History

Mysterious Explorer: Solving the Puzzle of an African Explorer in America - 180 Years before Columbus by Ronald Stewart

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MWSA Review Pending

 

Author's Synopsis

Circa 1312, Abu Bakr II, the ruler of the Mali Empire in Africa sailed across the Atlantic Ocean in an attempt to circumnavigate the world. Some of his ships landed at the mouth of the Rio Grande between today's Texas and Mexico where he began an overland trip to the Pacific Ocean. He brought his caravan of elephants and camels up the valley, through New Mexico to the Chama River Valley, impacting the many Indian villages along the way. His caravan crossed the Continental Divide and continued westward following the San Juan River into Utah. Due to narrow canyons he had to travel south of the Grand Canyon to the lower Colorado River reaching the Gulf of California. He then crossed over Baja California to the Pacific Ocean. The proof is written in stone in Mande/Mandinka, the official language of the Mali Empire. It appears to be the first written description of a flood in the Western Hemisphere.

ISBN/ASIN: ISBN-13: 978-1719051736, ISBN-10: 1719051739
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle
Review Genre: Nonfiction—History
Number of Pages: 284

All Blood Runs Red by Phil Keith and Tom Clavin

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Author's Synopsis

 People are asking me, “So, what’s your next book going to be about?” Well, here it is: It’s a collection of stories about: The son of a slave who flees home and bigotry at the age of eleven... A teen-aged stowaway on a trans-Atlantic freighter... A championship-caliber boxer at the age of eighteen... An accomplished Jazz Age dancer, singer, and comedian... The world's first African-American fighter pilot (in WWI no less)... A self-taught jazz musician who played with "Satchmo"... A confidante to Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Picasso, and many others... Successful Paris nightclub impresario at the height of the Jazz Age... A Resistance spy against the Nazis... A wounded hero in two world wars... A Legionnaire decorated with France's highest military honors... An American civil rights pioneer... Who are all of these people? Well, in fact, “they” are all the same man, the remarkable Eugene Bullard (1895-1961), boxer, soldier, jazzman, spy. “All Blood Runs Red” is the title of the book, to be published by Hanover Square Press—an imprint of Harlequin Books—in 2019. It’s the next big book from me, and the first in my new collaboration with fellow author and dear friend, Tom Clavin.

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1-335-00556-4
Book Format(s): Hard cover, Soft cover, Kindle, ePub/iBook, Audiobook
Review Genre: Nonfiction—History
Number of Pages: 330


The History of Human Space Flight by Theodore Spitzmiller

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MWSA Review Pending

 

Author's Synopsis

Provides a broad perspective on the efforts to send humans into space. Beginning with the aerostats (balloons) of the 18th century through the rocket planes of the 1950s, to the space race between the Soviet Union and the United States. All of the efforts are chronicled along with coverage of the key technologies and principle individuals involved (including management and technical support). Extensively illustrated with a detailed index.

ISBN/ASIN: 978-0-8130-5427-8
Book Format(s): Hard cover
Review Genre: Nonfiction—History
Number of Pages: 633 

Echo in Ramadi - The Firsthand Story of U.S. Marines in Iraq's Deadliest City by Scott Huesing

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MWSA Review Pending

 

Author's Synopsis

"In war, destruction is everywhere. It eats everything around you. Sometimes it eats at you." —Major Scott Huesing, Echo Company Commander From the winter of 2006 through the spring of 2007, two-hundred-fifty Marines from Echo Company, Second Battalion, Fourth Marine Regiment fought daily in the dangerous, dense city streets of Ramadi, Iraq during the Multi-National Forces Surge ordered by President George W. Bush. The Marines' mission: to kill or capture anti-Iraqi forces. Their experience: like being in Hell. Now Major Scott A. Huesing, the commander who led Echo Company through Ramadi, takes readers back to the streets of Ramadi in a visceral, gripping portrayal of modern urban combat. Bound together by brotherhood, honor, and the horror they faced, Echo's Marines battled day-to-day on the frontline of a totally different kind of war, without rules, built on chaos. In Echo in Ramadi, Huesing brings these resilient, resolute young men to life and shows how the savagery of urban combat left indelible scars on their bodies, psyches, and souls. Like war classics, We Were Soldiers, The Yellow Birds, and Generation Kill, Echo in Ramadi is an unforgettable capsule of one company's experience of war that will leave readers stunned. About the Author Scott A. Huesing is a retired USMC Infantry Major with over 24 years of service, both enlisted and as a commissioned officer. His career spanned 10 deployments and he conducted operations in over 60 countries worldwide. During his deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Horn of Africa he planned, led, and conducted hundreds of combat missions under some of the most austere and challenging conditions. He had the privilege to command Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines as part of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), Special Operations Capable (SOC) while attached to 1-9 Infantry Battalion ("Manchu"), 1st Brigade Combat Team (1 BCT "Ready First"), United States Army (USA) as part of the Surge Strategy in Al Anbar Province, Iraq.

