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.


Big Mother 40: "A great read on Navy helicopter rescue operations in the Vietnam era. A very well-written, exciting, fast moving book about the life of two Navy lieutenants. A Navy Helicopter pilot and a Navy Seal and their teams performing their duties in extremely hazardous conditions. Although fiction, Marc's knowledge of Navy Helicopter and Navy SEAl operations and the planning it takes to complete these types of missions is evident throughout the book. His understanding of the overall concept of joint and naval operations and the specifics of both Special Forces and helicopter missions during the Vietnam era makes this a very believable scenario. I personally know that Marc lived the life of a Navy rescue helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War."
Ken L. Fisher Rear Admiral USN (retired) Naval Aviator and fighter pilot

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): 1611792312

The U.S. Navy entered the Vietnam War prepared to fight either a conventional, or God forbid, a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. In the mid-sixties, as the Vietnam war escalated, the U.S. found itself without significant aviation capability to support special operations or combat search and rescue (CSAR). To support SEAL operations in the Mekong Delta, the Navy created a Helicopter Combat Attack Squadron that was eventually split into four squadrons tasked with combat search and rescue and special operations missions. Its call sign was the Sea Devils, but over time, the matte-black Sea King helicopters became known as the "Big Mothers." BIG MOTHER 4O is about the life of a Navy helicopter pilot, a Navy Seal, and their teams performing under extremely hazardous combat conditions and includes the women they loved.

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Liebman, Marc

Code Word: Paternity

Title: Code Word: Paternity
Author: Doug Norton
Genre: Thriller/Mystery
Reviewer: Dick Geschke

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): 1457515555

The Armageddon genie--nuclear terrorism--is out of the bottle, freed by bin-Laden's heedless avengers and "a pissant dictator with Ray-Bans and a fondness for movies," as America's president puts it privately a few hours before announcing a decision that will mark him forever as either a hero or a mass murderer.

In a twenty-first century Pearl Harbor, nuclear terrorism takes its first city--Las Vegas--and stalks Baltimore. The terrorists have no return address--but the nuke they used does. A scientific trail scented by an ultra-secret U.S. program hidden for years behind the code word "Paternity" points toward the nation that made the bomb.

But there's no smoking gun. Struggling to lead a divided, panicked America, wring support from uncertain allies, and blunt the opportunism of rivals, the president faces an ethical dilemma threatening his marriage, his presidency, and his very soul. As commander-in-chief, controlling nearly unfathomable power to retaliate, he can put the Armageddon genie back in the bottle--but at what cost and to whom? Ambition, conscience, and duty collide as heads of state, politicians, diplomats, and generals maneuver with the lives of millions at stake.


Author(s) Mentioned: 
Norton, Doug

Kissing Sailor: The Mystery Behind the Photo That Ended World War II, The

Title: The Kissing Sailor: The Mystery Behind the Photo That Ended World War II
Author: Lawrence Verria & George Galdorisi
Genre: History
Reviewer: Candace Thompson

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): 1612510787

On August 14, 1945, Alfred Eisenstaedt took a picture of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square, minutes after they heard of Japan's surrender to the United States. Two weeks later LIFE magazine published that image. It became one of the most famous WWII photographs in history (and the most celebrated photograph ever published in the world's dominant photo-journal), a cherished reminder of what it felt like for the war to finally be over. Everyone who saw the picture wanted to know more about the nurse and sailor, but Eisenstaedt had no information and a search for the mysterious couple's identity took on a dimension of its own. In 1979 Eisenstaedt thought he had found the long lost nurse. And as far as almost everyone could determine, he had. For the next thirty years Edith Shain was known as the woman in the photo of V-J DAY, 1945, TIMES SQUARE. In 1980 LIFE attempted to determine the sailor's identity. Many aging warriors stepped forward with claims, and experts weighed in to support one candidate over another. Chaos ensued.

For almost two decades Lawrence Verria and George Galdorisi were intrigued by the controversy surrounding the identity of the two principals in Eisenstaedt's most famous photograph and collected evidence that began to shed light on this mystery. Unraveling years of misinformation and controversy, their findings propelled one claimant s case far ahead of the others and, at the same time, dethroned the supposed kissed nurse when another candidate's claim proved more credible. With this book, the authors solve the 67-year-old mystery by providing irrefutable proof to identify the couple in Eisenstaedt's photo. It is the first time the whole truth behind the celebrated picture has been revealed.

The authors also bring to light the couple's and the photographer's brushes with death that nearly prevented their famous spontaneous Times Square meeting in the first place. The sailor, part of Bull Halsey's famous task force, survived the deadly typhoon that took the lives of hundreds of other sailors. The nurse, an Austrian Jew who lost her mother and father in the Holocaust, barely managed to escape to the United States. Eisenstaedt, a World War I German soldier, was nearly killed at Flanders.

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Verria, Lawrence
Galdorisi, George

RPM Rockin' in the Free World

Title: RPM Rockin' in the Free World
Author: Heather Means
Genre: Memoir
Reviewer: Hodge Wood

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): 0988175207

"Once in awhile, right in the middle of ordinary life, love gives us a fairy tale." So begins a gripping memoir written by a young Special Forces Army wife as her husband lay dying. Ryan Means grew up wanting to be a soldier. At age thirty-one, after the loss of his best friend in the 9/11 attacks, Ryan joined the US Army. He barely got to know his daughter Elizabeth when he was deployed to Iraq. In 2009, Ryan was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of liver cancer and quickly passed away due to complications. RPM Rockin' in the Free World is a raw and inspirational tale of modern love and war that reminds us to appreciate life and live it to its fullest. It is proof that grief does not have to prevail over eternal love. Portions of sales from this book will be donated to Special Operations Warrior Foundation.

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Means, Heather


Title: Lethargica
Author: Edward H. Carpenter
Genre: Literary Fiction
Reviewer: Bob Doerr

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): B007Z9AKJK

1917. In the French trench-lines of the Western Front, an American volunteer lives from letter to letter, as high explosive shells rain down and poison gas permeates the air. His wife’s words are the only link to a world that is still clean and bright, a world unlike the one which surrounds him; mud, barbed wire, shell fragments and decaying men, some dead, some still alive. And then, one day, her letters stop coming.

To what lengths will a man go to save the only thing truly worth fighting for? Or is it already too late? Based on terrible events that were all too real, this story will reveal hidden truths to shed light on one of the little-known tragedies of a decade that decimated a generation of the world’s youth.

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Carpenter, Edward H.