I wasn't particularly impressed with this book. I was very keen to get a copy as I had spent a quarter century in the trade, and ordered this one (atI wasn't particularly impressed with this book. I was very keen to get a copy as I had spent a quarter century in the trade, and ordered this one (at an excessive price) as soon as I heard it was in print. I expected a history of the Canadian Military Police; what I got is essentially a book of photographs. Mind you, the photos are very nice, and they are in chronological order, but I wanted some meat, some written history I could sink my teeth into.
To begin with, Canadian Military Police existed as distinct units prior to 1940. I assume the authors (or editors, as they have listed themselves) realized that researching anything prior to 1940 would prove to be time-consuming, and dismissed the existence of the WWI units thus: "Although both the Canadian Army and Royal Canadian Air Force maintained rudimentary military police forces between 1917 and the mid 1920s, the real story of Canada's Military Police truly begins in September 1939 with the outbreak of the Second World War." (Page 2)
Really? Who made this decision? I suspect some wag in Ottawa decided that he or she wanted to celebrate a 75th Anniversary and acknowledging the existence of prior MP units would be inconvenient. I was also somewhat put off by the title page, which had no details regarding the identity of the publisher or the date published. The narrative ends after page 3, and thereafter one has to rely on the descriptions of the photographs to get a general idea of what is going on.
I guess in the end I would rather have the book than not have it, especially since I recognized a lot of the soldiers in the photos, but I really expected a better effort for an anniversary book. There should be chapters on badges and insignia, details on deployments, Honour Rolls of those KIA. This book has none of that. In short, I wanted a meal; I got dessert....more
It has been a long time since I have read anything on a WWII topic that I enjoyed as much as I did this book. The authors have taken anecdotal experieIt has been a long time since I have read anything on a WWII topic that I enjoyed as much as I did this book. The authors have taken anecdotal experiences from a number of men and women actually involved in the Battle of Britain and have woven these precious threads into the main historical account of Britain's darkest hour.
I fancied myself to be as informed as the average bear when it came to WWII historical events, but this book was a treasury of historical minutiae to which I had been totally oblivious. For instance, I had no idea that the Royal Navy had attacked the French Navy near Algeria in 1940. The Brits killed more of their former allies in this single engagement than they had killed Germans in all the hostilities to that date. And who knew that England had ordered the internment of Italians who were in residence on the island? Or that Oberleutnant Gerhard Schopfel managed the amazing feat of shooting down four Brit fighter aircraft in a single pass?
Of course, this story could not be told without relating the political machinations that send these men and women out to kill or be killed. This is spongy ground: too much political b.s. can bring a reader down and cause the story to drag. In this book, the politics are doled out in small and measured doses, just enough to give you an insight into the political thinking of the time without causing you to lose track of the story. Politicians aren't very interesting except as a study in deceit and mass manipulation, for the most part. I did develop a new respect for William Lyon Mackenzie King, our Canadian Prime Minister at the time. I had always considered him a bit of a religious crackpot and had no idea that he was so instrumental in moving Roosevelt to finally help England out, although it did not escape my notice that Roosevelt didn't come across until he was sure the aid wouldn't hurt him politically. Typical politician: never mind what is good for the country or the world - the priority is to get your own ass re-elected! To Mr King, my posthumous and belated respect and admiration.
I heartily recommend this very nicely written and touching book to anyone. Even those who don't particularly care for military history will not be unmoved by this account; thoroughly researched, thoughtfully laid out, and generously illustrated with photographs.
Every so often you read a book that involves you so much that you wish you could affect the ending in some way, even though you already know the outcoEvery so often you read a book that involves you so much that you wish you could affect the ending in some way, even though you already know the outcome. This was such a book: even though I knew That General Judson Kilpatrick survived the war, he was such an odious individual that I kept hoping he would catch a minie ball in the nackers or contract some loathsome disease from the whores he frequented. If this officer was typical of Union soldiery, it is amazing that the ranks of the Confederacy were not swelled by recruits wanting to get a shot at him.
I am always skeptical of written accounts accusing officers of cowardice. They are required to make instant decisions based on scant information; if they fail to press home an attack it is as likely to be the result of poor intelligence rather than a lack of courage. The Civil War was probably the last conflict in which general officers put themselves in any amount of danger by actually engaging the enemy in physical combat, so if Kilpatrick held back a bit on occasion, I don't necessary swallow the cowardice allegation made by the author, but that is as much lenience as I'm willing to concede.