ISBN/ASIN: ISBN-10: 1621577341, ISBN-13: 978-1621577348
Book Format(s): Hard cover, Kindle, Audiobook
Review Genre: Nonfiction—History
Number of Pages: 256


Mortal Men, Immortal Warriors by Steven London

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MWSA Review Pending

 

Author's Synopsis

 For nearly seven continuous years the "Warriors" maintained a combat presence in some of the most austere and remote locations during the height of the war in Afghanistan. Through written accounts, interviews, and photographs the Soldiers illuminate the shadows of war to provide personal insight into the tolls of combat. From its opening words to its closing remarks, 'Mortal Men, Immortal Warriors' leads you across an uncharted terrain within narrative non-fiction. Journey alongside with them in this visceral and compelling tribute to one of the United States Army's unsung military units. Standing strong as a 'Band of Brothers' meets ' The Things They Carried' novel, it presents an alternative interpretation of modern conflict at home and away. Raw, captivating, and emotional, the book resonates the lives of brave Soldiers through a balanced approach. Every generation needs its heroes. These are ours. This book is sure to be required reading for any military leader or historian.

ISBN/ASIN: 1980971463, B07CRM8W8J
Book Format(s): Soft cover
Review Genre: Nonfiction—History
Number of Pages: 294

War Animals: The Unsung Heroes of World War II by Robin Hutton

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MWSA Review Pending

 

Author's Synopsis

War Dogs * War Birds * War Horses & Mules * And a War ... Cat!

Millions rallied to the cause of freedom against Nazism and the menace of Imperial Japan. But did you know that some of those heroes had fur, or feathers? War animals guarded American coasts against submarine attack, dug out Londoners trapped in bomb wreckage, and carried vital messages under heavy fire on Pacific islands. They kept up morale, rushed machine gun nests, and even sacrificed themselves picking up live grenades.

This book tells the heart-warming stories of the dogs, horses, mules, pigeons—and even one cat—who did their bit for the war effort. American and British families volunteered beloved family pets and farm dogs when rationing made it difficult to feed them; President Roosevelt, bought honorary commissions in the reserves for lapdogs and other pets not suitable for military duties to “exempt” them from war service and raise money to defeat Hitler and Tojo. Many of these gallant animals are recipients of the prestigious PDSA Dickin Medal, the “Animals’ Victoria Cross.”

ISBN/ASIN: hardcover 1621576582, paperback 1621579867, kindle B07BTKYGCC, Audio 1538586020
Book Format(s): Hard cover, Kindle
Review Genre: Nonfiction—History
Number of Pages: 466

In War Animals: The Unsung Heroes of World War II you’ll meet:

• Judy, the POW dog who helped her beloved human survive brutal Japanese prison camps

• GI Joe, the pigeon who flew 20 miles in 20 minutes and stopped the planes on the tarmac from bombing a town that had been taken over by the British, saving over 100 British soldiers’ lives

• Beauty, the “digging dog” who sniffed out Londoners buried in the wreckage of the Blitz—along with pets, including one goldfish still in its bowl!

• Olga, the horse who braved shattering glass to do her duty in London bombings

• Smoky, the Yorkshire terrier who did parachute jumps, laid communications wire through a pipe so small only she could navigate it, became the first therapy dog—and starred on a weekly TV show after the War

• Simon, the war cat whose campaign against the “Mao Tse Tung” of the rat world saved food supplies and his ship’s crew

• Chips, who guarded Roosevelt and Churchill during the Casablanca Conference, and the only dog to earn a Silver Star for his heroics

These are just a handful of stories you will discover! The shining loyalty and courage of these heroes is a testimony to the enduring bond between us and the animals we love.

Space Pioneers: In Their Own Words by Loretta Hall

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MWSA Review Pending

 

Author's Synopsis

Ninety space pioneers describe their experiences while working on space research and exploration from the 1940s through the space shuttle program. Some of these men and women were well known as astronauts or members of Mission Control for Apollo flights to the Moon, and some were minor players in the programs-people like lab technicians, weather forecasters, welders, and helicopter pilots who supported rocket tests. Their stories disclose events and behind-the-scenes details available nowhere else. They reveal the human experiences of an era that extended from the launch of this planet's first "artificial moon" to routine shuttle missions carrying people and supplies between Earth and the International Space Station. Drawn from the archives of the oral history program supported by the International Space Hall of Fame Foundation, the excerpts describe funny, frightening, and fascinating episodes. They paint the hues of human experience on the canvas of technological achievements. In this book, for the first time, extensive portions of the New Mexico Museum of Space History and International Space Hall of Fame's oral history collection are available to the general public. Supplemented with photographs and annotated for historical context, this presentation offers a unique glimpse into humanity's struggles to become a spacefaring race. That perspective forms an important foundation for the new era of commercial spaceflight and interplanetary exploration.

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1936744275
Book Format(s): Soft cover
Review Genre: Nonfiction—History
Number of Pages: 618

The Freedom Shield by Major John D. Falcon

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MWSA Review

In The Freedom Shield by John Falcon, the author has constructed a vivid, highly personal, and structurally sound history of a heroic assault helicopter company's operations in Vietnam at the height of the war. We get to meet a number of highly entertaining characters and, sadly, learn the stories of a number of men who sacrificed all. The prose is, perhaps, a little over-worn with clichés and scattered body parts, but the spirit is present, and the telling of the tale is earnest and straightforward. This book will be of interest to those searching for small-unit histories of the Vietnam War, especially in aviation.

