When I was a lad I used to love being in the presence of men like Libby. There were a lot of them around in the fifties, veterans of both global confl...moreWhen I was a lad I used to love being in the presence of men like Libby. There were a lot of them around in the fifties, veterans of both global conflicts and Korea; lumberjacks, cowboys and farmers who signed up to face whatever seemed to be threatening the empire. I even knew a couple of Boer war veterans. Without exception, these chaps signed up voluntarily to go over and do their bit. They were real men with the bark on, tough in a way that comes only from deprivation and toil. Their strength came from hard work, and most would be disdainful of the perfumed poofery and posturing of a modern gym. I loved their stories and I'm afraid I could be a bit of a nuisance in trying to coax more tales out of them.
Libby was one of these hard men. He started life as a cowboy in Colorado, and broke tough broncs for top pay, often working alone many miles from the closest neighbor. When he had companions, they would often be fellows who had it in their best interest to avoid towns or any other place that employed a lawman. He cared little for cash and was easily separated from it by folly or friendship. These were the days when friendship was a tangible thing and a fellow could spend from his friends' wallets as freely as he could from his own.
Libby ultimately decided to cast his loop further afield. He found himself in Canada and was promptly swindled out of his stake (by an American, I hasten to state), which was one of the contributing factors to joining a transport battalion in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, in spite of the fact that he had never driven anything that didn't have a horse hitched to it. Libby, in effect, declared war on Germany several years before the rest of his homeland.
Once overseas, our hero found himself manning a machine-gun as an observer in the Royal Flying Corps. He would eventually become a pilot and rise to the rank of Captain. He was one of the first Americans in action, preceding the exploits of the Lafayette Squadron. Without ruining the book by going into too much detail, I can tell you that this amazing man actually served in the military forces of three sovereign states during the same conflict. His exploits could fill several volumes with no requirement for fluff or filler.
This book might not be a great work technically; Libby has a homey style and uses an awkward sentence structure that can be mildly annoying after a while, but he gets full marks for telling a whopping good tale. My biggest beef is that the book could easily have been a little thicker: I would have loved to have coaxed a couple more tales from the good Captain. We owe it to these men to read their memoirs...they are all gone now and it seems like we're not making any more like them.
This offering was a vast improvement over Mr Kyle's first book. Even so, it's hard to tell what niche he was trying to fill here; the book is not deta...moreThis offering was a vast improvement over Mr Kyle's first book. Even so, it's hard to tell what niche he was trying to fill here; the book is not detailed enough to be a technical manual, and the subject matter far too broad to be covered in such a thin volume. One gets the impression he was writing about a subject he knew and understood in order to cash in on the laurels he garnered as a sniper in Iraq. There is no question that he loves the spotlight: whether he is discussing the kentucky long rifle or the M16 he somehow manages to mention that he, Chris Kyle, was a sniper in Iraq. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but he already covered that in his first book.
This volume isn't a bad read - Mr Kyle has a homey style that most readers will be comfortable with - and I can't quibble much about his choice of the 10 firearms that most affected the course of history in the USA. The only change I might have considered would be the inclusion of the Winchester 1897 shotgun, which was produced in vast quantities and used by US forces in several conflicts. It would have been nice to see one scattergun in the lineup, but hey, this is Kyle's show and not mine.
People who are really interested in guns will probably not find anything new here, but this book is recommended for those with only a basic exposure to firearms and wanting to expand their knowledge.(less)
When I bought this book I expected to be regaled with accounts of the adventurous activities of Canadian aboriginal soldiers during the Great War. Ins...moreWhen I bought this book I expected to be regaled with accounts of the adventurous activities of Canadian aboriginal soldiers during the Great War. Instead, I was treated to a serious study detailing the legal and political wranglings involved in the recruitment and deployment of Canadian Indians. It's all good; Mr Winegard has a large vocabulary and isn't afraid to hit you right between the eyes with it, so parts of the book require some migraine-inducing concentration. In spite of that, or perhaps because of it, I learned a lot about my country from this particular publication.
Canadians generally regard themselves to be a tolerant society so I was a little taken aback to learn that aboriginal and black soldiers encountered considerable racism even as they volunteered to risk their lives fighting for the country. An example is this quote of LCol George Fowler taken from page 79:
" I have been fortunate to have secured a very fine class of recruits, and I did not think it was fair to these men that they should have to mingle with negroes"
Racial stereotypes abounded during the war and the aboriginal soldiers, although generally well-received by fellow soldiers and treated much the same as any other soldier while serving, were often denied their duly earned pensions and incentives on their return to Canada. In spite of some truly great contributions to the war effort, they were years in getting their due. Read the book; you will undoubtedly be left with contempt for Canadian politics and admiration for these unselfish men and women who stepped forward in their thousands to leave their bones in foreign soil.
When Mark Mortensen set about writing his first book he didn't do it the easy way. He chose as his subject an officer who was dead for almost a centur...moreWhen Mark Mortensen set about writing his first book he didn't do it the easy way. He chose as his subject an officer who was dead for almost a century and who left no spouse or progeny to perpetuate documentary or anecdotal information to use as source material for his book. Furthermore, Maj Hamilton was an officer who was all but forsaken by the military he served so well, being bypassed for promotions and, inexplicably, denied a Medal of Honour for an action for which that decoration was awarded to a subordinate who accompanied him. His death so soon after the war resulted in his being practically forgotten.
Despite the research obstacles he must have faced, Mr Mortensen has pieced together a detailed biography of Hamilton. It has the added benefit of a number of period photographs and the occasional map. WWI buffs will want to mine the lengthy Bibliography for other titles to add to their reading list. This is a valuable contribution to the too-short list of American WWI literature.(less)
A decent account of the trials and tribulations of the crew of the aptly named Endurance. With their ship destroyed by ice after being held fast for m...moreA decent account of the trials and tribulations of the crew of the aptly named Endurance. With their ship destroyed by ice after being held fast for months, Shackleton had to organize the evacuation of the crew by means of sled and open boat. The hardships and privations suffered by these men are enough to make you want to inch closer to your fireplace! A great tale of adventure, and all the better because it's true.(less)
It would be great to know the identity of the diarist as he shows an insight that borders on prophetic. An example:
"After we've won this war by drown...moreIt would be great to know the identity of the diarist as he shows an insight that borders on prophetic. An example:
"After we've won this war by drowning the Hun in our own blood, in five years' time the sentimental fools at home will be taking up a collection for these same Huns that are killing us now and our fool politicians will be cooking up another good war."
The attrition rate among the aviators is ghastly, and toward the end of the book the writer clearly is suffering from what would probably now be recognized as PTSD. (less)