A book that can easily be picked up and put down since it contains short chapters or sections with various stories. These 'unexplained' events or unus...moreA book that can easily be picked up and put down since it contains short chapters or sections with various stories. These 'unexplained' events or unusual events as many are well explained, are the quirky footnotes to history. Ranging from combat lore to end of the Third Reich including disappearances and strange or macabre death, most readers at all attracted to this type of work will be entertained. This is one of those read at will or leisure books that makes few demands on the reader other than for a bit of their momentary attention.
Well written and organized. Some of the stories are known to be at best anecdotal yet they are harmless for the most part. Some mysteries are not unexplained just a coalescence of unfortunate events or happenstance. Worth a look.(less)
This book is more compromised as a work of history than flawed. Swinging between documented historical record and anecdotal remembrance, it at times r...moreThis book is more compromised as a work of history than flawed. Swinging between documented historical record and anecdotal remembrance, it at times read like a a piece of historical fiction.
The premise of the work regarding the beginning or 'forging' of the Alliance between the United States and Britain(Great Britain, England, or your choice of the moment) is never completely delivered to the reader. No new ground regarding the development of the relationship between Churchill and Roosevelt is explored. In places it swings between "The Yanks are Coming" and "overpaid, oversexed, and overhere!" even as the later is from a slightly later stage of WWII. Some of the historical references are at best only slightly explored or very select and even out of context information included. The relationship between the eventual leaders including Alexander for the British and Eisenhower for the US is not fully examined. Certainly a few sentences scattered throughout the later half of the work don't do justice to the books premise. Dismissal of Eisenhower as not being interested in the outcome of the North Africa campaign is one of the main reasons for the commentary about 'British History'.
Even as a British hagiography with cautionary tales thrown in for false modesty, the work in total misses the overall scope of the announced topic. There are great moments of heroism and valor detailed, but there is also a lot of dismissive and even jingoistic writing masquerading as commentary and historical analysis. In one phrase the enemy is admired for what they were able to achieve, but then before the end of the same paragraph they are painted as arrogant and possibly careless.
The book is plagued by major technical problems including the lack of a general index! Endnotes are not segmented by chapter. For over 600 notes in the main body of the work that is a difficult problem to overcome. Combined with references including 'conversations' that come from diaries and interviews that are not referenced by note in the text at all, the term sloppy comes to mind in the final production of this work.
Misjudgement of the character and behavior of several commanders is another limiting factor in the overall value of the work. From Patton and Rommel being painted from limited sources or information cherry picked to mythologize (pro or con) their activities and of other important figures, to the minimization of conflicts in command the work has major failings. Hero worship of one or two generals including the British Air Command leadership (not undeserved, but over played and fawning) is another miscue in this work.
Great sources (with a couple of curious inclusions) that are not fully used are intriguing. The International War Museum (U.K.) as an example has filmed interviews with several of the figures in this book about the North Africa Campaign. If the author had alone just watched more of these films and used that information a fuller picture of the "Alliance" would have emerged in this work.
Limited Recommendation as this is a readable work. Incomplete but where detailed as in certain battles (i.e. 'The Cauldron' among others) it is well written and accurate in comparison to the other works on North Africa. Not a primary or go to source except for 'color commentary.'(less)
The Liberation Trilogy is complete. Author Rick Atkinson has wrapped up his magnum opus of World War II with "The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945".
B...moreThe Liberation Trilogy is complete. Author Rick Atkinson has wrapped up his magnum opus of World War II with "The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945".
Beginning with a 41 page prologue The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945 moves through the assault on fortress Europe at a pace equal to, if not greater than the Allied forces in the slightly over ten months of 1944-1945. The reader needs to take time to peruse the 168 pages of notes and the 36 pages of Sources/Bibliography and Acknowledgements. If one has read from some of the classic war histories referenced, it is enriching to take a few moments and review some of those other works while marching through Europe with the Lords of War as related by Atkinson.
