This book came out in 1826, a couple of generations after the French and Indian War. In the 1750's, the area we call upstate New York was smack dab in the middle of the fighting between the great European powers, France and Great Britain, for control
This book came out in 1826, a couple of generations after the French and Indian War. In the 1750's, the area we call upstate New York was smack dab in the middle of the fighting between the great European powers, France and Great Britain, for control of the section of North American continent claimed by them, namely the British colonies and areas west and north of them, the Great Lakes and Canada. It was a war which was also fought in Europe, and was known there as the Seven Years' War. Fenimore's book contains a description of an actual battle, and uses the real-life names of the main British and French officers, in its pivotal section. French General Montcalm led a force of his army, supplemented heavily with Indian allies, against Fort William Henry on Lake George in August, 1757. The fort's commander, Lt. Col. Monro, received some reinforcements but was not able to withstand the French siege. He surrendered to Montcalm, and was allowed to withdraw his forces from the fort under white flag, which the French honored but the Indians ignored. The result was an atrocity in which the Indians killed many of the surrendered soldiers.
James Fenimore Cooper grew up in the Adirondock region where Fort William Henry and other important battles of that war were located (his father had founded Cooperstown, New York). He was fascinated with the events that occurred there seventy years earlier and wrote a series of three novels which became best sellers and led the way for generations of American novelists. His "Leatherstocking Tales" included "The Pioneers" in 1823, "...The Mohicans" in 1826, and "The Prairie" in 1827. The main character of the novels, Natty Bumpoo, aka Leatherstocking, Nathaniel, Hawkeye or La Longue Carabine, also is resurrected in Cooper's "The Pathfinder" in 1840 and "The Deerslayer" in 1841.
Hawkeye becomes involved in this history when he joins the relief column sent from Albany to reinforce the ill-fated fort. He travels with his Mohican companions, Chingachgook and his son Uncas. They accompany a British force commanded by Major Duncan Heyward, who is courting Col. Munro's daughter Alice. For some reason I cannot fathom, both Alice and her sister Cora travel with these soldiers and scouts through hostile territory to the fort. The main scout is a Huron named Magua who proves to be treacherous. After the British are attacked while withdrawing from their fort, Magua eventually captures the girls. Hawkeye and Maj. Heyward manage to infiltrate an Indian village to save the girls. Eventually, Hawkeye kills Magua (this may be news to fans of the wonderful 1992 Michael Mann film based on the book, where Chingachgook kills Magua in revenge for the death of Uncas).
John Mack Faragher provides an excellent critique of "The Last of the Mohicans" in his book "Daniel Boone" (Holt Paperbacks, 1992). Hawkeye's connection to Daniel Boone is not coincidental. Faragher notes that none other than the dean of American historians, Francis Parkman, called Boone the real-life counterpart of Leatherstocking. In fact, Fenimore's pivotal captivity story was "loosely based" (p. 331) on the abduction of Boone's daughter Jemima and the Callaway girls by the Shawnees from near their home at Boonesborough, and Boone's successful leadership of a rescue party to get them back to their families in 1776.
This book suffers modern expectations re: its hokey plot device using a shaman's stolen bearskin to disguise Hawkeye's identity from a village of Hurons, its stereotyped Native Americans who were usually either evil or noble, its granting of a personality to Hawkeye's "carabine" with as much or more care as that devoted to the female characters, and its sometimes archaic dialogue. Most egregious of all is the book title's implication that the Mohicans died out as an independent tribe during this war. Actually, the Mohicans exist to this day as a federally recognized tribe residing in Connecticut. The emotional allure of the title, however, accurately conveys the author's perceived need to document the lives of early frontier personages who deserve to be remembered by succeeding American generations.
The glue holding the whole story together is the central character, Hawkeye. There is nothing contrived about him. He is an accurate representation of what Faragher describes as the type of American pioneer who lived in such close proximity to the native population at the edge of civilization that he shares general social values with them, including a commitment to personal independence and loyalty to the basic family unit or clan (p. 22) and who continually moves further away from the civil world's expanding borders for the convenience of enjoying living in isolation from the mass of society while the native population is concurrently forced to move farther away to the wilderness in order to survive.
Think back to the visual appearance of Hawkeye in the movie, if you've seen it (if you haven't, put it on your rental list). If you aren't familiar with the history of what is being depicted in the story, you could be excused for feeling, at least at first glance, a little puzzled by his identity. He is white, but looks very like an Indian. His hair is long, he wears the same buckskin clothes; he hunts like an Indian, talks to natives in their language, runs through the forest with them. He has a brotherly attachment to Chingachgook and an uncles' concern toward Uncas. There were many variations of how close these pioneers attached themselves to the native American culture. Hawkeye seems to have identified closely, but can operate with equal ease in colonial society. Boone himself hunted with Indian friends as a young man in Pennsylvania, but he also led pioneers into the wilderness to build future villages, and, as his life progressed, engaged in complicated, and ruinous, real estate schemes. In reality, the motives of all players were less idealized than the way they are depicted in a novel.
These pioneers shared the fate of their native contemporaries. As Faragher notes, the original forest-living American settlers would also find themselves eventually swept aside by the forces of civilization (p. 333). There would be no need for the wilderness explorers, forest-clearers and bi-lingual go-betweens in the new world of cities and Anglo-European culture. Eventually, (in the third Cooper novel) Leatherstocking, like Boone in real life, would end his days reconciled to the acceptance of his former native antagonists as the true owners of the country (Faragher, p. 331). "The Last of the Mohicans", however, is set in a time when the new world was much younger and individuals like Hawkeye, Chingachgook and Uncas witnessed and participated in the great events of the 1750's as the French, British and Native American societies vied for survival and dominance. It is a book situated in the pantheon of fundamental American works of literature and is worth reading now as much as at the time of its original publication. ...more
Jul 13, 2016 04:29PM · 1 like · like · see review · preview book
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The time frame of this book covers approximately one and a half years, from late 1941 until May 1943, during which a cascading series of events, some of them catastrophic, tried the resolve of the British peoples and their Prime Minister. There were
The time frame of this book covers approximately one and a half years, from late 1941 until May 1943, during which a cascading series of events, some of them catastrophic, tried the resolve of the British peoples and their Prime Minister. There were several bright spots early-on, including the recent thumping that the British Commonwealth armies had given to German General Rommel in the North African desert, and the long-hoped-for entry of the United States into the war.
This latter development certainly gave Winston Churchill and the British military leaders cause for rejoicing, because Great Britain would not be standing alone against the Germans, who had spent the last two years gobbling up most of Europe. The reason for the United States' sudden abandonment of its careful neutrality, however, brought a whole new set of huge problems. The U.S. was attacked by Japan, not Germany, and Churchill would spend a good part of the time covered in this volume using his utmost diplomatic persuasion skills trying to keep American military planners focused on looking at Europe as the main theater of war. This was no small matter since many in the American government were at odds over the assigning of precedence; America's highest ranking military leaders, Admiral E.J. King, Chief of Naval Operations, and General George Marshall, U.S. Army Chief of Staff, were evenly divided in this matter. In this effort Churchill cultivated and received the friendship of his increasingly good friend and ally Franklin Roosevelt, who sided with him on this issue.
