The day-to-day and sometimes minute-by-minute actions of the Third Battalion of the 506th during operation Market-Garden form the core of this book, b...moreThe day-to-day and sometimes minute-by-minute actions of the Third Battalion of the 506th during operation Market-Garden form the core of this book, but it ranges considerably wider. For example a full chapter is devoted to the Dutch under Nazi rule -- a subject that itself would take a full book to do justice to. I can only rate it three stars because the writing is somewhat unfocused and jolts from subject to subject (cobblestone writing). However the events themselves are quite dramatic and carried me through the book. I recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about one of the more important operations of World War 2.(less)
Landscape Turned Red: Battle of Antietam is without a doubt the best single-volume history of the battle of Antietam. Sears is a good writer and histo...moreLandscape Turned Red: Battle of Antietam is without a doubt the best single-volume history of the battle of Antietam. Sears is a good writer and historian, and he brings the battle to life with emotion and close attention to detail. The book tells the story of a lost opportunity. An intelligence coup gave General George McClellan the opportunity to use the superb tool he had created, The Army of the Potomac, to destroy Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia and quite possibly bring the war to an early end. However, he dithered and gave Lee time to put his army in a strong defensive position behind Antietam creek. This pretty much guaranteed a very bloody day for all concerned. McClellan still could have decisively defeated the Confederate forces, albeit at a greater cost than if he had acted quickly, if he had been willing to commit his army to a general attack. He had a 2 to 1 advantage in numbers and his army was better equipped and in better condition. Instead he committed his forces piecemeal, permitting the defenders to hold them off and make their escape bloodied but unbroken the next day. The war continued for another three years. Opportunity lost. I would say this book is a must read for students of American history, and if one wants to write a story that includes that bloody day, this book should be constantly at hand. (less)
This is one of the better personal accounts to come out of the Vietnam War. In a remote province in Vietnam's Mekong delta, First Lieutenant David Don...moreThis is one of the better personal accounts to come out of the Vietnam War. In a remote province in Vietnam's Mekong delta, First Lieutenant David Donovan became a de facto ruler. Hence the title – Once A Warrior King: Memories of an Officer in Vietnam. It is a gripping story of an unusual war and its effects on the young men who fought it. The vivid description of being saved from being overrun one night by the awesome destructive power of an Arc Light strike will probably stay with me forever.
The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944 is the second book in Rick Atkinson's three-part history of World War II. It picks up pretty...moreThe Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944 is the second book in Rick Atkinson's three-part history of World War II. It picks up pretty much right where An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943 ends. The battle for Italy was one of the toughest of the war. By the end of the 608 day campaign to liberate Italy, Allied forces had lost about 312,000 casualties. German losses, while uncertain, were similar in scale. The fighting was particularly brutal at the Anzio beachhead and along the Gustav line. The multiple attacks, the first three of which were bloodily repulsed, on the Gustav line seems to me to have showed a distinct lack of imagination on the part of the Allied high command. Perhaps that was dictated by the terrain and couldn't be helped. However, I find it interesting that the breakthrough, when it finally came, was due to French general Juin personally going forward to find out why his army's attack was stalling. As a result of the intelligence gained, he pulled back, made a new and timely plan, and launched a successful night attack that severed the Gustav line. I am writing this on Veteran's day. This book had many poignant points for me as my father was there -- at Anzio. His unit of tank destroyers took part in the defense of the beachhead, the breakout, and then the capture of Rome. He fought on to the end of the war in northern Italy. (Would that he were still here to discuss this with.) In summary, Atkinson's obviously did a lot of research for this book. His depiction of the war in Italy is filled with a wealth of detail. The many maps are a good complement to the text. I recommend this book to anyone interested in the biggest and most brutal war ever fought.(less)
An Army at Dawn is a very good history of the western front in North Africa. It is also the story of the coming of age of the American army and its le...moreAn Army at Dawn is a very good history of the western front in North Africa. It is also the story of the coming of age of the American army and its leaders.
The fighting in North Africa was brutal -- I had not realized how much so. In this crucible, the American army in the European theater was born. Perhaps the book itself sums things up best in a passage in the epilogue. At a price of 70,000 casualties “one continent had been redeemed,” in Churchill’s phrase. But more than territory could be claimed. The gains were most profound for the Americans, in their first campaign against the Wehrmacht. Four U.S. divisions now had combat experience in five variants of Euro-Mediterranean warfare: expeditionary, amphibious, mountain, desert, and urban. Troops had learned the importance of terrain, of combined arms, of aggressive patrolling, of stealth, of massed armor. They now knew what it was like to be bombed, shelled, and machine-gunned, and to fight on. They provided Eisenhower with a blooded hundred thousand, “high-grade stock from which we must breed with the utmost rapidity,” as one general urged.
