Wednesday, October 18, 2017

I am glad to say I seem to be caught up with my book reviews. For anyone interested in getting a book reviewed, feel free to get in touch with me. I am primarily interested in history books, particularly African and military history. If you have a book on antiaircraft or air defense I would be VERY interested in reviewing. Also, I am sympathetic to self-published books but please look at the reviews I do before asking me to look at your work. I have been known to be impatient with errors and poor writing.

Murder in the Zambezi: The Story of the Air Rhodesia Viscounts shot down by Russian-made missiles (Four Stars)

This fascinating book looks at a crime virtually unknown in the United States: the murder of over 100 men, women, and children when terrorists shot down two Rhodesian Air turboprops serving a resort area in Africa. Most of the survivors of the first crash were gunned down in cold blood by ZIPRA guerrilas.

The weapon employed by the terrorists was a Soviet SA-7 man-portable missile. A so-called "revenge" weapon (the primitive seeker could only lock on to an aircraft's exhaust) the "Grail" was more than effective enough to shoot down an airliner, fully-fueled and and heavily weighted, on takeoff. Certainly shooting down an airplane loaded with people on vacation is less dangerous than attacking military aircraft, just as murdering missionaries is safer than trying to fight armed soldiers.
Pringle tells the story of many of the victims, putting a human face on this tragedy. As a pilot, he is also uses his flying experience to explain exactly why the events happened as they did. And finally, Pringle does a good job of explaining the significance of the the air disaster in the last stages of the long bush war fought by Rhodesia.

Murder in the Zambezi brings to light not just the cold-blooded murder of civilians but also the muted or non-existent response by the United States and European countries, all of which should have been concerned by the use of man-portable SAMs against civilian airliners. Illustrated by black-and-white photos and maps. It also lists the names of the aircrew and passengers killed in this crime.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Sharpshooting Rifles of the American Civil War (Five Stars)

Excellent book! As an introduction to the topic, Peglar's book provides insight not just to the weapons available during the Civil War but also to the way they were deployed and the tactics that were used. Like many books produced by Osprey, this small volume packs a punch. The book also looks at the technology of the times and some of the controversy surrounding the adoption of sharpshooting rifles. Peglar also adds his own conclusions as to the effects of sharpshooting had on the adoption of true marksmanship standards in the U.S. Army following the Civil War, something that is worth reading. Includes excellent photos and artwork.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Symbols of War: Pershing II and Cruise Missiles in Europe (One Star)

This incredibly dated book looks at the deployment of the Pershing II and Ground-Launched Cruise Missiles in the 1980s. Pershing IIs were longer-range ballistic missiles designed to support the U.S. Army in Europe. They were deployed because the Soviet Union deployed SS-20s within range of the NATO line of defense in West Germany. You wouldn't know it from this book, which is more concerned about what the Pershing II might do to Soviets in Ukraine, Byelorussia and Lithuania than what the SS-20 might do to Frankfurt-am-Main or Hamburg. Also, the writer either had no idea of how weapon systems are procured in the United States (especially very expensive, very complex systems) or was being deliberately misleading. One very strange argument is that the United States Army would be given strategic nuclear weapons... for the first time!

This book is only good as a nostalgic look at communism and the weak-minded stooges who did their bidding in the various peace movements in the 1980s.

Elvis in the Army (Four Stars)

A fun book, Elvis in the Army looks at the King of Rock and Roll's time as a draftee. He served in Germany as a scout for an armored battalion, a critical job but one that seemed to be perfect for Private Presley for a number of reasons. Taylor talks about some of the interesting things he saw during Elvis's tour in Germany due to his enormous popularity, as well as the ordinary, down-to-earth soldier he got to know. Definitely worth reading if you're interested in Elvis Presley.

Under the Cover of Light: The Extraordinary Story of USAF COL Thomas "Jerry" Curtis's 7 1/2 Year Captivity in North Vietnam (Five Stars)

An amazing book, Under the Cover of Light tells the true story of Lt. Col. Tohmas J. Curtis's ordeal as a captive of North Vietnam following the shootdown of his rescue helicopter. Curtis endured starvation, torture and isolation in direct violation of the Geneva Conventions (which both the United States and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam were signatories) during the seven and a half years he spent as a prisoner. His faith in God provided the resilience he needed to survive.

Both inspirational and heartbreaking.

Scars of Independence: America's Violent Birth (Two Stars)

While this book is well-researched and goes into painstaking detail, it is unfortunate that the author feels a need to place it in a modern context. The American Revolution is relevant to drone strikes? Really?

Hoock's avowed purpose is to make sure that Americans do not continue to be misled into their thinking their Revolution was an exception to the violent nature of revolutions, without really talking about revolutions other than France's, which admittedly IS relevant. He goes on to discuss in nauseating detail specific atrocities visited by both sides on each other and on innocent bystanders.

It's a pity that Hoock does not spend more time talking about the American grievances leading to the separation of the United States from the British. If he decided to detail the victims of economic malaise caused by British taxation policy and a lack of "taxation without representation," if he had discussed the deprivations of the Indians on frontiersmen which resulted in NO punishment for said Indians who were under the protection of the crown (think of the frontier as a "sanctuary territory") and made mention of major disputes with more than a curt mention of the Regulator Wars.

Hoock mentions Tryon several times in his book, relevant to his position in the British occupation of New York and New Jersey. Does Hoock even know who Tryon was? Tryon was the last royal governor of North Carolina. He had a brick "palace" built for himself in New Bern and tried to have the cost paid for by the people, thus the Regulator Wars. Arbitrary justice, relentless taxation, a government far removed from the interests and desires of the governed while failing to provide protection for those same people... is it any wonder that the Revolution was violent?

I also feel I have to take issue with Hoock's supposition that Americans are ignorant of the violence involved in the Revolution. I recall learning in high school about the violence of both sides (minus the actual fighting, which needless to say was violent). Modern Revolution sites discuss the violence seen in these places. Perhaps since Mr. Hoock did not grow up in America he has not been raised to learn U.S. AND state histories.

The author's bias becomes clear when, I suppose out of some sense of social duty, he feels the need to discuss "neoconservatives," "extreme rendition," and "America Empire" in terms right which would make Howard Zinn proud.

Advance copy included typos which may or may not have been corrected. Some illustrations. No modern maps.