The list of Kilpatrick's shortcomings is lengthy and varied. He was an egotistical womanizing bully, a thief, a fraud, a probable murderer and, as Martin suggests, quite possibly a coward. His treatment of people of other races was abominable: troops under his command hanged a black man who guided them to a river that was in flood, and Kilpatrick's cavalry evicted a black regiment from their bivouac in a midnight attack, appropriating their tents and leaving the African-American soldiers with no protection from the elements. Another soldier under his command sabred a black sentry who had challenged him. And these were black Union troops, supposedly their allies!
Before reading this book I had never heard of an officer being overrun by the enemy while cavorting with a whore in his nightshirt, but this happened to Kilpatrick on at least two occasions, The last time it happened he avoided capture by pointing out one of his fleeing underlings as being the commanding officer. While the Rebs pursued the luckless Yank, Kilpatrick made his escape. His entire career was like this: just when it looked like he was slipping in shit, something would come along to provide him with a way out.
On Kilpatrick's orders men burned entire villages, stole and slaughtered civilians' livestock and looted household items. Some of his men were actually apprehended and tied to trees by other Union soldiers as a disgraceful example to others. Kilpatrick's forces (with Sherman's approval) quartered stock in one church, and used another church for a slaughterhouse. Kilpatrick personally went to cut the gold buttons from a black butler's tunic, but desisted when he was told they were brass...he wanted to stick to the gold standard. In fact, his behavior was so despicable his daughter burned his papers after his death, presumably to keep the world from learning just what a jerk her old man was.
Martin's book is not a difficult read at all. It is simple and clearly written and employs the rare device of a summary paragraph at the end of most chapters to cover the salient points that had been covered; similar to a textbook, but not as dry. I had trouble putting this one down....more
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 conflWhen 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.
We Canadians lead quite the placid existence up here in the Great White North, so much so that if we want any excitement we have to go elsewhere to geWe Canadians lead quite the placid existence up here in the Great White North, so much so that if we want any excitement we have to go elsewhere to get it. Seventeen Canadians, some of them Civil War vets, tagged along with Custer on that fateful day in 1876: they got a bit more excitement than they bargained for.
I had eagerly anticipated this book. As a bit of a Custer buff I was already aware that Custer's command contained a number of Canucks and I probably expected too much of Ms Thomas...after all, the battle was so long ago, and records are sketchy where they exist at all. Thomas has done a reasonably competent job with the small amount of information at her disposal. The book did slightly increase my store of Custer-related trivia, particularly in regard to the private lives of the soldiers and the disposition of their remains after the battle.
Unfortunately, Ms Thomas' writing style does little to drum up any interest in the proceedings, but then it could be argued that she is describing an autopsy rather than detailing the events preceding death. She is repetitious: by page 43 she had mentioned that W.W. Cooke was a Canadian at least 7 times, and she gave the same treatment to each and every other Canadian in the group. That gets old really, really fast. Another criticism, one of my pet peeves, is the awkward phraseology used in describing firearms-related incidents. The troops were armed with "side-arm pistols" (p.198) and Bloody Knife was hit by "a round of fire" (p.208). Nitpicking, I know, but the latter could mean that Bloody Knife was hit by a bullet, a volley, a flaming hula-hoop, or perhaps the Ring of Fire immortalized by Johnny Cash.
This isn't a terrible book: those interested in military history or Canadiana will get something out of it. On the other hand, if you want an exciting account of the Custer fight there are better books out there. ...more
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 detaThis 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....more
You don't have to be much of a salesperson to sell me a book on Custer or the fight at Little Big Horn, so when I saw this offering by Larry McMurtryYou don't have to be much of a salesperson to sell me a book on Custer or the fight at Little Big Horn, so when I saw this offering by Larry McMurtry I had my wallet out pretty darn quick. After all, McMurtry had penned Lonesome Dove , one of the best darn westerns ever. I soon found out that being a capable writer of fiction doesn't necessarily make one a capable biographer. I got the impression that he was thinking:
"I'm Larry McMurtry and I have a zillion books in print so I really don't have to make any effort to write anything good or even coherent. I'll just fill a book with pictures and fools will buy it because It has my name on it. Hell, I won't even hire a proofreader or verify any of the information I'm putting forth as fact". The following are a couple of examples of the literary gems the unsuspecting buyer will encounter:
P.27: " And Custer's dash and flare (sic) were genuine, besides which they made the generals look good, Sheridan particularly." ; and
P.42: " The Indians came by the thousands, riding their best horses and all their finery, in the way of bear claws and eagle feathers.