There was one passage in the book that fairly jumped out at me. With sirens screaming from his motorcycle escort, Patton drove up from Fériana—not before taking time to berate a soldier for being ill-shaven and legging-less, although he had just left the line to fetch more ammunition. The soldier in question could well have been my father, as I have heard that story from him many times. Though he generally had little to say about the war, my father did frequently mention being "chewed out by Patton" for not being in proper uniform as he was returning to the front with ammo and fuel after a period of hard fighting. (My father died last year a week shy of his 90th birthday.)
This is a very good history of war. The numerous detailed maps helped me understand the many battles. And, the section of photographs at the back of the book is a nice bonus. Highly recommended for those with an interest in World War Two. (less)
In In the Company of Soldiers Rick Atkinson chronicles his experiences as an embedded reporter with the 101st Airborne Division (air assault) during t...moreIn In the Company of Soldiers Rick Atkinson chronicles his experiences as an embedded reporter with the 101st Airborne Division (air assault) during the Iraq war in 2003. His book brings back the concerns and fears of that war that have become somewhat blurred by time. I didn't find this book to be quite as engrossing as Atkinson's earlier The Long Gray Line, perhaps because In the Company of Soldiers is in fact a chronicle -- a diary of events as it were -- without a strong core theme. Other than the war itself and the accounts of warriors doing their jobs, the most important thing in this book is Atkinson's portrayal of General David H. Petraeus. In fact it was the recent high-profile scandal leading to Petraeus's resignation that prompted me to read this book. The complex man Atkinson shows us is enigmatic -- driven and driving, highly intelligent, obsessive over details, hyper competitive, intense, honorable, and at times humorous. Leadership is both a trade and an obsession for him. That portrayal and the tale of day to day life with soldiers make this a good book. I recommend it to those interested in the military, the Iraq war, or General Petraeus. (less)
A heroic and bloody story. Joshua Chamberlain and the men of the 20 Main were a true heroes. They did nothing less than save the Union at Little Round...moreA heroic and bloody story. Joshua Chamberlain and the men of the 20 Main were a true heroes. They did nothing less than save the Union at Little Round Top.(less)
This book was interesting to me as a former armor commander myself. I have read Colonel Hans von Luck's Panzer Commander which tells the story of WW2...moreThis book was interesting to me as a former armor commander myself. I have read Colonel Hans von Luck's Panzer Commander which tells the story of WW2 combat in the European theater from the command point of view and also Paul Carell's Scorched Earth which gives a detailed overall history of the Russian-German war. This book filled a gap by giving an account of small unit actions (from squad up to company level). Carius was in the heat of battle all the way, and he was a very competent small unit commander. Unfortunately, I cannot honestly give this book a 4 or 5 star rating. There are several reasons. It just seems too dispassionate to me. Just another day at the office, was it? Also, at the time of writing, he was still super pissed-off about the treatment of German soldiers after the war. He overdid that aspect while conveniently overlooking the many horrible things done by the Germans during the war. Finally, his disparagement of the American soldier for lack of aggressiveness in the closing pages seemed small-minded and unnecessary. (That was in the closing weeks of the war when the Americans knew they had won. It was just a matter of time. Why would you press your luck?) In final analysis, this is a good book to read if you are interested in armored action during WW2, especially on the Eastern front. Otherwise, you can give it a skip.
(Recommended first person accounts of combat: Company Commander by Charles B. MacDonald, Brazen Chariots by Robert Crisp, and The Heights of Courage by Avigdor Kahalani. All great.)(less)
"I'm a chicken. I'm a hawk. I'm a chickenhawk" Robert Mason had more than one thousand missions as a chopper pilot in Vietnam. Chickenhawk, his autobio...more"I'm a chicken. I'm a hawk. I'm a chickenhawk" Robert Mason had more than one thousand missions as a chopper pilot in Vietnam. Chickenhawk, his autobiography of his experiences, is a gripping tale of fear, exhilaration, despair, friendship, and danger. Highly recommended. (less)