Book Reviews

Reviews of books by MWSA members. Reviews appear in reverse chronological order, with the most recent review posted appearing first.
Note: Some older reviews are being reposted to this site and those will appear out of order.

American Knight, An

Title: An American Knight
Author: Norman Fulkerson
Genre: Non-Fiction, Biography
Reviewer: Bill McDonald

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): ISBN / EAN

This first cradle-to-grave biography of Colonel John W. Ripley provides readers with the complete story about a great man who is considered by Marines, such as General Carl Mundy, former Commandant of the Marine Corps, to be on the same level as legends Chesty Puller and Dan Daly.

Colonel Ripley is most commonly known for his heroics in Vietnam during the Easter Offensive of 1972, where Colonel Gerald Turley ordered him to hold and die, in the face of over 30,000 North Vietnamese and 200 enemy tanks. John Ripley proceeded to blow the Dong Ha bridge, preventing the enemy from crossing. He unhesitatingly obeyed and earned the nation s second highest honor, the Navy Cross.

As stunning as the Dong Ha story is, there was much more to Colonel John Ripley. An American Knight: The Life of Colonel John W. Ripley, USMC narrates his early life and the influences which shaped his personality.

In youth, he was a rambunctious Huckleberry Finn who spent his days getting into all kinds of mischief in Radford, Virginia. The stories from this time period, so well narrated in An American Knight, will leave the reader with at least a smile, if not a laugh.

After his mischievous Huckleberry Finn days in Radford, he learned to discipline his wild side and, in spite of his intellectual weaknesses, went on to graduate from the Naval Academy. The strength of will with which he accomplished this task was later applied on the battlefield, where he earned the status of legend during his first tour in Vietnam as a 28-year-old Captain.

Readers will also get to know about John Ripley, the father, but more importantly the chaste husband. When he was approached by people wanting to make a movie about his life he agreed as long as his character was not portrayed as having a romantic relationship in Vietnam. I have never been, he said, nor will I ever be unfaithful to my wife.

The final chapters narrate the struggle Colonel Ripley endured with a bad liver. He would finally undergo two liver transplants, the last one of which was defined as the most dramatic in history.

If a young officer or Marine ever asks what is the meaning of Semper Fidelis Colonel Ripley once told a friend, tell them my story.

This is his story!

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Fulkerson, Norman

American Family in World War II, An

Title: An American Family in World War II
Author: Sandra O'Connell, Ralph L. Minker, Harry Butowsky
Genre: Non-Fiction, Biography
Reviewer: Dave Brown

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): 1595710817

An American Family in War II is the story of a young B-17 pilot, his parents and sisters, captured in the extraordinary collection of 800 letters that tell the story of one family's daily struggle to keep faith and hope alive. Starting in February 1943, Lee Minker writes from eight different U.S. Army Air Corps training camps, the voices of the family come from mother's kitchen, dad's office, Shirley's dorm room, Bernice on the front porch. The letters capture daily events as they happened; race riots, theft at the rationing board, black-outs, military stalemate in the Pacific and Europe, the lonely holidays and missed birthdays. And then, the conversation gains new tension as their son and brother leaves for a base "somewhere in England."

Unlike any other story of World War II, An American Family is the diary of an entire family from February 1943 to the end of the war. Eighteen year old Lee Minker's letters contain complete detail of the rigors of pilot training, as he progressed through flying the Piper cub at age 18 to taking command of a B-17 crew just after his 20th birthday and then flying missions 37 missions over Nazi Germany. The letters from the homefront nurtured and sustained him, all the while leaving a highly detailed record of life in America, totally changed by war. This is our history, as people lived it, their voices poignantly speaking to us. The timeless correspondence of the five members of the Minker family will resonate not only with those who remember those years, but with those separated from loved ones in war zones today.

Author(s) Mentioned: 
O'Connell, Sandra
Butowsky, Harry
Minker, Ralph L.

This is Latch: The Story of Admiral Roy L. Hoffmann

Title: This is Latch: The Story of Admiral Roy L. Hoffmann
Author: Weymouth Symmes
Genre: Non-Fiction, Biography
Reviewer: Bill McDonald

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): 1575101378

This is Latch is a biography of Rear Admiral Roy F. Hoffmann, who served in three wars (WW II, Korea and Vietnam). Adm. Hoffmann commanded four ships in his career. He was the gunnery officer aboard the USS Pirate when she struck a mine during the Korean War and sank in less than five minutes. Admiral Hoffmann was the Commander of Task Force 115 (the Market Time forces) in Vietnam, which included U.S. Navy Swift Boats. during the advent of the SEALORDS operation under Admiral Zumwalt. In retirement, Admiral Hoffmann founded and led Swift Boat Veterans and POWs for Truth during the 2004 election. This is Latch has 529 pages, and 162 photos, three maps, 60 plus interviews, a glossary, sources and index. It is a hardbound edition.

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Symmes, Weymouth

Life Well Built: The Authorized Biography of Brigadier General Richard (Dick) E. Fisher, A

Title: A Life Well Built: The Authorized Biography of Brigadier General Richard (Dick) E. Fisher
Author: Lee Kelley, Joyce Perry Fisher
Genre: Non-Fiction, Biography
Reviewer: Carmen Stenholm

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): 1440197202

From the tapestry of human history and experience, some individuals rise above the fabric's common braid and seem destined for great achievements. Richard Fisher was one of these souls. In A Life Well Built, author Lee Kelley tells the story of this natural-born leader who was an extraordinary soldier, father, husband, pilot, engineer, and friend.

Raised in Ohio, Richard "Dick" Fisher showed natural signs of leadership at a young age. This biography spans his lifetime--through ninety years and twenty-six countries--and touches on his widespread successes. It follows him from the Ohio State University School of Engineering, to the Pennsylvania Railroad, to his work as an engineer in Ohio, and to building airports for the Army during World War II. A lifelong pilot, he flew airplanes and managed operations for Air America. He co-piloted the last aircraft to escape Saigon when the Vietnam War began and retired from the Army as a brigadier general.

A Life Well Built shows the depth of this man who accomplished feats that most people could only dream of. This biography demonstrates that Fisher's life was a solid, inspired piece of engineering; he created a personal masterpiece in the art of living.

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Kelley, Lee
Fisher, Joyce Perry

Surviving the Folded Flag: Parents of war share stories of coping, courage, & faith

Title: Surviving the Folded Flag: Parents of war share stories of coping, courage, & faith
Author: Deborah Tainsh
Genre: Non-Fiction, Anthology
Reviewer: Charlene Rubush

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): 193461713X

Author of Heart of a Hawk and Gold Star mom Deborah Tainsh has gathered essays from more than twenty-five parents who received the dreaded news that their child had died in military service. These invaluable stories show how today's military families are surviving the folded flag and give a glimpse into the lives of fallen service members as Gold Star parents tell the stories and celebrate the lives of their fallen heroes.

Surviving also includes advice for other Gold Star families, their friends, and family members.

Bonus essays from a casualty assistance officer and a former soldier give deeper insight into how wartime death affects comrades left behind.

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Tainsh, Deborah