World War II is the most written about war in history. The amount of documentary material generated during the war from all parties was unprecedented and will only be surpassed by video recording of current and future battle, and then doubtfully the richness of WWII material will ever be surpassed. This means that we are not through by any means with this period of history and yes, this book was more than needed. Atkinson in the text of this work makes mention of this and that WWII will be discussed, analyzed, and commented on most like for centuries to come.
The Pulitzer Prize in history was awarded to Author Rick Atkinson for his first entry in this trilogy, An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943 as it ranks as one of the finest battle histories ever produced. And this about an exceeding analyzed and mythologized moment in WWII. That focused detailed work that changed how we view North Africa continued with the reevaluation and candid look at the wider topic of the Sicily/Italian Campaign in the second work of the Trilogy, The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944. It changed how we need to approach the evaluation of many issues regarding the Allies and Axis forces in the peninsula conflict unlike any single work.
The final entry in the trilogy concludes 'the day'. It is Last Light, the Götterdämmerung of this moment in history. Not merely the end of the Nazi/Axis forces in the dozen year long horror, but perhaps the twilight of all the traditional gods of war. Another conflict of this type is unimaginable in the world that would follow. Atkinson's descriptions of the end of Europe, the destruction of people, the change in political system and realities, the fall of Empire and the rise of Superpower all play as underlying themes in this great work as told via the stories and personages familiar if idealized.
Atkinson tears apart myth after myth from source piled on source regarding the leaders of this great endeavor. In doing so his 'color commentary' enriches the reader if at the same time horrifying them too. War crimes and atrocities were committed by one and all, if not by policy and necessity, from often sheer emotional exhaustion. The competency of the 'great and heroic' leaders is not left quietly by the side but is evaluated from official sources and field diaries. Letters from Generals home leave no doubt that uncertainty plagued all but a few megalomaniacs from beginning until the very end.
The Guns at Last Light need not, should not, be the last WWII history read. It should be the first or next in the list of what hopefully this book will launch in new,more accurate research and evaluation of a defining moment in human history.
An important contribution to the history of WWI, the Great War. Detailed and insightful, this much referenced, but perhaps now not often read, work is...moreAn important contribution to the history of WWI, the Great War. Detailed and insightful, this much referenced, but perhaps now not often read, work is a classic in the annals of war and military history.
I have read enough of this to know that this was a good purchase for my reference bookshelf.
From estoreric battles during the Ionian wars to battles...moreI have read enough of this to know that this was a good purchase for my reference bookshelf.
From estoreric battles during the Ionian wars to battles of the 30 years war that I've never heard of, to modern, The Battle of Marjah in February 2010. The Ionian battles are not the oldest in this work and for this review just serve as an example. The Hittites even make the cut.
Arranged in chronological order and by campaign or war, this is a history reference than can be read chapter (page or two) or battle by battle as well.
I have seen few works like this and none in this format or size.
The primary weakness inherent to a work of this scope is that there can be little depth in coverage of each incident. While the Boer War for example entries cover all the important information about the listed battles, the incredible background and history of the combatants is missing.
Well worth considering for any military or war history reader that doesn't have some other work or combination of works in such an accessible format. One volume. Hardbound. Slick pages accent text, illustrations and photographs. Well indexed and organized.
The Atomic Women were a blast. One can't resist such an obvious tag line to start a review of this work.
Multiple shelving of this fine book should in...moreThe Atomic Women were a blast. One can't resist such an obvious tag line to start a review of this work.
Multiple shelving of this fine book should inform the potential/future reader that author Denise Kernan has covered many topics in her research of the Clinton Engineering Works. CEW as it was known during the height of the secrecy in the WWII era produced a part of the nuclear material used to make the first atomic weapons. Today this area is known to the world as Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
Author Kiernan has written of the women who were vital to the development of Nuclear Energy in all its forms. Their stories are the root of this work. From the factory workers who were offered jobs because the men were at war and personnel was at a premium, to the women with special skills from nursing to chemistry to administration they are included. Kiernan also writes about women in scientific roles that should have received more credit in the basic physics and perhaps should have been included in Nobel prize citations.
