken up, or sold out of the service). This includes 44 pages of year-by-year lists of 'Work in Progress On:'; 'Additions and Captures:'; and 'Losses:' As a reference work, he also includes a chapter-by-chapter bibliography to assist the reader with further research....more
One of the first books I ever read was John Toland's "The Flying Tigers"; and I know I read it while in kindergarten, because I finger-painted my versOne of the first books I ever read was John Toland's "The Flying Tigers"; and I know I read it while in kindergarten, because I finger-painted my version of the same Book-of-the-Month Club cover above, with a glorious shark mouth on a P-40 zooming over the Burmese Jungle. ...more
“1942” is a very-readable military history book, featuring Winston Groom’s insightful perspective on "The Year That Tried Men's Souls," especially tho“1942” is a very-readable military history book, featuring Winston Groom’s insightful perspective on "The Year That Tried Men's Souls," especially those of the men of the 1st Marine Division at Guadalcanal from August through November of that fateful year.
Throughout his narrative, Groom includes numerous anecdotes about the activities of a variety of colorful characters whom, despite my own voracious reading about WWII, I have never read about before. These include: Agent “Cynthia” the divorced daughter of a Marine Captain, who seduced the Italian Naval Attaché into ‘giving’ her the Italian Naval Code which led to the British victory at the Battle of Matapan, followed by her seduction of a French naval officer who facilitated her in the theft of the Vichy French Naval Code as well, which helped the Allies with Operation Torch, the invasion of Morocco; Commander Columbus Darwin Smith, Captain of the Yangtze River gunboat U.S.S. Wake, who became the first American POW of WWII, and the chronicle of his escape attempts accompanied by some of the survivors of Wake Island who agreed with Smith that “Wake was an unlucky name;” and Claire Phillips, who ran a spy ring out of a swank Manila Night Club named Tsukiku or Chrysanthemum Club in Japanese, that she started so that she could make money off of the high-spending Japanese officers, which she then used to bribe the guards at the appalling Cabanatuan Concentration Camp into permitting her to smuggle food, medicine, and clothing to the brutally-abused survivors of the Bataan Death March and Camp O’Donnell, among them her own husband.
Groom’s narrative concentrates on the American perspective of the war to show how Americans from all walks of life reacted to the string of early defeats and to their first encounter with Japan’s policy of brutality toward their opponents. The ongoing battles that Britain and Russia were engaged in at El Alamein and at Stalingrad are only described as peripheral to the American actions against first Japan in the Pacific and then the Germans and the Italians in North Africa.
After a nearly unbroken string of calamitous defeats, the US Navy first managed to stem the Imperial Japanese Navy's advance at the Battle of the Coral Sea, and then the Doolittle Raid gave America a shot-in-the-arm while alarming the Japanese, and finally the tide turned with America's Incredible Victory at the Battle of Midway thanks to dedicated efforts of America’s code-breakers and a large portion of “luck.”
But, it wasn’t until the ordeal of the 1st Marine Division at Guadalcanal and the terrible losses endured by the US Navy in Iron Bottom Sound in its effort to sustain the 1st Marines, that America took the measure of Japan and proved that Japan could and would be thoroughly beaten in the end.
Some of Groom’s details provide at least partial justification for the relocation policy of Japanese away from America’s westernmost states. And the condition of the repatriated survivors of Bataan, the Death March, Cabanatuan, and the Manchurian slave labor camps was heartrending and left me in tears by book’s end. Thank goodness Groom also included a resolution of the stories of each of his other characters.
Highly-recommended - even for non-military history buffs! :-)...more
A collection of ten true-life tales of naval battles involving sea raiders from several eras (The War of 1812, the American Civil War, and World War IA collection of ten true-life tales of naval battles involving sea raiders from several eras (The War of 1812, the American Civil War, and World War II) and nationalities (Japanese, British, American, and German)....more
The story of Germany's most successful "pocket" battleship, the Deutschland-class, armored cruiser, Admitral Scheer. Despite being restricted by the tThe story of Germany's most successful "pocket" battleship, the Deutschland-class, armored cruiser, Admitral Scheer. Despite being restricted by the treaty of Versailles to a nominal displacement of 10,000 tons and armament of 11-inch guns, the Admiral Scheer was the Kreigsmarine's most successful capital ship, sinking over 110,000 tons of Allied naval and merchant vessels.
The Admiral Scheer was never defeated on the high seas, but instead was desstroyed in dry-dock by Allied heavy bombers....more
Excellent episodic description of the D-Day landings on June 6th 1944, from the glider assault on Pegasus Bridge, to the final desperate breakout fromExcellent episodic description of the D-Day landings on June 6th 1944, from the glider assault on Pegasus Bridge, to the final desperate breakout from Omaha Beach....more
Pierre Clostermann's story of flying over 300 combat missions while serving as a Free French Sergeant-Pilot with the RAF.
The episode when ClostermannPierre Clostermann's story of flying over 300 combat missions while serving as a Free French Sergeant-Pilot with the RAF.
The episode when Clostermann helped remove a fellow pilot from the cockpit of a Hawker Tempest fighter that had crashed and cartwheeled in a flaming wreck while attempting a "wheels-up" belly-landing, and then holding what was left of his burned & mangled friend as he died in his arms was gut-wrenching. And then the next day Clostermann himself, bravely risked a belly-landing of his own to preserve another of the squadron's precious Tempests to fly and fight another day.
