This book is, surprisingly, the second most recent major work in English on the 17th century French military commander Henri de la Tour d'Auvergne VicThis book is, surprisingly, the second most recent major work in English on the 17th century French military commander Henri de la Tour d'Auvergne Vicomete de Turenne (aka Turenne). I say surprisingly because the book was published in 1885. It's quality reflects its age; there isn't much hard analysis of anything Turenne did. Instead, the book is predominantly a magazine-esque biography which touches only lightly upon how Turenne did things and focused most on what he did. So you won't see any maps or diagrams of how Turenne deployed his troops, or even how he moved his armies to frustrate the actions of his adversaries. The reader is left with a sense that Turenne was impressive without a lot of details explaining why. ...more
A rather interesting look at how war changed the lives of a number of people from the same occupational field (film director). Of particular interestA rather interesting look at how war changed the lives of a number of people from the same occupational field (film director). Of particular interest to me was the parallels between the public relations struggles of WWII veterans in the immediate post-war era, as they dealt with issues of psychological trauma, and the way that the veteran community today tries to correct the popular beliefs of PTSD (which at least one of the directors profiled here clearly suffered from).
All in all, a rather thought-provoking book, showing how a great shared experience is shared differently by different people, based upon the idiosyncrasies of their own adventures. ...more
This book deserves to be more widely read. It is an amusing auto-biographical romp of one man's journey in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS, theThis book deserves to be more widely read. It is an amusing auto-biographical romp of one man's journey in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS, the precursor to the CIA, and in fact a future director of the CIA is one of the many individuals Roger Hall encountered). Unfortunately for Hall, the OSS was as mixed up as it was effective (one of the best anecdotes is when Hall meets a German intelligence officer after the war and asks if he'd ever heard of the OSS; the German replied yes, he knew it was merely the cover story for a real Intelligence organization).
The book is told with a sly wit, and every event related by Hall is attacked with an eye for the maximum humor value, whether jumping out of airplanes, being picked up off the side of the road and taken to important briefs or being taken for secret training to places he knew well before the war as a civilian. ...more
This book follows two major topics: the activities of the Tosa domain (largely the modern Kochi prefecture on Shikoku) as one of the great powers of JThis book follows two major topics: the activities of the Tosa domain (largely the modern Kochi prefecture on Shikoku) as one of the great powers of Japan during the slow decline of the Tokugawa Shogunate and how Sakamoto Ryoma and Nakaoka Shintaro figured in the turbulent times of the end of Tokugawa Shogunate. The story moves back and forth between the politics of the three great western domains (Choshu, Satsuma, and Tosa) and the politics and activities of Sakamoto and Nakaoka, and how they impacted events in the three great domains.
The prose can be troublesome at time, because Professor Jansen wrote this in the early 1960s (published 1961) for the academic circuit, not the modern taste for semi-academic easily-accessible writings. Frankly, I stopped reading the book for about a year because it was putting me to sleep, but shortly after I picked it up again I blew through the second half in a couple weeks. So don't think you're getting a book as readable as Malcolm Gladwell or Bill Bryson. It's an old academic text.
Though the book is predominantly about the Tosa domain and the impact it had during the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate as well as how two of its wayward sons played key roles in the Satsuma-Choshu alliance which ultimately defeated the Tokugawa, a fair amount of general history of Japan from 1853 to 1868 is included so that the events have their proper context. As such, for the student of the Bakumatsu era and Meiji Restoration it's useful to pair this with Albert Craig's "Choshu in the Meiji Restoration" for another in-depth look at how one of the three most important domains in Japan went through a range of reactions to the influence of Western imperialism. ...more
This is a high-level look at the Second World War in the Pacific, particularly the Central Pacific campaign spearheaded by Chester Nimitz & the USThis is a high-level look at the Second World War in the Pacific, particularly the Central Pacific campaign spearheaded by Chester Nimitz & the US Navy. While MacArthur's Southwest Pacific campaign is mentioned in passing, little detail is provided, even on the naval figures involved. This book doesn't get into the nitty-gritty of how particular battles turned out (though it does provide rough summaries). Instead, it focuses much more on the personalities involved, how Nimitz used his subordinates where there own personalities would either be of greatest value or of least trouble (sometimes these were even the same).
Thus Hoyt covers why Nimitz entrusted more authority for campaigns in Spruance than Halsey, while still pointing out that Halsey's command in the South Pacific during the dark days of Guadalcanal was absolutely critical, and probably no one else would have succeeded as brilliantly as Halsey, as what was needed there was not a thinking Admiral so much as a Fighting one, and Halsey would dependably fight. Whether or not he should have.
Each of the major admirals detailed (Nimitz, Halsey, Spruance) is given a moderate biographical sketch around the time they are introduced. The book is not a biography, but these sketches are used to provide some depth to the personalities. Those who have already consumed dedicated biographies of these admirals will learn nothing new; those who have only read histories will likely pick up something they didn't know before. A number of the lesser-known personalities (Fletcher, Turner, H.M. Smith, Mitscher, Towers) have much smaller biographical sketches, as they typically played a much smaller role in the high-level dealings Hoyt covers in this work.
Just as important to the prosocution of the war as the battles at sea were the fights in Washington, and political machinations makes up a surprisingly large part of the book. Whether black shoe vs brown shoe debates, or Central Pacific vs South Pacific, or Okinawa vs Formosa, a lot of policy issues make it into this book, befitting the strategic-level view throughout most of the work.
All in all, a worthy entry in the field of Pacific War history. Likely too dry for the casual reader, and not sufficiently detailed for the serious student, this book fits in a middle ground. If someone is looking for ideas on what to study in more detail, this book will likely provide a beginning to a topic which can be researched in greater depth elsewhere. ...more
Winston Churchill had something of a man-crush on his ancestor John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough. In Winston's own dark period of life, he undertookWinston Churchill had something of a man-crush on his ancestor John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough. In Winston's own dark period of life, he undertook this exhaustive biography of Marlborough and produced a remarkable work. One common complaint about biographies of military figures -- even recent military commanders -- is that the reader is more often treated to a dry recitation of their military career and not left with much of a description of the man who lived it. Churchill avoided that, and with an enormous collection of the Marlborough's private correspondence attempts to tell the story of one of Great Britain's most illustrious military commanders, a man who humbled the greatest of France's kings while at the head of an inconsistent and fractious group of "allies".
Churchill's take on Marlborough can not be considered unbiased -- Churchill is not only a descendant of Marlborough's eldest daughter, but was even born in Blenheim Palace. Indeed, Churchill's partisanship is rather clear from the start, as he first describes why he felt that Marlborough's name and career required rehabilitation in the first place.
Despite this, Churchill's prose is as lyrical and well-crafted as anything else the man wrote or said, and few moment's of Marlborough's life are unaccounted for. It is not entirely easy to write an account of the life of a man who died more than three hundred years before the book was published, and particularly not when there are so few primary sources from which to draw information. Still, Churchill deftly explains the political, military, and social issues wrestled with by Marlborough, his wife and his friends during the course of the Glorious Revolution and War of Spanish Succession, and provides a plausible explanation for the many charges leveled at Marlborough since he first rose to prominence.
This is a fascinating read whether your interest is on politics, warfare, or life in the 17th & 18th centuries....more