Not that anyone could ignore what was going on in the Pacific. The British were certainly relieved when Hitler declared war on the U.S. in the wake of Pearl Harbor, forcing attention toward the European theater of war, but this also meant that Great Britain would now be fighting Japan. The consequences of this widening of the war were felt in the pressure exerted in the Pacific by a rampaging Japanese military, which very shortly began the action which would cause huge losses to America in the Philippines, and would take over other Allied bases in the Pacific. By March of 1942, the Japanese would conquer the Dutch East Indies, taking many allied soldiers prisoner. Prior to that, the Japanese had steamrolled down the Malayan Peninsula and had conquered the British island fortress of Singapore. They also overran Siam and invaded Burma, capturing Rangoon.
The beauty of Churchill's books comes from his combination of his command of English in writing historical narrative, and his liberal insertions of the voluminous correspondence carried out between himself and all manner of government agencies and foreign allies. The unfolding of the Singapore disaster, from the government's frantic steps to reinforce its defense at all cost, to the realization that nothing could be done to prevent the loss of the island, was both fascination and sickening.
This calamity was followed by the news that General Rommel had counterattacked in the African desert. Tobruk fell back into German hands and Britain faced a grave situation, despite earlier overconfident assurances Churchill had received from his commanding general there.
There is no doubt that, in any other circumstances, heads should have rolled on the discovery that one of Britain's most valuable bases was lost in good measure because it was set up to be practically impregnable to a sea attack, but all of its defenses folded because no one thought far enough ahead to plan for a land-ward threat. Most of the blame for this fell upon Churchill, who was not in the government when the planning for Singapore's defense happened, but he had to face a Motion of Censure in Parliament. His political and oratorical skills met the challenge, and the result was a renewed vote of confidence in the National Government which he headed.
Fighting a two-ocean war was very difficult for the Allies. Churchill's job was not made easier by the fact that the Australian Prime Minister, fearing a Japanese invasion, made demands for the return of Australia's best army divisions, which were sorely needed in North Africa. They were especially panicked after the loss of Singapore, an installation which they believed to be critical to the defense of their island, and about the Japanese presence in New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.
There was no way that England could provide any significant defense to Australia. The United States solved this predicament by making Australia an important base for garrisoning growing numbers of forces that would be used in numerous Pacific island campaigns. Campaigns in Guadalcanal and New Guinea as well as significant American sea victories at the Coral Sea and Midway would eventually, but slowly, remove the immediate Japanese threat to Australia.
One of the greatest challenges to the Allies at this time was the danger of getting supplies shipped across the Atlantic Ocean. Naval convoys were coming under increasingly deadly German attack, from submarines and from the air. The Battle of the Atlantic was one of the most fearful campaigns of the war, because Britain could simply not survive without the food and material shipped from America, and Russia, now an Allied power, sorely needed everything that could be sent there. The problem was exacerbated by the lack of forward planning by American Naval authorities, causing severe shortages of escort vessels to guard the convoys. Churchill provides data showing the loss of three and a quarter millions of tons of British and other allied shipping lost between December 1941 and August 1942, and another almost three and three quarter million tons sent to the bottom of the ocean between August 1942 and late-May 1943, representing huge loss of lives as well as ships and their cargoes.
All of these losses and military reversals made it difficult to envision a pro-active strike against Germany. America would be able to provide the human and manufacturing resources needed to make this happen, but the country would take time to overcome years of pre-war isolationist military neglect. Churchill was especially feeling the sting of not-so subtle prodding from Joseph Stalin, whose country had felt severe punishment from German invasion. Churchill had made it a point to send as much assistance to Russia as possible from the beginning, but Stalin criticized him for having to suspend arctic ship convoys due to high losses from German submarine wolf packs and for not opening a second front against Hitler in western Europe.
Churchill and President Franklin Roosevelt, and their top military staffs, would work very hard to come to some kind of consensus on when that European invasion would begin. As 1942 began, it became very apparent that no kind of invasion could possibly be mounted in 1942, much to Stalin's chagrin. The planners decided that an all-out attempt should be made to send an invasion force to France to begin pushing the German forces back into Germany, and ultimately defeat, in 1943. The 1942 campaign, code-named "Sledgehammer," formerly named "Bolero" and aimed at an attack on Brest or Cherbourg, morphed into "Roundup" for the liberation of France, based on the capture of Antwerp in 1943.
Much attention is mentioned in the book about planning for numerous Anglo-British military campaigns. There is an almost bewildering array of code-names, some of which evolved into other names. Thus, the projected 1943 "Roundup" eventually became the 1944 "Overlord" invasion. Likewise, the late-1942 "Gymnast" invasion of French North-Africa (Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia), begat "Torch."
Before Torch happened, the British forces under General H.R. Alexander, the new Commander in Chief of the North African Theater of Operations, and his deputy, General B.L. Montgomery, Commanding the British 8th Army, bolstered Allied morale when they won back Tobruk and then defeated Rommel at Alamein (November 1942). This is where Churchill marked the turning of the "Hinge of Fate", when he declared that the British never had a victory before Alamein; after Alamein, they never had a defeat (p. 1065 of 1782).
If Alamein was the beginning of the end for the Germans in North Africa, it would need to be followed by months of hard slogging in the Western deserts. One of the compelling reasons for Torch was that it would give the Americans a chance to finally get a sizable force in battle against the Germans, since it was becoming obvious, as mentioned above, that an American-British invasion of France would not be feasible for some time. This is one reason why Churchill deferred to the naming of an American general, Dwight Eisenhower, as the operation's supreme commander. Churchill's description of this operation is, as always, detailed and orderly.
The Allies would not become, as General Alexander wired to Churchill, "masters of the North African shores" (pp 1375, 1376 of 1782) until May 13, 1943. This news followed the final encirclement and defeat of the Germans at Tunis, which compared, according to Churchill, to the Russian victory at Stalingrad. As Churchill sums up the situation at the middle of 1943, then, there was light at the end of the tunnel. Over two years of destruction, involving loss of countless numbers of civilians and military people, would have to transpire until this war ended. Much friendly collaboration would have to transpire among the Allies to make victory happen, and Churchill would be the most energetic leader in traveling whenever needed to consult on important matters. Already, within the pages of this book, he had made three trips to Washington D.C. to meet with Roosevelt, had broken the ice with Stalin with a trip to Moscow, and had participated in the first "Big Three" conference with the other two leaders at Casablanca, in January 1943. This at a time when long-range air travel was both arduous and highly risky, even for a head of state.
However, if it was not immediately apparent at this time, Italy was almost out of the war as a military power, while Hitler's invasion of Russia was coming back to bite his ass, leaving Germany as an isolated combatant in Europe, and the Japanese juggernaut had peaked. If Alamein was Britain's hinge of fate, June 1943 was the turning point for the Allied cause. ...more
Jun 23, 2016 05:48PM · 2 likes · like · see review · preview book
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This book contains a lot of information about the Cold War that many people would not be aware of. Specifically, the fact that all U.S. cities, and various military assets were protected from air attack by nuclear-armed surface to air missiles in pla
This book contains a lot of information about the Cold War that many people would not be aware of. Specifically, the fact that all U.S. cities, and various military assets were protected from air attack by nuclear-armed surface to air missiles in plain sight, but not really in the minds, of most citizens. The scope of this book is limited to the details of the construction, operation and preservation of the one, last site to exist mainly in its Cold War form, the installation known as Nike Site SF-88 at Fort Barry, California in the Marin Headlands. This book's publishers, Hole in the Head Press, also sells a book dedicated to documenting all of the old Nike sites, "Rings of Supersonic Steel" Air Defenses of the U.S. Army 1950-1979" by Mark L. Morgan and Mark A. Berhow, now in its third edition, for those who want to view the entire extent of these installations in the United States.