The single most moving page of personal-history war memoirs that I've ever read is the final page of Clostermann's book, where, after participating in the final, massive fly-over of London to celebrate V-E Day, he gently set down his Hawker Tempest 'Le Grand Charles' (named after Charles De Gaule) "like a cut flower, on the grass..."; and then after walking out to check on him, his crew-chief turned and walked away without a word when he saw Clostermann's shoulders shaking as he sat in the cockpit of Le Grand Charles, weeping that their last flight together was over - along with - The Big Show.
On a personal note, my first copy of "The Big Show" I found abandoned in the desk of my 8th Grade Math class, and years later my best friend in college saw it on my bookshelf and said, "Hey, I had a copy of that book and I lost it in Mr. Gadd's Math class, way back in Middle School." And I said, "No kidding! Guess where I found it?"
That's why I had to get a second copy of "The Big Show" so I could still have one to re-read once in a while....more
For First World War aviation enthusiasts, this contains a multitude of brief biographical sketches of various pioneers of aerial combat, from Roland GFor First World War aviation enthusiasts, this contains a multitude of brief biographical sketches of various pioneers of aerial combat, from Roland Garros, the first ace, to WWI's ace of aces, Baron Manfred Von Richtofen.
My favorite is the story of Lt. Louis A. Strange, who nearly lost his life while engaing a German observation plane, when he attempted to change the jammed drum magazine of his upper-wing mounted Lewis gun only to fall out of the cockpit when his aircraft turned upside down. In his words, "There I was praying that the drum would stay on, when moments before I had been cursing it for being stuck!" He eventually kicked the control stick over to right the plane, and dropped back into the cockpit. Years later he encountered the German pilot, who complained that he hadn't been able to convince anyone that the last he had seen of Strange was his plane descending in an upside down spin, with the pilot hanging onto the machine gun for dear life. To which Strange replied, "What about me? I never could explain how I kicked out all the instruments from my instrument panel!"
I used to have a 16 x 24 poster of Lt. Strange going down hanging from the drum of his Lewis gun; and years later found "Hero's of the Sunlit Sky" and got the full background story from Arch Whitehoiuse....more
Another of Ballantine Books' personal history war stories featuring the story of the Luftwaffe's most decorated airman, Hans Ulrich Rudel.
After the blAnother of Ballantine Books' personal history war stories featuring the story of the Luftwaffe's most decorated airman, Hans Ulrich Rudel.
After the blitzkrieg of France and the low-countries followed by the Luftwaffe's failure to overcome the RAF in the Battle of Britain, Rudel served the remainder of the war on the Russian Front. He flew over 2500 missions, sometimes as many as six in a day, and was credited with destroying over 520 soviet tanks, hundreds of artillery pieces and transport vehicles, a destroyer, a cruiser, and even the WWI-vintage battleship Marat by dropping an armor-piercing bomb down its smokestack. He also managed to shoot down nine enemy planes while flying his dive-bombing missions, once by such making such extreme maneuvers that his opponent's plane shed its wings attempting to stay with him.
Rudel flew most of his missions in the ugly, but effective, Stuka dive-bomber, but later after the Soviet airforce had developed more sophisticated fighters, his unit switched to a ground-attack version of the Focke-Wulf FW-190. His reputation was such that the Soviets put a price of his head, so that once when he was shot down 50 miles behind the lines, he was forced to set off on foot to outrun the ground troops who were pursuing him. Thanks to his strict regimen of running 6 miles every morning, he was able to elude capture and eventually returned through the lines to rejoin his outfit days later.
The Luftwaffe had to invent new variations of its highest decorations to commerate his acheivements, the last award being presented by Der Fuhrer himself in his bunker the day before Hitler and Eva Braun committed suicide, making Rudel perhaps the last ordinary soldier to see Der Fuhrer. Hans Ulrich Rudel served the Nazi cause throughout the Second World War, and despite the defeat of the Third Reich, remained a staunch Nazi adherent for the rest of his life. A large blemish on an outstanding career of aerial combat....more
An excellent and highly-detailed set of maps and accompanying text depicting the various campaigns and battles involving American troops and naval uniAn excellent and highly-detailed set of maps and accompanying text depicting the various campaigns and battles involving American troops and naval units, from World War One (1914-11918) up thru the United Nations' operations in the Korean War (1950-1953). Part of a two-volume boxed set....more
An excellent and highly-detailed set of maps and accompanying text depicting the various campaigns and battles involving American/Colonial troops andAn excellent and highly-detailed set of maps and accompanying text depicting the various campaigns and battles involving American/Colonial troops and naval units, from King William's War (1689-1697) up thru the far-flung naval battles of The Spanish-American War (1898). Part of a two-volume boxed set....more
A spectacular look at 800 types of military aircraft, from 1914 to 1980; with 3-view drawings, 1706 color illustrations, scale profiles, 772 cut-awayA spectacular look at 800 types of military aircraft, from 1914 to 1980; with 3-view drawings, 1706 color illustrations, scale profiles, 772 cut-away drawings, 252 photographs, and aircraft operational histories and performance characteristics. Plus color line charts comparing production runs, bomb loads, maximum speeds, and operating ranges for various front-line fighter & bomber aircraft....more
A look at those leaders from military history who made Michael Lanning's Top 100 list of military commanders; from General Allenby and the WWI campaigA look at those leaders from military history who made Michael Lanning's Top 100 list of military commanders; from General Allenby and the WWI campaign in Palestine, to George Washington and the rebellion that established the United States as an independant nation....more
The autobiographical flying career of Ernst Udet, with 62 victories Germany's second highest scoring "Ace" of the first world war. Udet describes hisThe autobiographical flying career of Ernst Udet, with 62 victories Germany's second highest scoring "Ace" of the first world war. Udet describes his enthusiasm for flying, wether in peacetime or in aerial combat....more