I could go on and on...Mr McMurtry did. Another thing that rankles is an image on page 36, which McMurtry identifies as being an image of Custer with his horse, Comanche. (I wish I knew how to insert images here). The photo is clearly a photo of the farrier, Gustave Korn, although the horse is actually Comanche. Comanche was in fact the property of Myles Keough. Maybe this isn't the biggest deal in the world, but if you err on that point your other "facts" are suspect, in my opinion.
In short, I found this short life of Custer to be a rambling and disjointed affair. The only reason I gave it 3 stars is that the book is resplendent with photographs and illustrations which offset the sloppy writing and lacklustre proofreading.
The subtitle of this publication is The Story of the World's Greatest Conflict Told Through the Objects That Shaped It. I don't know what criteria weThe subtitle of this publication is The Story of the World's Greatest Conflict Told Through the Objects That Shaped It. I don't know what criteria were used in order to select the 100 objects to include in the book, but some were questionable in my opinion. For instance: how did the Owen SMG get included while the Stg 44 was left out? In any event, it's an easy, interesting read and even knowledgeable WWII buffs will find some trivia of interest in here. The book would have benefitted from some diligent proofreading but I think my biggest moan is that they used a small font on glossy paper, thereby making it a little difficult to read....more
Blunt and brief, this book is riveting; I couldn't put it down. It's maddening that humans can treat each other in such a beastly fashion, but I suppoBlunt and brief, this book is riveting; I couldn't put it down. It's maddening that humans can treat each other in such a beastly fashion, but I suppose we should be inured to it by now. After all, countries that claim to be civilized still maintain combatant civilians in camps without trial and torture them while thus incarcerated. Few people speak out against it. Nothing has changed....more
I remember back in the '70s having to sit through long presentations regarding the Soviet Union and the military might thereof. These briefings were gI remember back in the '70s having to sit through long presentations regarding the Soviet Union and the military might thereof. These briefings were given by American military personnel and the general theme was that the Soviet Union was an evil empire, armed to the teeth. It seemed that they had endless munitions and hordes of personnel under arms, all of whom wanted our stuff. They had no stuff in the Soviet Union, we were told, and they would be coveting our stuff, which we had in abundance. Some of this propaganda had a grain of truth in it: the Soviets were starved for consumer goods and they did have a lot of men under arms, but the weaponry was outdated and defective and the soldiery reluctant and usually coerced into service. And while there was a shortage of consumer goods, even the most fashion-conscious was unlikely to risk death for a pair of jeans. Somehow the people doing the briefings neglected to mention that part. In short, while the Soviet Union had enough punch to mess the world up considerably, they were extremely unlikely to start anything, military bombast notwithstanding.
After the "invasion" of Afghanistan, I recall even more anti-Soviet propaganda. One US-based military magazine sought donations to purchase ammo for the mujahidin. If I recall correctly, the slogan was "Kill a commie for Mommy" or some such blather. I have often wondered if anyone ever contributed and, if so, whether any of the contribution actually made it to Afghanistan. I guess what I'm getting at with all of this preamble is that we were pretty much brainwashed into an intense dislike of all things Soviet.
This book is the result of many personal interviews the author conducted with returned soldiers and civilians and also with the next of kin of those who were returned in zinc coffins, or zinky boys as they became known. Alexievich has managed to put a human face on the Soviet soldier for me, and I have come to realize that soldiers are soldiers the world over. Our governments start wars, and governments legislate soldiers into action whether the soldier likes it or not.
In the case of the Russians, many of them were told that their intervention in Afghanistan prevented the takeover of the country by the USA, which was on the point of invading. Many soldiers were told they were being airlifted to some other destination, only to find themselves in Afghanistan when the plane touched down. Some volunteered for the job, as the bazaars in Afghanistan had more consumer goods than the Soviet shops. Ponder that for a moment; a backwater like Afghanistan having more produce than your home country!
Life was hard for these soldiers. The Soviet army turned a blind eye to the constant hazing and abuse of recruits. New soldiers were routinely robbed and beaten by the older soldiers or "grandfathers". An excerpt from a soldier's letter home:
"Mum, buy me a puppy and call it Sergeant so I can kill it when I get home." (p.46)
Even the female civilian employees were not free from abuse. They volunteered for service; some for patriotic reasons, some for the extra pay, and yet others for the shopping opportunities. Whatever their motivation, they were universally assumed to have come hunting for men. Sadly, many of them felt a need to take on a man as protection against the predations of others. Better one devil you know than many you don't.