I've noticed recently that people have been posting their photos and videos on Flickr and You Tube of something that appears to be a 1960's missile site frozen in time. I took an interest in learning more about it when I discovered it is the Fort Barry site near San Francisco, making it a place of interest I may want to visit some time; also, I have an interest in the subject because I served in a Nike Hercules- equipped artillery group in Europe many years ago.
The authors have impressive backgrounds which give them solid credentials for writing this book. John A. Martini is a retired National Park Ranger who is an expert on America's coastal defenses. He has published works on such topics as Fort Point at the Golden Gate, Fortress Alcatraz, and the Presidio. Stephen A. Haller is the Park Historian at Golden Gate National Recreation Area, where Fort Barry is located. His published works span subjects including histories of The Presidio, San Francisco's Crissy Field and Golden Gate shipwrecks.
"The Last Missile Site" contains extensive information derived over the years as a result of a meeting held in 1997 among volunteers, and park maintenance, interpretation and resource management interests (Preface, p. ix) to discuss how to document the operation and human history, as well as how to proceed in interpretation and preservation efforts for the missile site. Site SF-88 is almost unique in its continuing existence among the former Nike installations under the command of ARAACOM (the Army Antiaircraft Command, redesignated in 1957 as ARADCOM, the Army Air Defense Command) spanning thirty states at their peak. Many of them are in private hands and not accessible to the public; many others have just been abandoned and are eyesores. Some have been deeded over for the use of local governments; back a few decades, I did some training for the agency I worked for, at the Allegheny County Police and Fire Academy, which is located where missile site PI-92 (Pittsburgh site "92") existed, in North Park, Pennsylvania. San Francisco site 88 was fortuitously deeded over to the National Park Service when the Army closed it in the 1970's, and it has been intended to be a tangible link to the Cold War ever since.
The authors provide an excellent context to these facilities in their detailed explanation of the development of the Cold War and the resulting threat posed to mainland United States via air attack from Russia. Defenses were deployed which continued in the tradition of the classic coastal defenses of times past, in which large artillery guns would be located along coastal areas. This type of defensive measure survived into World War II, when things became more complicated with the post-Pearl Harbor realization that the mainland needed to also be defended from hostile aircraft. Many "gun" type of antiaircraft defenses were built in that era, relying on an assortment of anti-aircraft guns such as the 90mm, which could hit target aircraft as high as 30,000 feet (p. 10). Even before World War II was over, the government was asking for proposals for building a missile-type of air defense system, and Bell Laboratories, in conjunction with subcontractors including Douglas Aircraft, developed the Nike Ajax missile system. By the mid-fifties, these missiles were being deployed around the country in order to defend against the formations of Soviet manned bombers which were expected to appear if a shooting war started. By the fall of 1954, Nike Ajax was deployed in the San Francisco area. One of the sites, Fort Barry, was located almost exactly on the grounds of the older "Antiaircraft Gun Battalion" from WWII days. Originally, the missile facilities were very basic, with non-permanent launchers being utilized alongside some of the older antiaircraft batteries, which were gradually phased out. Over the years, Fort Barry would undergo extensive upgrading in its physical facilities.
The rapidly increasing performance abilities of aircraft in the 1950's created the need for a follow-on missile even while the Ajax was beginning its operational life. The Ajax's successor was the Nike Hercules, a much more robust and powerful missile. By 1964, Nike Ajax was obsolete and was replaced with the new missile, which could target supersonic aircraft over 150,000 feet in altitude at a range of more then 87 miles (p. 20) in contrast with the old Ajax, which could reach 65,000 feet in altitude at a range of 30 miles (p. 16). The Nike Hercules was operational at Fort Barry in late 1958. The Hercules had a burnout speed of Mach 3.65. While not initially intended to be an anti-missile interceptor, it became increasingly apparent over time that the missile would have to be able to perform against that threat also. The Army began testing the Hercules against drone missiles; in one test, a Hercules reportedly shot down another Nike being used as a target drone, at a closing speed of 7 mach (p. 22). The biggest difference between the two missiles, however, was that the Hercules was the first in the Nike family with the capability of being armed with a nuclear warhead.
Henceforth, Nike sites would contain weapons magazines with a mixture of conventional and nuclear armed missiles. In the Bay area, the Hercules sites would be located at Lake Chabot, Fort Barry, Fort Cronkhite, San Rafael and (SF-51) at Pacifica (p. 91).
This book is a military nerd's delight, with its wealth of detail on the operation of a missile site in the 1960's, and an inventory of the state of preservation of every piece of real estate at this site, from security fencing and signage to the missile magazines with their elevator access to the missile launchers. The authors don't lose track of the human factor in the story, however. Several former soldiers of different ranks who served at SF-88 provide valuable insight into the conditions under which the base personnel lived. This book is a document of the state of information gathering and preservation up to the point of publication, and it is easy to surmise how it will be updated with new additions in the future.
The Nike Site SF-88 and its counterparts throughout the country were pieces of a much larger international Nike deployment. The authors identify the use of Nike by such allies as Belgium, Denmark, France, West Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Taiwan and Turkey (p. 16). Since the book is limited to one California missile site, the authors of course don't discuss the weapon system's implications in other countries. Although the following is not derived from the book, and can be seen as somewhat technical, I find it interesting to briefly show how a Nike unit was set up in Europe because, as I've noted above, I was there when these weapons were deployed:
The Nike Hercules was part of a family of weapons supported under the command of SASCOM (the U.S. Army Special Ammunition Support Command) in Europe. SASCOM consisted of Warhead Custodial Detachments which maintained and guarded warheads for Honest John, Pershing, Lance, Corporal and Nike Hercules missiles, and the 8-inch Howitzer. The missiles and their conventional warheads would be owned by the NATO host country, i.e. Germany, which provided administrative and living quarters to the American missile artillery detachment stationed at the host's base, or Kaserne. The actual missile site would be located inside a double fenced area, guarded by sentries and guard dogs, with the host country guarding the outer perimeter and the American personnel providing security to the inner fenced area, which at Fort Barry would be termed the "exclusion area." Ownership of the nuclear warheads, and their command and control, would be retained by the United States Army. A small number of these artillery detachments would be under the control of an off-site Artillery Group Headquarters unit, which would also provide support services such as personnel, finance, communications, supply and ordnance. No, I'm not talking out of school here regarding these details. I wasn't a missile crewman and therefore most of my information is second-hand from the internet. I worked at a group headquarters. There are more people, however, who worked at these European sites who are increasingly relating their old service experiences on the net, showing there is a need for someone to hopefully document their stories in a more organized fashion such as a book sometime. Now, back to the book.
These missiles had an operational life of only about twenty years worldwide. By the early 1970's, the ARADCOM, SASCOM and whatever other Special Weapons Com's stopped using the Nike missiles and their duties were subsumed under other Army commands. Part of the problem was ICBM's, of which the Soviet Union was well stocked. The second line of defense represented by the Nike Hercules, as well as the first line of defense supplied by the Air Force's fighter interceptors, was challenged by the capabilities of ICBM's. A new generation of Nike's, the Zeus, was being developed to combat this newer, formidable threat but was never deployed. The real, final blow to all types of defensive missile systems was SALT I, negotiated between the United States and the Soviet Union. Anti Ballistic Missiles were outlawed by the treaty, which basically put the two countries in the position of working toward reducing nuclear weapons in their stockpiles or face annihilation of their unprotected cities in the event the MAD deterrent would fail.
