Thursday, May 25, 2017

 I review almost exclusively history books (with rare exceptions). I will gladly review any book having to do with antiaircraft or air defense. Get in touch with me for more information. Most of my book reviews are also on Goodreads and Amazon.

Planet of the Apes: Tales From the Forbidden Zone

This book draws on characters not just from the classic Planet of the Apes movies but also from the short-lived TV show as well. Overall, the writing is good and the use of existing characters makes most of the stories fun to read. The use of alternate timelines and some programs I must have missed made some of the stories a little confusing but I'm glad I got this book.

Pastfinder Berlin: 1933-1945 (Four Stars)

Very interesting book. When I was in Germany I almost got the German-language version but since I don't read or speak the language very well I'm glad I held out for English. This is a very good book, with maps to locate some of the more interesting places associated with the Third Reich and good commentary. Even if you are not terrbily familiar with the War you will still find this book helpful, as it provides bios and breakdowns of key leaders and organizations. It was a bit redundant in places, though, and I'm not sure I would have organized it in the same. Very helpful photos.

Confederate Coal Torpedo (Three Stars)

Interesting book on a sabotage device invented by the Confederacy and apparently used on a small scale... the fact that anyone got with one of these devices would have been shot without consideration might have had some to do with it. There was also a lot of information about the device's inventor. Overall good writing, and includes useful photos and line drawings.

Operation Chowhound (Five Stars)

This book tells the inspirational story of Operation Chowhound, the 8th Air Force (and Bomber Command, under Operation Manna) effort to deliver food to the Dutch population who were starving to death in the last days of the war. In early 1945 the Netherlands were still firmly occupied by the Nazis and worse, they had the means to destroy the dikes and flood most of the country if they were forced to retreat. Eisenhower and his chief of staff worked out a deal with the Nazis: Allied bombers, which no longer had targets to speak of in the Reich, would drop food from very low altitude and speed. In exchange, the German flak would not fire at the bombers.

In this surreal endtime of the war the truce held and soon food was being "bombed" at pre-agreed upon locations while bombers flew specific "lanes" to reach their "targets." And the flak (for the most part) did not fire on the aircraft, even though they certainly could have caused enormous damage to the bomber fleet.

I loved the writing and recommend this for any student of WWII.

Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy (Five Stars)

Reynold's book makes a case for Hemingway's role as an intelligence officer, a soldier, and a combat sailor... although all on his own terms. A leftist in the 1930s, documents show that he was even recruited by the NKVD, although whether or not he could have been useful to them is problematic. Papa Hemingway was a man larger than life and this book looks at what is no doubt his dark side in the cause of anti-fascism.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A Question of Loyalty (Four Stars)

An interesting book that puts the circumstances surrounding General Billy Mitchell's court-martial into perspective. Mitchell, a latecomer to military aviation but one of its strongest proponents, had made his name during the Great War as the combat leader of the United States Air Service in France. He was not its chief. When he returned to the United States he was made Deputy Chief of the Air service and worked with the Navy to prove that land-based aircraft (bombers) could destroy battleships during a demonstration off the Virginia coast. He was not its chief. He appealed directly to the American people for an opportunity to show what airpower could do by pushing for an air force co-equal with the Army and the Navy. He used newspaper articles and books to spread his ideas about airpower. For his troubles he was sent out to Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
When the Navy suffered two aviation fiascos in one week (the destruction of the airship Shenandoah and the disappearance of a Navy amphibian trying to reach Hawaii nonstop from the West Coast) Mitchell could not help himself: he wrote a press release accusing the government, the Navy and the Army of frittering away the lives of pilots because they were ignorant of the needs and potential of airpower.

In doing so, Mitchell made many enemies (including the president).

A good book, although the way it jumps forward and backward in time is a little hard to track at times. The author clearly has some research behind the material he uses. It also includes some helpful photos.