The post atomic bomb propaganda and philosophic concerns are covered if minimally and in a standard fashion. A few telling anecdotal events that add to the humanity of the book are included that are definitely about the women's view of their work and now, world.
Overall a chapter of history that other than Richard Rhodes, has not been widely written about, particularly about the common workers, let alone women.
Highly recommended and well written book with sourcing and photographs that are first rate and unusual.
A serious work of history and journalism regarding US military policy in Vietnam. Highly researched and detailed if controversial in the end book abou...moreA serious work of history and journalism regarding US military policy in Vietnam. Highly researched and detailed if controversial in the end book about war crimes.
Vietnam under US occupation was victimized by a distorted view of Rules of Warfare, enemy combatant discrimination failures, and military politics that resulted in the intentional death of tens of thousands of innocent civilians. By any standard, then or now, the rest of this story is dire and cannot be forgotten and must be viewed as what it was, a series of intentional policy driven atrocities.
Highly recommended for any reader of history who has delved more than casually into all sides of military conflicts.
The book that is complimentary to author John Keegan's The Mask of Command examining the experience of the participants in the battle 'royale'. Examin...moreThe book that is complimentary to author John Keegan's The Mask of Command examining the experience of the participants in the battle 'royale'. Examination of the actions of individuals as can best be done in three great battles, Agincourt, Waterloo, and the Somme extends the range of the classification of 'military history' in ways that require that parts of this work be evaluated as other disciplines.
Psychological reaction, though always a concern for military leaders, is given added twists and importance in this work. Sociological behaviors too play a role in Keegan's writings on Battle. These each are part of his carefully defined and structure oriented definition of battle and when it has and has not occurred.
The psychology of why people will go into battle and perhaps more to the point, why they stay is one of the topics examined. Is it a group dynamic? Is it a personal glory and self testing? Students of this author at Sandhurst one can almost see hanging on his words as the lectures continue. Though many things can point to this being a distillation of an academic approach to young future military leaders, this is anything but a simplistic psych 101 adjunct course.
Groups of people behave differently both willingly and subconsciously during a stress filled time. There is a subtle introduction to group dynamics included in this work. The subjugation of individual will through conscription and related training produced a very different corp during 20th Century wars than training of the individual combatant of the middle-ages. Different requirements and goals. Survival versus glory and profit. Yet both willingly to a greater degree engaged in the ultimate risk behavior by putting their life at peril for a common goal. Victory in battle.
Battle. Keegan states clearly his purely academic expertise in never having personally experienced battle. This is quite important to the work in avoiding hero worship of certain individuals. This too adds to and is equally important to the companion work, The Mask of Command(see above for links) as this military expert is viewing the analysis from at least an arm's length and is not bound by the fog of command, battle, and war. Most importantly Keegan establishes a definition of what is and is not battle. He separates combat and hostility, which many military people will experience, from the grand battle fields of history.
This work breaks up the generations and numbers who have experienced battle into distinct groupings. In doing so he illustrates the changing approach to active hostility and its needs in a way that is prescient of the current non-linear and asymmetrical warfare that is todays reality. Post WWII fewer and fewer individuals will engage in Battle. Of course the Korean War and Vietnam had battles and invasions, but the number of Westerners involved was probably at the lowest total both numerically and in percentage that had been part of the general population, for centuries! It changes everything about the approach to military analysis. As with the Mask of Command, this book The Face of Battle's analytic end goal and conclusion is summed up best by its own closing sentence: "But the suspicion grows that battle has already abolished itself."
Keegan writes a far more complex, but as always elegant, book than this or the 'paired' book at first reveal. On further careful review there is a tremendous amount of vital information contained within. This work has some inconsistencies in the analysis of each of the three case studies which lowers the overall rating to 3, but nearly 4, stars at this time. It remains even at a slightly lower rating an important work for anyone reading history military or otherwise.(less)
There are two books by author John Keegan that need to be read together or one after the other. The Mask of Command is one and The Face of Battle is t...moreThere are two books by author John Keegan that need to be read together or one after the other. The Mask of Command is one and The Face of Battle is the other. Neither series nor followup work(s) these two books are complimentary and cover similar territory, but from different angles.