"The Last Missile Site" is part of a trend of writings documenting the Cold War, by bringing out information formerly considered to be too recent to have historical interest, in part by revealing what had formerly been confidential. Much more specifically, the book will hopefully generate public interest in the current Fort Barry facility, and, as it intends, guide others who would like to preserve something of our nation's involvement in this important era which is receding into the past. ...more
May 01, 2016 05:24PM · 1 like · like · see review · preview book
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Shelby Foote writes, in the afterward section of this, the third volume of his monumental history of the Civil War, how relieved he was to finally finish this labor of love after researching and writing for twenty years. A literary effort begun to co
Shelby Foote writes, in the afterward section of this, the third volume of his monumental history of the Civil War, how relieved he was to finally finish this labor of love after researching and writing for twenty years. A literary effort begun to commemorate the centennial of the Civil War ended long after, in his description, the centennial enthusiasm had dried up. True, a centennial celebration itself fizzles out, otherwise we, or rather our descendants, would never eventually get excited about a bi- and a tri- and on and on .. centennial. I'm not sure Foote is implying with this statement that Civil War enthusiasm waned after the mid-1960's, but if it took a dip, it was only temporary. Thanks to Foote and others, including Ken Burns, the American Civil War continues to fascinate generations of readers.
It isn't necessary to read the three volumes of Shelby Foote's "The Civil War" in order, but my experience from doing so imparted the feeling that I had been exposed to the whole grand majestic scope of this struggle. Foote is all-inclusive in his choice of the war's significant struggles. His motive is revealed literally on the last page of prose (page 1065) in which he states that his writing aim was to provide a "more fitting balance" than many histories provide, by showing the patient reader how the actions outside the state of Virginia, vaguely labeled as in "the West", had no less importance to the war's outcome than the well-known battles such as Gettysburg.
Foote shows how these geographically wide pieces fit into the 1864 puzzle in his first chapter, aptly titled "Another Grand Design". In the spring of that year, another recently-appointed Union commanding general, Ulysses Grant, launched a multi-pronged attack designed to hit the Confederate forces in numerous locations ranging West-to-East from Arkansas to Virginia. The greatest Union concentration of forces, personally accompanied by Grant, was the Army of the Potomac, which had had three years of up-and-down morale as various of Grant's predecessors tried to crack the nut of opposition to Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia.
All of these various conflicts occurring on land and water are narrated by Foote, who never loses the magic touch of making you feel the gravity of the struggle between blue-and butternut-clad armies, while making the reading experience compelling.
As we know in retrospect, the time period covered in this third volume parallels the long, painful series of events leading to the Confederate downfall. Not that anyone knew for sure what the outcome would be, or when it would occur, as Grant started his spring, 1864 invasion. He may have been the national hero of Donelson, Shiloh and Vicksburg in the Western theater, but he was up against the best general in the Civil War now. With Grant, Lee continued his pattern of keeping his forces from being smashed by larger Union armies, while always inflicting heavier casualties against his opponent. Grant found himself being set up on numerous occasions for a smashing blow from Lee which would force him to withdraw from the field; he countered these sometimes surprising threats by "sidling" his army eastward across Virginia in a campaign we now know as "The Forty Days", as violent, bloody clashes occurred from The Wilderness, to Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor.
Foote graphically describes the "concentrated terror" of one terrible day, when the struggle at the "Bloody Angle" at Spotsylvania involved fighting by both sides across a parapet at literally arms' length, a "waking nightmare" going on for sixteen hours, a defense as much as it was an attack by either side, where neither victory nor defeat mattered, and fighting continued on and on, under the influence of pure adrenalin, and "Slaughter became an end in itself" (p. 221). This one day resulted in 3000 Confederate soldiers captured, killed or wounded compared with 6820 of their enemy. And this day followed numerous others already involving many thousands of casualties on each side, to be followed by many more.
Lee would somehow be able to block Grant again and again, in order to protect Richmond, the Confederate Capital. The cost of constant attrition of his forces during the spring, summer and fall of that year would find the two armies facing each other outside Richmond, at Petersburg. By November, Lee knew he was on the verge of calamity because his forces were spread very thin, and there were no more reinforcements to be had. Grant would continue to plan for the breakthrough that would send Lee's forces reeling from their intrenched positions, and it was provided by one of his most aggressive generals, Phil Sheridan, whose
thrust at Five Forks on April 1st, 1865
tarnished the reputation of George Picket and began the unravelling of Lee's defenses. One of the Civil War's most dramatic chapters occurred while the Confederate government abandoned Richmond, beginning its itinerant railroad journey to avoid being captured, while Lee evacuated his army westward in the long-shot attempt to get the survivors of his forces to meet with General Johnston's army in North Carolina.
Foote shows how Lee and his exhausted army never considered giving up trying to keep the fight going until Grant's relentless pushing of his forces finally boxed in the Confederates at Appomattox Courthouse. There were other Confederate forces still in the field, but Foote makes it clear how Lee's April 9th surrender gave really no alternative to the holdouts, forcing Richard Taylor to surrender his army of the Department of Alabama, Mississippi and East Louisiana to Federal General Canby, and Johnston to surrender his army of the Department of North and South Carolina and Georgia to William T. Sherman. Meanwhile, President Jefferson Davis was pursuing the hope of some kind of Confederate government-on-the-run survival, moving from town to town with his cabinet, on the Danville and Richmond Railroad, as cabinet members gradually gave up the cause and bugged out of Davis' retinue. Foote, a Southerner sensitive to the not-so sympathetic treatment given to Davis' memory by historians, documents the treatment and mistreatment received by the forever unrepentant leader from his capture in Georgia, to his long, harsh imprisonment and beyond.
The war bestowed two legacies to Americans. Regarding the first, Foote notes the struggles Abraham Lincoln had in uniting what remained of the remainder of the United States in order to militarily recover the section that had departed, living to see this goal fulfilled, but not living long enough to observe how his returning veterans realized that a nation emerged from the crucible of strife. He writes: "They knew now they had a nation, for they had seen it; they had been there, they had touched it, climbed its mountains, crossed its rivers ....their comrades lay buried in its soil, along with many thousands of their own arms and legs." (p. 1042).
The second legacy directly affected the southern veterans, who would also be part of the new nation but would claim membership in a new country south of the Mason-Dixon line; as their claim to nationhood through secession was denied, they claimed unity through pride in enduring a terrible war, the end of which was marked by a villification of their former leaders as instruments of Lucifer, and which was followed by the excesses of Reconstruction. As Foote states: "Not secession but the war itself, and above all the memories recurrent through the peace that followed - such as it was - created a Solid South, more firmly united in defeat than it had been during the brief span when it claimed independence." (p. 1042).
Why bother studying History, especially the Civil War? Because, otherwise, it is impossible to understand the difference, to paraphrase Shelby Foote, between "the United States are" and "the United States is" (p. 1042). ...more
May 01, 2016 05:11PM · 7 likes · like · see review · preview book
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Preview — The Civil War, Vol. 3 by Shelby Foote
Hotel Florida: Truth, Love, and Death in the Spanish Civil War
by Amanda Vaill (Goodreads Author)
read in October, 2014
Amanda Vaill tells the story of the Spanish Civil War (1936 to 1939) through the experiences of six main characters, who lived as three couples during the time covered by the book. These three couples experienced the war in different contexts, althou
Amanda Vaill tells the story of the Spanish Civil War (1936 to 1939) through the experiences of six main characters, who lived as three couples during the time covered by the book. These three couples experienced the war in different contexts, although they would all come to know each other and form friendships among themselves. The most notable were Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gelhorn, who met during 1936 in Key West Florida, at Sloppy Joe's Saloon. Hemingway was by this time a world-renowned author, although he hadn't written a novel in years. Gelhorn was just starting her journalism career, but Hemingway took an instant liking to her. His wife Pauline had to endure his continued association with Martha when she lingered a while in Key West after the conclusion of her family vacation.