Review by Phil Keith (April 2019)

Author's Synopsis

 In war, life has a way of turning on a dime. It is often a small choice that determines who lives and who sacrifices his or her young life. The Vietnam War was no different than any other bloody war. However, for the young guys who lived it, breathed its vigorous stench of rot and mud, the Vietnam War was like no other. In retrospect, life was simple here: turn left, you live: turn right, you die. The Boomerang, Bounty Hunter, and Green Delta aircrews of the 191st Assault Helicopter Company (AHC) had their share of both choices. The Freedom Shield: When We Were Young, We Were There is the collective stories of the 191st AHC. A precious gem lay hidden within their underdog appearance. The unit assembled from a hodgepodge selection of hand-me-down aircraft, used equipment, and overlooked personnel who wanted to make a difference. And they did. Their collective stories define a new breed of soldier: the combat assault-helicopter crewman. The 191st pilots, crews, and support personnel vividly share the visceral details of what it's like to be at war and count on your fellow crew members to survive day in and day out. After years of healing, it has finally become easier for the members of the 191st AHC to tell their stories candidly, and their message is infinitely clear: "The price of freedom is painful."

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1631833267
Book Format(s): Soft cover
Review Genre: Nonfiction—History
Number of Pages: 379

I Grew Up In War Housing. . . The History Of The Defense Housing Projects In East Alton, Illinois 1941-1954 by Phillip Walkington

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MWSA Review

The vast needs of a nascent peace-time military, transformed overnight into a multi-million-man world power, provided the economic stimulus needed to propel the United States out of the Great Depression and into prosperity. Thanks to countless government contracts, millions of men who heretofore had no work were desperately needed by companies to fill jobs in factories located in towns throughout the nation. But the sudden wealth of jobs was accompanied by a dearth of housing for these workers and their families. The federal housing project that built homes for war industry is the subject of the book I Grew Up in War Housing: The History of the Defense Housing Projects in East Alton, Illinois 1941-1954 written by Philip David Walkington.

East Alton, Illinois, a suburb of St. Louis located along the banks of the Mississippi River, was one such town affected by the sudden war industry needs. Home to one of Western Cartridge Company’s factories, it suddenly found itself overflowing with workers attracted to the factory by the high-paying war industry jobs the company offered. Among the many workers hired was Emory Walkington, Philip’s father. And, like all the other out-of-town workers now in East Alton, he and his family needed a place to live. Responsibility for providing housing for him and other workers like him throughout the nation was the job of the Federal Works Agency, which did so through the Defense Housing and Community Facilities and Services Act of October 1940, popularly called the Lanham Act.

Phillip has done an extraordinary job shedding light on a forgotten, yet vital, chapter in the home-front history of World War II. His research is excellent. In addition to highly-detailed accounts and descriptions of the design and construction of the housing units and sites chosen for them, his narrative includes contemporary newspaper accounts of the social impact of war housing communities like those in East Alton on host cities and their services. He includes stories from other communities, with attention paid to white cities suddenly finding themselves with a significant influx of African-American workers.

I Grew Up in War Housing includes illustrations of housing blueprints and photographs of families and their war housing homes, along with other contemporary documents. For history buffs interested in little-known facts about World War II, and for individuals interested in housing construction and the sociological impact on communities caused by the sudden influx of large groups, I Grew Up in War Housing is a must-have book in the library.

Review by Dwight Jon Zimmerman (March 2019)


Author's Synopsis

 During WWII, two government defense housing projects were built in East Alton, Illinois. These projects became known as the “defense area,” where author Phillip Walkington lived from birth through high school. War workers flocked to our small village seeking employment with Western Cartridge Company and though jobs were to be had, there was nowhere for the influx of workers to call home. Multiple tiers of government worked together to build the defense housing projects under the Lanham Act, which provided federal funds to defense-impacted communities where the population had soared and local facilities were overwhelmed. Only now does Walkington fully understand the unique set of conditions in which he grew up. He says, “Those conditions created an unintentional experiment in social reorganization and a broad and ongoing lesson in community identity.” Written to praise the war workers who in-migrated throughout America to support the war effort --- and for his father, who was one of those workers --- Walkington's "I Grew Up in War Housing" is a firsthand account of an exceptional place created during an unparalleled time in history.

ISBN/ASIN: ISBN: 978-1-64112-005-0
Book Format(s): Soft cover
Review Genre: Nonfiction—History
Number of Pages: 189

Fighting Cavaliers: The F-105 History of the 421st Tactical Fighter Squadron 1963-1967 by W. Howard Plunkett and Jeff Kolln

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MWSA Review

The history book Fighting Cavaliers shines a light on the story of the 421st Tactical Fighter Squadron, assigned to fly the F-105 Thunderchief in the 1960s. Written by W. Howard Plunkett and Jeff Kolln, two Air Force veterans who have clearly done extensive research on the topic, Fighting Cavaliers details the stories of the pilots who had been training to help bring peace in the Cold War, but instead found themselves playing a significant role in the Vietnam War. The book offers plenty of additional information (in the form of appendix and supporting documents) that give readers a detailed account of the squadron's mission in Vietnam. Moreover, the addition of photographs of military members who participated in the mission helps readers visualize the events that are described in the main text.

Although the story is certainly worth learning about, the book presents editing mechanical errors, design, and accuracy issues that, had they been avoided, would have allowed the already interesting story to truly shine through. Although Fighting Cavaliers does not present conventional footnotes that a history book would be expected to offer its readers, it does offer a detailed section titled "Notes on Sources," which the authors included at the end of the book. To conclude, the passion and commitment the authors felt toward the topic certainly came through, and they should be proud of their effort in bringing this important story to light.