The Mask of Command examines in a unique fashion what great commanders did and did not do. Keegan does not seek to forcibly find the similarities as much as the unique capabilities that each of his four chosen subjects brought to their era and commands. Three of them, Alexander the Great, the Duke of Wellington, and Ulysses S Grant were successful beyond wildest imagination and thus became legendary. The fourth subject, Adolf Hitler the definition of epic failure, however not in the obvious way that Germany lost the War and Hitler killed himself, is presented by Keegan as the soldier he truly was.
Each of these great commanders brought unique skills and were truly people of their age in a way that was serendipitous. Luck, right man, right time, but also the right preparation was vital. The preparation and its end result was wildly different for each of the four. The persona and self imposed behaviors that are written about are each of their Masks assumed to allow for the greatness.
Alexander was a heroic ancient warrior who got into the mix and individually and personally shed a great deal of blood. Alexander wasn't above using killing as a political tool. He was required to be constantly proving his own worthiness to have succeeded both his father and others, great warriors among them, as the leader and commander of the great forces under his command. Drinking, debauching, individual combat, and political machination all were things he had to excel at to maintain his role.
The Duke of Wellington, one of the greatest figures in the history of the British Empire, was obsessed with noblesse oblige to the extreme. His personal discipline to the study and practice of blood and iron may never have been exceeded. Keegan avoids like many biographers and writers the adulatory hero worship that results in so much of the Wellington story being hagiography. Wellington's life and career including becoming Prime Minister is mentioned, but Keegan focuses on his time in the saddle. Literally as this was the era of Cavalry and commanders being mounted on horseback. Wellington's greatest strength as a commander may have been his common touch and care of his soldiers. Wellington also was quick to be in the thick of battle to be best able to direct his troops, though by his era a commander was not expected or required to be a front line combatant. He led from the front certainly as often he was 'ahead' of the front and where the action would be next. Wellington also may have had the greatest anticipation of his opponents moves and this would prove the key to Waterloo, Napoleons great errors aside.
Grant who would fail at nearly everything but war and autobiography is Keegan's third subject. A professional soldier who though educated beyond almost any of his non military contemporaries was so ill struck by fate that he couldn't find work as an engineer and during a peacetime sojourn failed at farming and nearly at every business he tried. Grant had those great leadership abilities including but not limited to being able to withstand the horror of war, a innate understanding of the men he commanded, like the previous two as well the ability to deliver both oral and written orders that were clear and correct in what they needed to say. Grant was actually the best Civil War General in terms of a modern strategy and logistics. Like those he studied, Grant knew, along with Sherman, that the war had to be taken to the enemy. It was not merely a holding action and thus the formulation of what would be known as Sherman's march to the Sea as the penultimate act of 'taking it to the enemy'. Grant would be at great personal risk at times and engaged in actions that add to his 'story' that modern commanders might never have taken.
The rest of this work while divided between the aforementioned section regarding Hitler and final words to summarize, is also a warning against many of the actions of the past being emulated, even if in similar circumstance. Keegan as a teacher of military students at Sandhurst makes a strong case with these studies of the great that becomes a warning against future heroic behavior in military leadership. From the lessons learned of societal cost to the not winnable finality in Nuclear Exchange, this book ends as a cautionary document. Keegan says it best with his closing sentence, "Today the best must find conviction to play the hero no more."
An important book for those studying any facet of the leadership, command, and heroic behavior.
An average or slightly above WWII history. Using the 'oral history' techniques of interviews and journals, letters, and even a screenplay or two, the...moreAn average or slightly above WWII history. Using the 'oral history' techniques of interviews and journals, letters, and even a screenplay or two, the authors create a living memoir of those who were there and fought the war.
The summary or encapsulations of the events of WWII in this book are 'common knowledge' type for the most part and don't by themselves shed any new light or add unusual anecdotes. There are poignant personal stories and a few incidents brought to light again in this work that make it worth some time reading and reviewing.
The photographic and journalistic record the work adds is above average but not overwhelming.