Earnest was at this time making arrangements to go to Spain to cover the Civil War there as part of the filmmaker Joris Ivens' retinue engaged in making a film on the war, and he had also wrangled some paying contracts to write reports on the war. Hemingway was entirely sympathetic to the Loyalist cause and also was anxious to get to the war before it was over because it was a new risky opportunity to show off his manhood. He also needed a new source of writing inspiration. Gelhorn began a romance with Earnest and it was decided she would accompany him to Spain and report for "Collier's" magazine.
These lovers/journalists settled in at the Hotel Florida in Madrid. Reporters, curiosity-seekers and leftist soldiers were traveling to Spain in droves at this time, and the Hotel Florida became the billet for many photographers, writers and Loyalist air force pilots. Hemingway ran his unofficial salon in his and Martha's two rooms, where late-night card games and drinking took place to the tune of Chopin records. In the morning, the media people would head out to various locations where they tried to find fighting occurring. Most of the journalists in Madrid were sympathetic to the Loyalist cause, and any way, their dispatches would not have been allowed to leave the country if they did not pass the purview of the Republican censors. This was no problem for Hemingway, who identified strongly with "la causa". His collaboration with Ivens and others, including John Dos Passos and Archibald MacLeish on the film "The Spanish Earth" was intended to produce a propaganda documentary showing the depredations of the Fascist Nationalists on the ordinary Spanish people.
The cause that drew people from around the world to see the fighting in Spain, or even to join the soldiers in the front lines, was anti-fascism. Vaill makes it plain that she is not presenting a history of the Spanish Civil War, since that subject can be studied in depth in any number of other books. Nevertheless, one can gain a good basic understanding of the war from reading "Hotel Florida". As indicated in the first paragraph above, she has chosen to show how some notable characters reacted to this struggle, and how they interacted with each other. In the meantime, she presents a brief, clearly laid-out background of how the volatile political situation in early-to-mid 1930's Spain led to a power struggle between leftist and rightist opponents. By 1936, the Popular Front leftists won a fragile control over the government and gave their pro-fascist enemies in business, the military and the Catholic Church an opening to lash back at them, partly because of the unprecedented social reforms they enacted without a sizable political majority. In effect, the Republican, Loyalist, legally ruling faction faced a revolt by the Army's generals, whose Nationalist forces fought under the leadership of General Francisco Franco.
The interesting media and other characters who form the basis of this book are all sympathetic to the Loyalist cause, which is fighting not only against the rebelling Spanish Army, but arms and personnel supplied by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. One reason why the Civil War became increasingly ugly and violent is because of the "dress rehearsal for World War II" assistance/interference subjected to both sides of the conflict. The original Loyalist forces comprised mostly of militia volunteers became a leftist regular army, supplemented by international volunteer brigades, with sizable shipments of arms and military advisors from Russia. The Nationalists had Italian army forces to fight alongside the Spanish military, backed up by considerable air force support from Germany's Condor Legion.
Hemingway and Gelhorn have already been depicted in at least one movie based on their work, and romance, in Spain. A good case can be made also for the dramatic presentation of the lives of Arturo Barea and Ilsa Kulczar. Barea was a leftist Spanish bureaucrat who tried to find a place for himself in support of the Loyalists after the outbreak of the war. He ended up as the head of the Spanish government's censorship office. Kulczar was an unhappily married Austrian journalist who came to Madrid and quickly became Barea's interpreter/assistant, and lover. The dramatic tension Vaill reports in their lives derives from the well-meaning devotion of Barea to getting admittedly censored reporting of the struggle against the fascists out to the world's media outlets, during which the catastrophic near-defeat of the forces guarding Madrid provided him with an opportunity to personal advancement to the head of the government's press office. He would work, and live, under the watchful eye of one of Stalin's trusted operatives and his non-membership in the Communist Party and ultimate skepticism of how the war effort was led would endanger his, and Ilsa's lives.
The other couple who rose together from obscurity to world wide recognition of their work consisted of the Hungarian Endre Friedmann, and the German Gerda Pohorylle. They were truly extraordinary people and it was enjoyable to read how Vaill validated their lives. They both had anti-fascist leanings as a result of their bad experiences in their home countries with the anti-semitism being unleashed in Europe. They had met in Paris in 1935. I believe it was Gerda who came up with the idea of changing their names to make their work, especially Endre's photography, more appealing to intolerant western audiences, so they reinvented their identities as Gerda Taro and Robert Capa. They were a photo team, both taking world-class pictures for international news publication, in Spain. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to state that the visual images many people conjure up of the Spanish Civil War are based on the photos these two people produced while constantly exposing themselves to danger in the war's fighting. As the book jumped back and forth to the unfolding stories of the main protagonists as the war proceeded chronologically, I found myself most satisfied in finding each new chapter on Taro/Capa.
The misery inflicted on Spain and her people no doubt was tragically prolonged by the continued, competing interference from Moscow, and Berlin/Rome. The military aid to the Loyalists from Russia was especially grounded on cynical motives, since Joe Stalin's government had duped the Spanish finance minister to send Spain's national precious metal treasure, dating back to the Conquistadores, to Moscow for "safekeeping" in return for military aid. Stalin and Hitler both had reasons for keeping the war going in Spain, as Vaill makes clear. Stalin was on his anti-Trotsky witch-hunt, and wanted the world press to remain preoccupied with the events in Spain instead of looking into his mock trials and purges in Russia. His success in deflecting attention away from his crimes, and the only too willing acceptance of western Communists and sympathizers to believe Uncle Joe's lies is one reason most international coverage of the war flattered the Loyalists. Hitler, for his part, was delighted to be able to test the lethality of his aircraft on Guernica and other Spanish military and civilian centers. His diplomatic outrages in the Rhineland and Austria proceeded while so much journalistic attention was being placed on Spain.
Russian military aid started drying up in 1938, and the Naitonalists kept taking more and more territory until they prevailed. Stalin had seen the cowardly response of Great Britain's government to the Sudenten crisis of that year in the wake of the head-in-the-sand non-intervention policies of England, France and the United States toward the Spanish War, and he was infuriated that no one outside Spain was standing up to Fascism. In a turn-about of strategy, he recalled his military and diplomatic personnel, and had his loyal generals who fought the good fight against the Fascists in Spain arrested and executed, in anticipation of the negotiations he had started with Hitler for a non-aggression pact.
Amanda Vaill's extensive research has produced a solid foundation of authenticity in her description of the war and also to the biographical sketches of the main characters in the book. I found it to be a thoroughly enjoyable and informative reading experience. ...more
Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East
by Scott Anderson
read in February, 2014
This book's greatest contribution to the knowledge of the forces shaking up the old world order at the turn of the twentieth century is its clear telling of the various interests that were jockeying for position of dominance in Middle Eastern affairs
This book's greatest contribution to the knowledge of the forces shaking up the old world order at the turn of the twentieth century is its clear telling of the various interests that were jockeying for position of dominance in Middle Eastern affairs. To put it simply, nothing was going to be the same in that region after World War I was over. It may seem that the emphasis on the Great War's killing grounds in France and Russia would diminish the importance of Syria and surrounding territory in the grand scheme of things, but indeed much attention was directed to the way Palestine and Syria would be governed by France and Great Britain later; the eventual domination of these territories was all made possible by the entry of the Ottoman Empire, which controlled much of the Middle East, into the war on the side of the Central Powers.