Review by Brunella Costagliola (February 2019)


Author's Synopsis

 This history of the 421 Tactical Fighter Squadron, the Fighting Cavaliers, tells much more than the story of a single F-105 squadron in the early to mid-1960s. The 421st was only one Thunderchief squadron during this period to become combat ready in the Air Force’s newest fighter-bomber. Its history is intertwined with the histories of sister squadrons in the 355 TFW at George AFB in California and McConnell AFB, Kansas, as well as in the 388 TFW at Korat Air Base, Thailand. You can read about Cold War alerts with nuclear weapons in Turkey, Korea, and Okinawa and understand how pilots in a new unit developed their combat skills in a new aircraft to prepare them for flying their planes in the hot war over North Vietnam. Read also about destroying SAM sites with the Wild Weasels, as well as successes and failures of squadron pilots during Rolling Thunder bombing missions. There are airborne battles with MiG-17s and MiG-21s as well as stories of pilots flying high-risk missions and earning high awards - Air Force Crosses and Medals of Honor. During the four years they flew the Thunderchief, the Fighting Cavaliers lost 32 of their supersonic jets to accidents and combat. This book details each loss in context with the mission and how the pilots were rescued, became POWs or died. This book covers all these topics and many more based on solid historical research together with combat stories from the F-105 pilots themselves.

ISBN/ASIN: 9781986882743
Book Format(s): Soft cover
Review Genre: Nonfiction—History
Number of Pages: 414

Chopper Heroes by William Peterson

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MWSA Review

This read will take your breath away.  The harrowing details faced daily by Vietnam chopper crew members are vividly presented.  Each brief and deeply personal story creates new visuals of the daily fight to stay alive.  Powerfully moved, I felt back in time--similar to punching big buttons on a 60's jukebox full of deep cuts during that era.  However, this book's selections were not classic music from long ago.  Instead, in an amazing fashion, Chopper Heroes records ordeals faced by our bravest young men in service that are far more powerful than the music back then.  Simply stated, I highly recommend this book to those who appreciate valor and enjoy history about potentially forgotten warriors.

Review by Hodge Wood (July 2018)


Author's Synopsis

Chopper Heroes ~ Have Guns Will Travel will introduce many of the survivors of the nasty war in Vietnam. The true, interesting, gut-wrenching and often thrilling stories you are about to read are from men whom I am honored to know. Many of the words written here are theirs from interviews I have done. As a storyteller, I have tried to recapture the events as they happened forty-five plus years ago. The narrative and scenes created here are mostly true, and the dialogue is written for all audiences from teenagers to adults, men and women alike.

ISBN/ASIN: 9781981656943    ISBN-13: 978-1981771561    ISBN-10: 1981771565
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle
Genre(s): Nonfiction, History, Religious/Spiritual
Review Genre: Nonfiction—History
Number of Pages: 130
 

Air Force One by Nicholas Veronico

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MWSA Review

Air Force One, The Aircraft of the Modern U.S. Presidency by Robert F. Dorr and Nicholas A. Veronica is the first in-depth history of the iconic airplane with the call sign "Air Force One" indicating that its passenger is the president of the United States. The book is rich in detail and has all manner of fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpses into the flight, operation, and impact of Air Force One. As the authors point out, though people think that Air Force One is the Boeing 747 painted in presidential livery, the call sign actually refers to any aircraft in which the president flies (the exception being the Marine helicopter he uses, whose call sign is "Marine One"). Covering sixty years of history, it is loaded with historical photos and contains many interviews of people who worked at varying aspects of the aircraft. An important addition to the history of the presidency and aviation.

Review by Dwight Zimmerman (July 2018)


Author's Synopsis

The presidential plane wasn’t always known as Air Force One. FDR traveled in the Guess Where II, a transport version of the heavy bomber four-engine Liberator. Later presidential aircraft included the Dixie Clipper and Sacred Cow (FDR), Independence (Truman), Columbine I and II (Eisenhower), followed by Air Force One.

For the last sixty years Air Force One has seen every president and first lady through each administration's triumphs and tragedies, and has flown over a million miles around the globe.

Featuring new and unseen photography of the presidential aircraft, aviation expert and author Nicholas A. Veronico brings the story of the mighty aircraft up to date; detailing how the plane has adapted to the digital age, and what to look forward to as Boeing updates the aircraft once more for 2024.

Get ready to fly!

ISBN/ASIN: 9780760357996
Book Format(s): Hard cover
Genre(s): History
Review Genre: Nonfiction—History
Number of Pages: 160
 

Blades of Thunder by W. Larry Dandridge

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MWSA Review

A realistic and accurate depiction of the life a young helicopter pilot in Vietnam. Dandridge shares his experiences and those of his helicopter classmates, unit members and friends to paint a picture of camaraderie and patriotism while fighting one of the most vicious military conflicts in US history. Using his own personal account and those of his fellow troops, Dandridge unfolds the heartache, pain and triumphs of young soldiers who bravely flew “slicks” and “gunships” in an unforgiving war with unforgiving consequences. This book successfully serves as a living tribute to them.