Many readers will be familiar with the Television presentation associated with this book and most likely find it far more compelling.
Cynically it edges on being another profit center item for the Ken Burn, Inc. history machine.
Far too much history and hallowed ground is covered in far too few pages and photographs to consider this book definitive or outstanding.(less)
A pictorial and oral history of the major operations conducted by the United States in Vietnam.
The combo of the large format photographs, chronologica...moreA pictorial and oral history of the major operations conducted by the United States in Vietnam.
The combo of the large format photographs, chronological text, special side panel inserts on specific topics and the included audio CD of veterans oral commentary make this work a bit different. Pretty well done if eclectic in coverage of certain points of the war. But it is meant to be an eyewitness account and in that it succeeds.
For the war historian and Vietnam era students this is a good item to consider to add to the collection or spend some time reviewing.(less)
A one star review of book about a three star United States Marine Corps General. They both should have had 4 stars.
The life of Brute Krulak is fascina...moreA one star review of book about a three star United States Marine Corps General. They both should have had 4 stars.
The life of Brute Krulak is fascinating and his role in the making of the modern Marine Corps is unquestioned. His son became commandant of the same and that alone could be viewed as a monumental contribution.
Unfortunately the author produced a well written cross between a journalistic/biographical hit piece and hagiography. It is all over the place. The subject is tough but that's the role of the biographer in finishing a work of this type. The flaws are all the authors and a worthy topic for reading is damaged.
The book at times is nothing more than precise faint damning praise. Love him or hate him because he was just another REMF that did what they do to a generation of soldiers, Krulak deserves a lot better. That he cared for the Marines, his command, and was about getting the job done is never questioned. How he achieved much that he did is brought in to question by Coram in a particularly unpleasant way.
Coram takes pot shots at every one from Presidents of the US, to the average Marine as being an obsessed sadistic killer, to out and out accusing some of the finest journalist in history of making up stories and lying on one page, and then on the next kissing up to some other group of the same type of characters.
I wanted to give this book no stars, but that does not figure in to the overall calculations of rating so I gave it one to lower the rating. Yes, it is that poor of a work. Deceptive at best and out and out cruel and unneeded on average.
The list of references are probably the truest thing in the book though I wonder how accurately they were used by the author.
Sebastian Junger writes smart readable literature. This effort is also intricately detailed reflecting Junger's journalistic and participatory backgro...moreSebastian Junger writes smart readable literature. This effort is also intricately detailed reflecting Junger's journalistic and participatory background with this work.
Embedded off and on for over a year with a company of soldiers in the brutal environment of a mountainous firebase in the Hindu Kush of Afghanistan, Junger relates a war tale as only he can. From his first encounters to the moment in time when he and the soldiers know they'll never go back to that hell again, the story marches along like a patrol.
Reminiscent of many first hand accounts, but more superbly written, it is gritty and focused to the point of myopic distraction from points that could have lifted it several notches. A style of writing and storytelling that has emerged and has been taken to the edge of reducto absurdum leaves the reader not only wanting more, but hoping in cases that there is something else.
By intent or default, the reader becomes more and more isolated from the combatants and Junger's references to psychological and sociological research can have the effect of making one not care.
A tragic story with moments of honor, duty, and devotion that deserves a place in the annals of the Soldier, but one that the author has perhaps descended a bit too far and become one more adrenaline junky victim of the fog of war. (less)
Could be four stars if it were not that Halberstam gets a bit off course a place or two in this tale.
There are some accepted truths about everyone's...moreCould be four stars if it were not that Halberstam gets a bit off course a place or two in this tale.
There are some accepted truths about everyone's behavior and motivation that I'm finding more and more are perhaps not as absolute as I once believed ranging from Clinton's relationship with the military to the ineptitude of Bush.
The author does use he great skill to weave a path through the troubling era of military involvement on the part of the U.S. in the late 20th - early 21st century.
A basic work for the understanding of this era from the journalist's viewpoint even if slightly flawed and plagued by truisms and some blatant pre-conceived notions of motivation and belief.
A worthwhile book for the political junky and military history fan alike!(less)