As Scott Anderson shows, the Ottomans had been seeing their power gradually eroded while European imperial powers gobbled up whole countries from Turk domination over several centuries. Now that the Young Turk governors threw in with Germany, Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria (not a smart move in retrospect), Great Britain and France were free to use their military powers to attempt to defeat the Ottomans, and steal the Empire's Syrian regions for their post-war use. The peace terms imposed on the region later by the eventual victory of the Allied powers would come to become known as "the Great Loot."
The World War I years therefore saw a complex set of maneuverings in the region by government intelligence services and those entities representing the future hopes of Zionism and Arab Independence. Anderson quotes William Yale's later description of these times as representing a bewildering mesh of capitalistic, religious and cultural schemes and policies (p. 1341). Yale, a Standard Oil of New York employee, would eventually be a U.S. diplomatic attache and intelligence agent outwardly assigned to travel with the British armed forces operating out of Cairo. Anderson adeptly describes how Yale and Thomas Edward Lawrence were given wide freedom to maneuver and scheme throughout the region for a variety of interests. Their stories would join those of Curt Prufer, a German intelligence agent who tried to use the lure of Islamic jihad to attach the Arab population to the Central Powers cause, and Aaron Aaronsohn, a world-class agricultural scientist and early proponent of Zionism, who would establish an extensive anti-Turkish spy ring.
The paths of all four of these individuals would cross at different times during the war years. Anderson shows how their actions and personalities factored into changing the course of history. The book makes the point that the actions of key individuals can lead to far-reaching effects as influential as the decisions of battlefield generals. Their motivations varied, but those of the most important character in this saga, Lawrence, were influenced by the events that he witnessed from his vantage point in Cairo.
Lawrence's prior archaeological experience in Syria, and his deep immersion into the languages and customs of the region, made him a natural to be assigned as a staff officer in the intelligence section of the British Army headquarters in Egypt. Contrary to the impression that may be obtained from the great David Lean movie, Lawrence didn't just find himself immersed in living with the warrior groups taking part in the Arab Revolt against domination of their homeland by the Ottomans. His job involved reading all of the military and diplomatic intelligence reports, and also being called upon to lend his expertise in that regard.
Lawrence became a key agent in the British efforts to find an Arab leader who could join forces to undermine Ottoman military domination, unlike the aims of the French, who didn't want to encourage Arabian hopes for independence. There were many, even in the British camp, who didn't believe any Arab fighting force could be depended upon to fight effectively. The British courted King Hussein, the sherif of Mecca, to join their cause and to reject overtures from the Turks. In the end, it was Lawrence who recognized the potential of Hussein's son, Faisal, as a war leader and convinced his government to back him as an ally.
The British would eventually come out as the winners in territorial acquisition and empire aggrandizement after the dust of World War I settled. They contributed almost all of the Allied military resources and they probably were the most skillful of intelligence practitioners, although the Germans were no slouches. It's not that there was a grand design which was followed. They were helped by the great trust that King Hussein placed in their friendship. They also walked a tightrope with their ally France, which could not devote any military forces of any great size to this theater of war, but had to be treated as an equal. Thus, the Asquith regime was happy to endorse the Sykes-Picot agreement to separate Palestine from greater Syria after the war and to place it under a joint administration of Britain, France and Russia. By 1917, Asquith was out and the new PM, David Lloyd George had no desire to assuage French interests in the Middle East.
Lawrence was in the middle of the diplomatic intrigue because he knew the 1915 agreement between High Commissioner Henry McMahon and Hussein gave the provinces of Basra and Baghdad in Iraq to the British to administer as a "short term leasing arrangement" (p. 1023). He knew Hussein hated the French and would not agree to working with them after the war, and in complete violation of British wishes for secrecy, he informed Hussein of Sykes-Picot and its guarantee of French hegemony in Syria and Palestine. It rankled Lawrence that the Arabs were being encouraged to bleed for promises that the British were secretly committed to violating and this British double-dealing, as well as Lawrence's growing respect for Faisal, guided his actions throughout the war.
There were therefore several Lawrences going into battle along side the Arab fighters in 1917-18: the intelligence officer who worked with generals and high diplomatic personnel at headquarters, and worked in the field as a liaison for guiding the Arabs to serve as auxiliaries to the British army; and the increasingly disaffected soldier whose loyalty to his friend Faisal and his warriors caused him to view the war, and its aftermath, in their interests.
Anderson brings out Lawrence's penchant for making his descriptions of his behavior and his motives a constantly moving target. A case in point is Lawrence's majestic biography, "Seven Pillars of Wisdom." Anderson brings out contradictions between the book and statements Lawrence made at times to different people, and finds some explanations of his behavior in the book disingenuous, including his reasons for passing the secrets of Sykes-Picot to Faisal.
Anderson also examines the "Lawrence Myth" which is as much smokescreen as explanation of Lawrence's true personality. Certainly, he saw and experienced many unpleasant things in the war, and his inability or unwillingness to provide consistent, believable descriptions of all of these experiences is ultimately understandable given what we now know as post-traumatic disorder. A classic example is the ongoing debate among Lawrence's biographers of what exactly happened in Deraa, where Lawrence, traveling incognito on intelligence gathering behind Ottoman lines, was captured, and although not identified, was nevertheless tortured and raped by a sado-machochistic enemy commander. "Seven Pillars" gives a description of this incident that is so unflinching as to be, as Anderson sees it, purposefully exaggerated in describing the physical punishment Lawrence's body was subjected to.
Lawrence gave a more believable version of this incident, in Anderson's analysis, in a 1924 letter to Charlotte Shaw, wife of George Bernard Shaw and a close confidant (it's interesting that Lawrence lived many of his post-war years as an enlisted man in Great Britain's armed services, under the alias "Shaw"). The letter seemed to confess that the publicly stoic Lawrence reached a breaking point in his torture at Deraa and surrendered to his attacker's advances in order to forestall more harm. While such a response is understandable under the circumstances of great duress, it caused psychological damage that Lawrence never got over. The Deraa incident also contributed probably to the increase of callousness that Lawrence had been showing as the war progressed. "Seven Pillars" would contain several examples of incidents in which Lawrence allowed Arab killing of prisoners to take place in his presence, and even when he claimed to have given the command to allow "no quarter" toward captured Ottomans and Germans.
During September 1918, General Allenby began an offensive against the Ottomans which succeeded beyond anyone's expectations. The Ottoman forces were overtaken in quick fashion, culminating with the joint British-Arab capture of Damascus. Anderson shows how the future political course of the Middle East would be created by powerful Europeans acting to consolidate their countries' imperialistic interests. The first hint of change in this direction was the meeting between Generals Allenby and Chauvel, an Arab delegation including Faisal ibn Hussein, and Lawrence joining as an interpreter. The meeting was held in Damascus in October, 1918 and an impatient Allenby, forced to take a temporary break from pursuing the fleeing Ottoman forces, told the French-hating Faisal that he would be given administrative control of Syria, but would work under French "protecting power" (p. 1548), and that the House of Hussein would not control either Palestine or Lebanon after the war. Further, the boundaries of Lebanon would be expanded so as to deprive Syria access to the Mediterranean.
Prior to the meeting Faisal was expecting to be backed up as provisional leader in Damascus, to the jubilation of crowds outside. Now, he was told to be a good soldier and digest the bad news about his future leadership role pending formal peace talks.