Review by Mick Simonelli (June 2018)

Author's Synopsis

Blades of Thunder (book One) is a non-fiction, action packed, and Vietnam War history book that tells the story of six young Army aviators, flight school classmates, who go to Vietnam in the fall of 1968 and are forever changed.  Some died, some were wounded.  All those who returned brought back emotional scars that will never really go away.  Blades of Thunder is more than a story about Vietnam.  It combines a realistic narrative of combat operations with a human dimension, the physical and psychological toll imposed on those who survived. While learning about their experiences, this all five-star reviewed paperback or hard cover book gives you a window into the lives of crew chiefs and door gunners whose job extends beyond flight when the aircraft is once again safely tucked into its revetment, the battery switch is off and the blades are tied down.  Timeless lessons on leadership abound.  •    The author takes the reader into the details of the Army Aviation business.  46 annotated photos and generous, informative appendices provide an informal class on the tools of our trade: the components of a UH-1B rocket pod and machine gun assembly; the essential elements of an OH-6A “Loach” to include cyclic, collective, armored seats, grenades and mini-gun; and a host of other switches, gauges, etc., to include the hook over the pilot’s door in a Huey on which to hang your helmet.  Blades of Thunder (Book One) even offers an appendix of over 24 mini-biographies of the key characters in the book, showing that, if they survived, they each became successful family men and leaders in every field of business and government. Nothing is left out.

ISBN/ASIN: 978-0-578-15637-8 Paperback and 978-0-692-78369-6 Hard Cover
Book Format(s): Soft cover
Genre(s): Nonfiction, History, Memoir, Biography, Picture Book
Review Genre: Nonfiction—History
Number of Pages: 411

The Solomons Campaigns, 1942-1943: From Guadalcanal to Bougainville, Pacific War Turning Point (Amphibious Operations in the South Pacific in World War II Series, Vol. 2) by William L. McGee

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MWSA Review

William McGee in his book The Solomons Campaigns 1942-1943 provides an incredibly detailed and exhaustingly researched look at what some sailors from the campaign regard as a “forgotten little war.”  From the early struggle to claw Guadalcanal back from the Japanese to the more polished and less opposed island hopping operations later in the war, McGee does an excellent job of relating the issues faced by those in command of not only the combatant ships, but also the commanders of the aircraft, transport vessels, and Marine units that took part in the campaign.

I especially enjoyed how the author, himself a veteran of this very campaign, seasoned his work with “sea stories” from his fellow veterans, especially those on the smaller, “unsung” transport ships like the LST’s and LCI’s.  The end result is a work that not only tells the history of the geographical area during the war, but of the men who fought and sometimes died there as well.  I was also impressed by the level of detail spread across all the various facets of warfare involved.  There was equal time given to large ship actions, small ship actions, PT boat raids, and dogfights involving handfuls of aircraft.  Platoon and company size actions were discussed along with Corps-sized movements.  It was expected that there would be discussions about sailors, soldiers, Marines, and airmen.  Less expected but much appreciated was the time given to corpsmen, Seabees, Pioneers, and other support forces, without whom there would have been no victory.

Those who enjoy historical work on World War Two, especially in the Pacific, will appreciate this book, as will those with a  general interest in naval history or a particular interest in Admiral “Bull” Halsey, destroyer combat, Marine Raiders, or Navy Seabees.

Review by Rob Ballister (May 2018)


Author's Synopsis

On the morning of 7 August 1942, eight months to the day after the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. 1st Marine Division, under MGen Alexander A. Vandegrift, landed on the islands of Tulagi and Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. This was the beginning of the bloody and brutal six month Battle for Guadalcanal. 

For those who were there, Guadalcanal is not only a name; it is an emotion, recalling desperate fights in the air, furious night naval battles, frantic work at supply or construction, savage fighting in the sodden jungle, nights broken by screaming bombs and deafening explosions of naval shells.

Under one cover, military historian William L. McGee details all the campaigns fought in the Solomon Islands in the Pacific theater of war — from Guadalcanal to Bougainville — and summarizes the valuable lessons learned from these bloody battles.

"Enough gripping drama, heroism and heartbreak in McGee's almost encyclopedic work to supply Hollywood with material for a century." -Marine Corps League

“As a Marine who landed on Guadalcanal on 7 August 1942,  Bill McGee’s The Solomons Campaigns, 1942-1943 is the most comprehensive book I’ve read on the subject. It covers all the campaigns — Southern, Central and Northern — and sums up the tough lessons learned. It brings back memories of those very dark days. Semper Fi.” -William J. Carroll, President, Guadalcanal Campaign Veterans

■ Part I, The Southern Solomons – Covers the bloody six-month struggle for Guadalcanal. The relationship between ground fighting, naval warfare and air combat is described in considerable detail as first one side and then the other gains the advantage. Seven major naval engagements are recounted, including America’s severe defeat at Savo Island and decisive victory in the three-day naval battle of Guadalcanal – another notable turning point.

■ Part II, The Central Solomons – Chronicles the amphibious operations in the New Georgia Islands group, including the five separate landings at Rendova, Segi Point, Viru Harbor, Wickham Anchorage, and Rice Anchorage, plus three more significant naval battles and the occupation of Vella Lavella.

■ Part III, The Northern Solomons – Recounts the seizure of the Treasuries, the Choiseul Diversion and the Bougainville campaign, plus two more significant naval battles.