Alexeivich has really been able to express the anguish and heartache of those who came back to a country that was so neglectful that Afghanistan casualties, Zinky Boys, were not allowed to be buried in the same section of a cemetery, like they were a collective dirty secret. I won't even go into the sense of loss and betrayal expressed by grieving mothers who were never given adequate details regarding the death of their respective children. In spite of this, the reaction to the author's work was mixed, and I leave you with this final quote from a call she received:
"Who needs your dreadful truth? I don't want to know it!!! You want to buy your own glory at the expense of our sons' blood. They were heroes, heroes, heroes! They should have beautiful books written about them, and you're turning them into mincemeat" (p.187)...more
The first 75% of this book is a great read, detailing the author's adventures in a number of African hotspots, often accompanied by professional soldiThe first 75% of this book is a great read, detailing the author's adventures in a number of African hotspots, often accompanied by professional soldier Nick du Toit. The book is absolutely riveting right up to the point where Brabazon starts detailing his investigation into the circumstances surrounding du Toit's involvement in a failed coup, at which time it starts to read a bit like the begats in Genesis. Overall, a very engrossing account of some hair-raising adventures on the troubled continent leavened with a serious dissection of the moves and counter-moves involved in a coup attempt....more
I have to say I feel somewhat guilty at not rating this book a little higher out of respect for the brave women whose wartime experiences are chroniclI have to say I feel somewhat guilty at not rating this book a little higher out of respect for the brave women whose wartime experiences are chronicled within. Let's face it: Aleksievich poured her heart and soul into the research, travelling to over 100 cities and villages to personally interview hundreds of female WWII veterans. She was eager to get their story recorded for posterity and was careful to keep a diary to make notes on her travels and interviews.
The problem is that Russia had more than 800,000 women in arms during the war. Aleksievich interviewed a few hundred of these and then condensed her material into a book of less than 300 pages. Obviously, no one woman is going to get much of her story told in the space she would have allotted. Furthermore, the information received is practically all anecdotal and therefore vulnerable to embellishment or memory lapse. One thing is clear: the women under arms in Russia had a very, very hard go of it in WWII.
As I read the book, I couldn't help drawing comparisons between the female warrior of the 1940s and her modern counterpart. Compare the Russian woman crawling through snow to drag a wounded enemy from the field to the the female staff at Abu Ghraib posing their naked "enemies" for shameful and demeaning photographs. These women volunteered for their service, often in the face of opposition from parents and military officials. Usually they were issued a single uniform and rations were in unbelievably short supply. They were shot, tortured, starved, and had limbs removed without the benefit of anaesthetic, yet they had the strength to see the war through and go on to have post-war careers and raise families.
In fact, this book is a seemingly never-ending litany of woe with inhumanity piled upon inhumanity until it really just becomes numbing; families wiped out, friends vanished, limbs hacked off, children burned...and on and on until you feel you can't take it any more. I know that's the intent of the book...to show the ordeal endured by these heroines...but the task is too much for the writer. I would have preferred that she leaven the anecdotes with some statistics..they would almost be comic relief! Although the author's heart is in the right place, the project is too ambitious. Probably every one of those 800,000 women has enough credibility to warrant a book of her own; trying to give an overview of all that experience in under 300 pages is over-condensing it in my opinion.
This book is definitely worth reading; it suffers a bit in the translation, I think, but you will meet many solid and dedicated women in these pages....more
This is an alarming and depressing book. McKelvey documents abuses and outrages committed in the name of the American people upon occupants of sundryThis is an alarming and depressing book. McKelvey documents abuses and outrages committed in the name of the American people upon occupants of sundry detention facilities, with emphasis on Abu Ghraib. McKelvey is a journalist and writes like one, touching on main points without delving too deeply into any individual case. One thing is established: many people, a large number of them completely innocent of any wrongdoing, were tortured, humiliated, raped, starved, and sometimes killed by Americans while in American custody. The writer also points out that the only persons receiving any punishment for excesses were at the bottom of the command structure, but that will be no surprise.
What might surprise the average reader is that some torture, such as stress positions, forced exercise, and sleep deprivation, is officially approved. This is the same type of abuse that Americans complained of receiving at the hands of the Japanese in WWII. If it was wrong then, why is it OK now?
If anything positive can be taken from this, it would be the fact that investigative writers like McKelvey are free to investigate such abuses and report on them in an open and public manner. It leads me to hope that the USA won't plunge into total fascism....more