Those talks got under way in December 1918 in Paris amid the general public enthusiasm of President Woodrow Wilson's "new world order" (P. 1561) and would result in a year of power brokering and wholesale world border changing, added to mean-spirited treaty-making to help define future European political movements. In a five-minute pre-conference meeting in London between David Lloyd George and the French prime minister Georges Clemenceau, the formerly terminally ill Sykes-Picot agreement that the British government had revived in Damascus in October was brought back healthier than ever, with Great Britain agreeing to take possession of Iraq and Palestine, and France agreeing to dominate Syria. Lawrence, present at the Paris Peace Conference to give counsel to Faisal, worked hard in vain to obtain control of lands for the Arabs in return for the blood they had spilled in the war.
In a last-ditch effort to salvage something of value from the Peace Conference, Lawrence helped Faisal to work out an agreement with Chaim Weizmann which included a proviso favoring a large scale immigration of Jews into Palestine in return for Jewish support of an independent Syria. The problem was that Great Britain had long ago thrown out any interest, if they ever did have any, in implementing the McMahon-Hussein "Correspondence" for the future of the Arabs in the Middle East, but did accept the post-war responsibility of honoring the 1917 Balfour Declaration, a three-sentence self-imposed British obligation to facilitate the building of a national state for the Jewish people in Palestine. (p. 1248). Faisal would become seriously criticized for rejecting self-determination for Palestine in the wake of Weizmann's stated goal of a "Jewish Commonwealth" (p.1566) and would see his power diminish greatly in future years, as Anderson points out, to the benefit of his chief Arabian rival, the Wahhabist-alligned ibn-Saud.
Lawrence lost his credentials at Paris and became anathema to the British government at the same time that his personal notoriety was becoming white hot. Lowell Thomas, the American adventurer-war correspondent-raconteur had taken photos and movies of Lawrence and the British Army as it battled the Ottomans alongside the Arabs, and now was giving sensational mixed-media film and photo slide shows to rapt audiences, including the Royal family. Fans of the "Lawrence of Arabia" film see a disheartened Lawrence leaving Damascus after the shafting of Faisal there, never to return. While this was based on truth, I found it interesting to learn from Anderson that Lawrence actually returned to the Middle East for the bulk of the year 1921.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the Lawrence story is described near the end of the book, in which Anderson shows how two pariah's to the British ruling elite changed history by becoming kingmakers. The other participant in this regard was the ex-Admiralty Lord who had lost his job after the disastrous Gallipoli campaign, Winston Churchill. Winny had landed somewhat on his feet by the end of the war by assuming the job of Colonial Office secretary, and he persuaded a reluctant Lawrence to join him at the upcoming Cairo Conference, which was designed to reshape the British role in the Middle East in the wake of Arab unrest following the War.
This incident shows the crux of what Anderson has to tell about the T.E. Lawrence reputation. Just as there will always be aspects of his personality that will be analyzed and debated, there will always be those who either see him as a villain or a hero for what he is perceived to have affected toward the course the Middle East has taken since World War I. The conference and related meetings with various members of the Hussein family took a number of months, but the British maneuvering was all preordained prior to the conference, between Lawrence and Churchill. As they decided, Iraq was credentialed as an Arab kingdom, to be ruled by Faisal. The British agreed to Sherif Hussein's claim to sovereignty over the Hejaz, in trade for supporting the rule of ibn-Saud over the interior of Arabia (by 1924, Hussein was deposed from control of Mecca by ibn-Saud's forces) (p. 1586).
The difficult problem created by Arab attacks against the French in Syria was solved by detaching Transjordan (Jordan) from Britain's Palestine and making it an Arab kingdom, with Faisal's brother Abdullah on the throne. (pp. 1582-1583).
So much has occurred in the Middle East since 1921, and Anderson ends the book with an informative summary of the main political developments up to the present time. The highlight of the book for me is learning more about the way the present world was shaped in the Great War years, and how much T. E. Lawrence not only witnessed, but caused to happen in those momentous times. ...more
Gordon Rottman has performed a service to readers of World War II history by writing about a branch of the Army which has not received its due from publishers and writers. As Rottman says, the engineer units have served in every conflict and have bee
Gordon Rottman has performed a service to readers of World War II history by writing about a branch of the Army which has not received its due from publishers and writers. As Rottman says, the engineer units have served in every conflict and have been invaluable to every operation's success. This book concentrates on the type of training engineers received, the equipment they used, and their combat record in the European theater. The early part of the book, concerning recruitment and training, shows the type of training common to every soldier who served in the war, thus making the book useful to more than those interested in the combat engineers.
Rottman is listed as a 26-year Army veteran, having started his career in 1967 in the Special Forces. He is a prolific writer of military subjects, with at least 50 Osprey Publishing titles under his name. This book contains the usual high quality of Osprey offerings, with a strong emphasis on graphic material in the form of well-researched photographs and unique illustrations. In this volume, the excellent artwork is from Adam Hook.
Osprey is headquartered in the UK, and the book's use of language sometimes shows the influence of the editorial process from England. Whilst it doesn't matter to me who does the book's proofreading, I'm still trying to figure out where "the need for 'remediable' training" (p. 14) comes from.
It was interesting to learn that the U.S. Army had over 700 Combat Engineer Battalions in service in World War II. This reflected the need to have engineer units available to perform service wherever the fighting was happening, as well as to provide general construction work. Thus, we learn that the engineers were both a combat and a service support branch. The former type fielded a battalion to support every U.S. division, and performed such tasks as mine and booby-trap clearance, obstacle breaching, bridge construction, route reconnaissance and maintaining roads. These engineers were proficient in the use of explosives and demolition equipment, and also had to know how to use the infantry's weapons; at times they would have to drop their tools and pick up arms to fight alongside the infantry when things got hot in combat.
The regimental system with a fixed number of component battalions was eliminated in favor of the forming of separate battalions which could be more fluidly moved around as components of engineer groups as the situation on the ground required. One advantage of the wartime training system was that new recruits could continue training with the same group they started service with, going from the 13-week Army Mobilization Training Program, shared by all branches of the service, and move on to more advanced unit training, where the soldiers would be assigned with their basic training friends in the same companies and platoons. This would have ensured strong unit cohesion among personnel when they were deployed overseas.
Soldiers received training in their specialties from the beginning, with combat engineers, for instance, learning and cross-training in such subjects as demolitions, bridge construction and reconnaissance even in basic training. After basic, the training continued perpetually on the unit level. The Army therefore didn't need to maintain as many schools for providing AIT, or Advanced Individual Training, such as today, as all combat engineer candidates are now trained at one location at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.
I enjoyed the many insights the book provided into the methods used by the engineers to maintain the Army's progress in the war. Rottman supplies several realistic scenarios depicting the daily challenges encountered by engineers and infantry units traveling together as the Army advanced through France and Germany in the fall and winter of 1944-45, namely the obstacles caused by rivers and German barricades and roadblocks; essentially, the American engineers would be occupied in defeating the defensive work of their German counterparts, the Pioneers (Rottman has an Osprey title under his name on "German Pioneer 1939-45").
Especially interesting were the descriptions of how the war was conducted as American units had to advance across the countryside, town after town. Many routes had to pass through the center of towns, so the Germans became adept at barricading streets leading from the main road in order to funnel the advancing allies into killing points where their advance units would be confronted by well-placed defending snipers, machine guns and tanks. One very simple, effective barricade was a stockade-like chain of vertical logs which would be capable of even stopping an advancing tank from turning off the main street. The engineers would thwart this defense by placing two 48-pound boxes of TNT against the stockade and detonating the charge, often while under fire. Such challenges, and risks, marked the daily life of soldiers on the front lines for months.