■ Lessons Learned – Summarizes the many valuable lessons learned during all the Solomons Campaigns, ranging from logistics support and force requirements to offshore toeholds and leapfrogging, most becoming doctrine in later Pacific campaigns.

688 pp, 310 b/w photos, 44 maps, plus charts, notes, appendices, bibliography, and index. Paperback 6”x9”, $39.95.

Other Titles in the Series: 
The Amphibians Are Coming! Emergence of the ‘Gator Navy and its Revolutionary Landing Craft (Vol. 1)
Pacific Express: The Critical Role of Military Logistics in World War II (Vol. 3)

ISBN/ASIN: 978-0-9701678-7-3
Book Format(s): Soft cover
Genre(s): Nonfiction, History
Review Genre: Nonfiction—History
Number of Pages: 688
 

Death of an Assassin: The True Story of the German Murderer Who Died Defending Robert E. Lee by Ann Marie Ackermann

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MWSA Review

Death of an Assassin is a well-researched history of a murder that occurred in Germany in 1835 that remained a cold case for 37 years.  The author intertwines the German crime scene with highlights of Robert E. Lee's early years and brings players from both continents together in Lee's first battle experience.  The book includes extensive appendices, chapter notes, Bibliography, and an Index.

Review by Nancy Kauffman (April 2018)

Author's Synopsis

From the depths of German and American archives comes a story one soldier never wanted told. The first volunteer killed defending Robert E. Lee’s position in battle was really a German assassin. After fleeing to the United States to escape prosecution for murder, the assassin enlisted in a German company of the Pennsylvania Volunteers in the Mexican-American War and died defending Lee’s battery at the Siege of Veracruz in 1847. Lee wrote a letter home, praising this unnamed fallen volunteer defender. Military records identify him, but none of the Americans knew about his past life of crime. This story tells American military history in an exciting true crime format.

ISBN/ASIN: 1606353047
Book Format(s): Hard cover, Kindle, ePub/iBook
Genre(s): Nonfiction, History
Review Genre: Nonfiction—History
Number of Pages: 204
 

Wonderful Flying Machines by Barrett Beard

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MWSA Review

This well-written book is not just an interesting read; it is both historic and inspiring. It delivers insight into how a few special people (American Exceptionalism) changed history for the better, and how they paid a high price for doing the right thing, for disrupting the status quo.

The history of aviation progress followed that model: the Wright Brothers with their bicycle shop and Glen Curtiss with his reliable engines and better designs. The small band of Navy officers (Admirals Byrd and Moffit, and Commander George Noville) who set records and brought aviation to the fleet were similar. There was General Billy Mitchell, who was court-martialed for daring to show that his ragtag bombers could sink battleships. Names like Jimmy Doolittle and Kelly Johnson also come to mind.
The first part of the book writes this history, featuring Captain Frank Erickson and Captain William Kossler. This is the history of helicopters. The research is extensive, built on several failed efforts to tell the tale, and hundreds of cited documents and interviews.
The book starts small and personal. Lt. Erickson was the duty officer at Pearl Harbor on December 7th. The first bombs came down at 0753 and the world changed. Erickson witnessed the deaths of more than two thousand men within a radius of a mile and a half, and he watched helplessly as thousands more wounded and oil-covered victims struggled ashore. His immediate duty was flying patrols in the few planes that survived the raid—unarmed J2F and JRS scout planes. He felt helpless, but his greatest fear was not the war itself. It was that its duration would keep him in the Pacific, unable to pursue his dream of a way to rescue victims at sea, using helicopters.

It proved to be a long and rocky road. The helicopters of the era were barely able to fly. They had some promise for ASW work but could not hope to sink a submarine even if they found one. The war was over before they managed to show that helicopters with dipping sonar could track the best German submarines, XXIs with a submerged speed of 15 knots in 1946.
Unfortunately, that demonstration ended with the helicopter “getting dunked.” It didn’t have enough power to stop its descent to the deck of an LST. Both the copter and the sonar gear were lost. Rescue demonstrations were also spotty. Hydraulic hoists helped, but a heavy “victim” was about as likely to pull the copter down as the converse. A long dry spell followed, save for things like MASH in Korea and one critical Coast Guard mission. Helicopters proved indispensable for icebreakers. Ship’s captains would not give them up, and in at least one case, Byrd’s “High Jump” December 1946 mission, a single helicopter might have saved an entire fleet from the worst pack ice in Antarctic history or at least prevented the mission from being canceled.

Then came Vietnam, with its incredible stories of rescues of downed airmen under heavy fire behind enemy lines. To me, these stories were the best part of the book. The only chance of survival or avoiding horrific treatment in a POW camp came from helicopters. The NVA used our downed airmen as bait to target rescue aircraft. The rescuers came anyway. No one was abandoned. This was perhaps the brightest part of the American Vietnam experience, one marked by impossible rescues like BAT-21 (the greatest losses) and Spectre-22 (the most people rescued).

What’s missing from this book is the Army’s airmobile story which centered on helicopters. That changed the nature of war, but this book’s focus is on the Coast Guard. It convincingly makes the case that it was the Coast Guard that inspired, wet nursed, and nurtured the helicopter. Without that, the rest of this history would not have happened. Thus, the book’s focus is on copters as “fishers of men,” as lifesaving tools “that others may live.”
The book notes that the 42% of the U.S. Navy’s crews operate helicopters. That surprised me. What surprised me more was that only 29% of U.S. Army aircraft are attack helicopters. So perhaps it is true that helicopters did do more “saving” and “preventing” than “killing.” Interesting to ponder.

Is there anything I didn’t like about this book? The writing and editing is first rate, but I thought the production was substandard. I expected better from the prestigious Naval Institute Press. Better paper, larger fonts, a sharper cover. Small things, perhaps, but they make a difference.
I recommend the book.

Reviewed by John D. Trudel (April 2018)


Author's Synopsis

The story of the helicopter and its creator, Igor Sikorsky, and chief promoter, a young Coast Guard lieutenant, Frank Erickson, closely parallels that of Wilber and Orville Wright and their first flying machine. A small cadre of courageous visionaries, joining with Erickson, also risked their lives and careers on a dream. Dubbed "Igor's Nightmare" the helicopter brought derision and ridicule on its few supporters. The pioneers' story demonstrates the problems encountered by the personalities involved and their eventual strengths in overcoming adversity and overwhelming opposition in developing the helicopter for naval service (Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard). Erickson, with his friend and mentor, Coast Guard Captain William Kossler, undaunted by their lack of support, fought with single-minded intensity to establish the helicopter as a vital aviation tool. Kossler died in the project's infancy leaving Erickson undefended to suffer in disgrace for nearly a decade following. However, Erickson endured and did live to see his efforts succeed when the helicopter revolutionized, among its many eventual tasks foreseen by him, the saving of millions of lives worldwide, Erickson's first dream.

ISBN/ASIN: 1-55750-086-X
Book Format(s): Hard cover, Kindle
Genre(s): Nonfiction, History, Biography, Reference
Review Genre: Nonfiction—History
Number of Pages: 240
 

The Shadow Tiger: Billy McDonald, Wingman to Chennault by William C McDonald III

Click on cover image to purchase a copy

Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

The Shadow Tiger, Wingman to Chennault by William C. McDonald III and Barbara L. Evenson is the story of the life of William C. “Billy” McDonald Jr., written by his son as a tribute to his father whom he calls an unsung hero, “a man who contributed to world history.”

I was attracted to this title because I was familiar with the name Chennault, as in U.S. Army Brigadier General Claire Lee Chennault, legendary founder of the Flying Tigers. To many of us, the name Flying Tigers conjures up images of painted Shark nosed P-40 Warhawks flown by a group of American volunteer pilots in China fighting against a much more modern Japanese Air Force that was invading China in 1936 before the beginning of World War II. However, that part of the story is not part of the narrative in this book which is a prelude to that glorious history.

This an excellent reference book on the life of one of the American volunteer pilots who helped Chennault from the beginning, training Chinese pilots to fly before and during World War II. The authors call it an attempt to “portray events, locales, and conversations from the letters, magazines, and first-hand stories available to us. We have relied on personal accounts where ever possible.”

Having been passed over for a promotion to lieutenant in his late twenties, McDonald along with a colleague and fellow member of a flying demonstration group (the Flying Trapezers), fellow pilot Sargent Luke Williamson, had to face the prospect of no further promotions in the Army. Captain Chennault, who had known them for years, advised them to take the offer of a Chinese Nationalist General Mow Pang-Tsu to teach Chinese pilots to fly, using advanced U.S. military techniques and American planes. 

A few months later, Chennault’s dispute over air war policy with the brass found him without prospects for promotion and retiring as a Captain to take a contract with China to go travel there and evaluate the Chinese Air Force.

There are many colorful historical figures that the American volunteers interacted with, the most famous being Madam Chaing Kai-shek, who became Chennault’s boss. Upon first meeting with Chennault in China “Madam Chaing expressed concern about Chennault’s rank as Captain, considering he would be dealing with admirals and generals.” Chennault made a reference to the prospect of asking a cousin, a former governor of the state to appoint him as a colonel in the state militia, and Madam Chaing said “that will do nicely.” So he attained the rank at that moment and there is no evidence of him being appointed to the state militia.

The book chronicles the period when they were training Chinese pilots under their contract with the Chinese Air Force. Billy McDonald’s exploits as Colonel Chennault’s right-hand man and advisor come into sharp focus, including his time as a ferry pilot carrying supplies.

The book is heavily illustrated with Cartoons, photos, and copies of letters from the day—so much that they seem to get in the way at times with the flow of the narrative. Once the reader gets used to the style it is easier to follow the flow. And all this information is relevant to setting the context and enriching the historical account.

For anyone interested in aviation history, especially American aviation history and World War II, this would be an invaluable book.

Reviewed by Ronald Wheatley (April 2018)


Author's Synopsis

The Shadow Tiger: Billy McDonald, Wingman to Chennault is the story of a remarkable career, and a man who bore witness to some of the twentieth century’s historic events and pivotal characters. It traces Billy McDonald, Jr’s flying career beginning at  Maxwell AFB on "The Three Men on a Flying Trapeze" with Claire Chennault. Much of the book focuses on McDonald’s time in China where he worked  with Chennault to lay the foundation for the Flying Tigers, served as a combat pilot while  training the Chinese Air Force, and made hundreds of life saving flights through the Himalayas. Through McDonald’s own letters and photographs, readers will experience first-hand adventures including the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong, a spy mission to pick up Chennault in Japan, a harrowing landing in the middle of the Yangtze River, and countless flights ferrying world-famous passengers and high-value cargo for the China National Aviation Corporation.