This is a very worthwhile book for the reader of World War II militaria or, more specifically, for those interested in how the front-line engineers performed their duties. ...more
Apr 02, 2016 05:23PM · 2 likes · like · see review · preview book
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Preview — US Combat Engineer 1941–45 by Gordon L. Rottman
Studio Anywhere: A Photographer's Guide to Shooting in Unconventional Locations
by Nick Fancher
read in March, 2016
This book is written by an extremely talented photographer who is, in my opinion, a rising star in the field of portrait photography. As he describes it, he has honed his craft by developing techniques that he discovered while working hard to succeed
This book is written by an extremely talented photographer who is, in my opinion, a rising star in the field of portrait photography. As he describes it, he has honed his craft by developing techniques that he discovered while working hard to succeed in a competitive field.
The one most important revelation that changed his working life, and which forms the basis of the book, is that trying to earn a living in portrait and product photography doesn't require huge overhead costs associated with owning a studio and loading up on expensive pro equipment. This is not only a financial consideration but an aesthetic one, since great portraits can be created by taking advantage of an endless variety of shooting locations. The book's structure is based on various types of situations that can be encountered and used to advantage by the photographer, such as backyards, offices and parks. Some of his most memorable pictures were taken in the homes and apartments of his models.
Nick Fancher provides a great gallery of his best images to prove the point. Each image is accompanied by a detailed description of how the image came about, including shooting diagrams and descriptions of post processing, which mostly takes place in Lightroom. If you do not use Lightroom, you can still obtain great results by incorporating Fancher's techniques, but really, this book has a wealth of information on how versatile this processing program is in taking people and product images from good to great. If you are photographing commercially, you no doubt are using Lightroom, Photoshop or both.
There are very good tutorials available on the net and on dvd for learning the basics of Lightroom, and I can attest to their value in learning how to use it effectively. Fancher gives you the means to take your working knowledge of Lightroom to where you can create your distinctive vision in your images. He provides views of the Lightroom settings he made in the Basic Panel, Curves etc., showing not only how small tweaks here and there can elevate the quality of a photo, but also demonstrating that good results can result from going in various directions when the post-processing tools are used by knowledgable people.
Lots of other useful stuff is covered in the book for helping aspiring photographers in building a business, including sections on equipment and web site optimization, using Nick's hard knock experience as a guide. But this book is useful for anyone, like me, wishing to learn more from an expert about how to take better pictures. A glance at the various raters on Goodreads indicates that readers of this book have diverse interests. Note, however, that the content is not for the beginner, since it jumps right into not only post-processing techniques, but also the use of single and multiple speed lights, and the ability to understand how to use them in manual mode.
Nick has an easy-going writing style that makes the book enjoyable to read while, most importantly for a photo book, providing inspiration for the reader to want to pick up a camera and take their work to the next level. I know I'll be going back to it for reference often. ...more
An impressive amount of research was conducted by the author to ensure that his highly enjoyable descriptions of the seminal events leading to the start of the American Revolution are based on a solid foundation of facts. There are no doubt many hist
An impressive amount of research was conducted by the author to ensure that his highly enjoyable descriptions of the seminal events leading to the start of the American Revolution are based on a solid foundation of facts. There are no doubt many histories of every aspect of the Revolution, but Derek W. Beck has proven that there is always room for a book which offers fresh perspectives on the occurrences that all Americans should know about.
The time span of the book is roughly late 1773 to the Spring of 1775. From the end of the French and Indian Wars, in 1763, until ten years later, something momentous happened in the British North American Colonies which completely changed how their citizens felt about their place in the world. In 1763, it would have been common for the average American colonist to feel grateful for the presence of the King's forces, and for many to have felt proud of participating, as colonial militia, side-by-side with Royal soldiers in the struggle to keep the French out of the colonies.
By 1773, much heated dissent against British governance, especially in the application of taxation, was inciting open hostility, especially in Massachusetts. By the end of that year, the Mother Country's authority would be defiantly challenged by the public destruction of a fortune in tea, followed by the British government's imposition of acts to place Boston under a military government while strangling its economic life blood.
Beck's great accomplishment is the way that he maintains the pace of the telling of the story of the disintegration of good will between the parent country and its colonists. He shows how the eventual clash of arms which started the war happened at the end of a progression of crises, many of which may not be familiar to the casual history reader. Everyone knows that the shooting started at Lexington and Concord, but in reality, other occurrences could have caused the war to start earlier. In particular, several flashpoints occurred which would have had dire consequences if cool heads did not prevail in tamping down wild rumors surrounding what have become known as the Cambridge Powder Alarm, Portsmouth Alarm and the Salem Alarm.
The alarms emanating from the April 19, 1775 British Army expedition to Concord, however, led to the igniting of the revolt of the Colonies. The description of the "Battle of the Nineteenth of April" takes up the most number of pages as well as representing the emotional center of the book. It is also here that a really good book becomes a hard-to-put down book, as Beck gives an almost moment by moment account of the actions of those on both sides of the conflict during April 18th and 19th. We all know what historical happening occurred in American history, but Beck continuously adds insights to flesh-in how things transpired during those fateful hours.
Beck is a military man (he's a major in the Air Force Reserves) and he shows his deep knowledge of the American militia and British units that clashed on the 19th. He adds valuable insight into how these forces deployed and performed on that first day of the Revolt. His running account of the British withdrawal and continued armed harassment from Concord, on the way back to Boston, makes it possible to understand the increasingly stressful sense of danger and resulting ferocity shown by combatants on both sides as they continuously clashed along this route.
The book also contains biographical information on some of the most influential actors operating around Boston at that time, including the British-appointed military governor of Boston, Lt. General Thomas Gage, and the future American general making his mark during the capture of British installations at Fort Ticonderoga and Crown Point, Benedict Arnold. An interesting fact brought out by Beck is that Arnold was America's first Revolutionary naval hero, for his actions on Lake Champlain. But the most noteworthy personalities may have been the two doctors involved in the conflict, Dr. Joseph Warren and Dr. Benjamin Church. They both served on the Revolutionary Massachusetts Provincial Congress, but the former was a great hero of the Revolution while the latter was a spy for General Gage.
This is a relatively fast read, in that the actual text only spans 272 of the book's 467 numbered pages. There are 25 pages alone of Bibliography, but the greatest post-text length of pages is used on footnotes (almost 90 pages) and the 14 Appendices. I don't usually bother with post-text footnotes unless something in the book prompts me to want to look deeper into something of interest in the story, but hey , if this is the type of detail you are interested in, go for it. I'm not knocking the author for his thoroughness; some of the Appendices were of use in adding to the book's message, like the numbers and unit types of the forces deployed by the British, and especially the Expedition to Concord Timeline (Appendix 7).
Beck, however, likes to dive deep into arcana, like detailed listings of the Royal Naval vessels in and around Boston, with tons of information about their dimensions and armament, when they weren't really central to the story. The casual reader can also, in my opinion, be excused for not delving deeply into the provided Appendix on British Cannon Statistics, including trigonometric calculations of their effectiveness.
All of this well-documented data does, however, bring this volume to a level of historical credibility equal to any scholarly book on the Revolution. I'm sure this book will remain as a source of research for a long time to come. Although I'm quibbling here, I can't avoid showing some disappointment in the lack of commensurate attention to detail in the text. More careful proofing would have eliminated the errors on page 147 ("As they approached with a mile or so of Lexington Green, ..."); page 183 ("They road turned again eastward ..."); and page 236 ("He reached reaching the city on May 28, ..."). ...more
Feb 28, 2016 04:59PM · 1 like · like · see review · preview book
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