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1-945333-05-7       978-1-945333-02-6
Book Format(s): Hard cover, Soft cover
Genre(s): Nonfiction, History
Review Genre: Nonfiction—History
Number of Pages: 338
 

The Fires of Babylon: Eagle Troop and the Battle of 73 Easting by Mike Guardia

Click on cover image to purchase a copy

Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

Author Mike Guardia provides an inside look at the training and troops called upon to charge into the teeth of Saddam's dug-in T-72 tank defense and engage in his "Mother of All Battles" at the onset of Desert Storm. Small unit courage, luck, and training drives Eagle Troop and the 2d Armored Calvary Regiment to win The Battle of 73 Easting—possibly the most dominant one-sided tank battle in the history of mankind. Troop Commander Captain H.R. McMaster leads this historic offensive.

The book reveals the infinite steps taken to launch and win this engagement that decimated the Iraqi Republican Guard in the VII Corps zone of attack. Spiced with the deadly dangers, unforeseen turns, and sometimes humorous encounters faced, the read provided an upfront view of the preparation and battle. I suggest this book for those who enjoy learning about the preparations for war and tank battle.

Review by Hodge Wood (March 2018)


Author's Synopsis

With a Foreword by General (ret) Fred Franks - Commander, VII Corps in Desert Storm

As a new generation of main battle tanks came on line during the 1980s, neither the US nor USSR had the chance to pit them in combat. But once the Cold War between the superpowers waned, Iraq's Saddam Hussein provided that chance with his invasion of Kuwait. Finally the new US M1A1 tank would see how it fared against the vaunted Soviet-built T-72.

On the morning of August 2, 1990, Iraqi armored divisions invaded the tiny emirate of Kuwait. The Iraqi Army, after its long war with Iran, had more combat experience than the U.S. Army. Who knew if America's untested forces could be shipped across the world and thence contest the battle-hardened Iraqis on their homeground? The Kuwaitis had collapsed easily enough, but the invasion drew fierce condemnation from the UN, which demanded Saddam's withdrawal. Undeterred by the rhetoric, the Iraqi dictator massed his forces along the Saudi Arabian border and dared the world to stop him. In response, the U.S. led the world community in a coalition of 34 nations in what became known as Operation Desert Storm - a violent air and ground campaign to eject the Iraqis from Kuwait. Leading this charge into Iraq were the men of Eagle Troop in the US Army's 2d Armored Cavalry Regiment.

Commanded by then-Captain HR McMaster, Eagle Troop was the lead element of the US VII Corps' advance into Iraq. On February 26, 1991, Eagle Troop encountered the Tawakalna Brigade of Iraq's elite Republican Guard. By any calculation, the 12 American tanks didn't stand a chance. Yet within a mere 23 minutes, the M1A1 tanks of Eagle Troop destroyed more than 50 enemy vehicles and plowed a hole through the Iraqi front. History would call it the Battle of 73 Easting.

Based on hours of interviews and archival research by renowned author Mike Guardia, this minute-by-minute account of the U.S. breakthrough reveals an intimate, no-holds-barred account of modern warfare.

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1612002927
Book Format(s): Hard cover, Kindle, Audiobook
Genre(s): Nonfiction, History
Review Genre: Nonfiction—History
Number of Pages: 248

Tiger Bravo's War by Rick St John

Click on cover image to purchase a copy

Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review
If you have never read a book about the Vietnam War, I recommend that you read this one. For that matter, if you’ve read fifty books about Vietnam, I still suggest that you read Tiger Bravo's War by Rick St John. Engagingly written, Tiger Bravo's War draws you into the maelstrom of war, one step at a time. It provides context and understanding of a divisive time in our nation’s history. It honors the men who lived and loved; laughed and cried; sacrificed and bled or died.

Civilians like me who have never experienced military life will be led through one company’s train-up to deployment, in-country training, year-long deployment, and homecoming without feeling disenfranchised by their lack of knowledge of military terms, acronyms, and special jargon. (Veterans will likely find enjoyment in the way that St John is able to define the experiences and vocabulary without condescending or over-explaining.) 

Tiger Bravo is nonfiction military history covering a year in the lives of the soldiers of B Company, 2/506 of the 101st Airborne Division. It recounts the life and death struggles, the battles, the strategies, the humor, the horror, the victories, the defeats, the gains, and the losses during the company’s 1968 combat tour in Vietnam. St John allows us to see and feel what is going on through his superb writing, meticulously researched details, and seamlessly transitioned first-hand accounts of soldiers who were there. The numerous maps of battle plans allow us to understand how it went down from a bird’s-eye view. And the photos help us to realize that these were real people, not statistics—fellow citizens who were part of the Tiger Bravo company that year. 

This is not an easy book to read. But it’s important. There were several times I had to put the book down, just to take some time off to absorb the difficulty and the horror of what our fighting men endured. And there were a couple times I just wanted it to end; the book seemed too long. However, I felt compelled to continue reading in honor of those who actually lived through the experience. If they could persevere and endure for a full year, I reasoned that I could continue reading for a few hours. No doubt they would have liked the luxury of time off to absorb the difficulty and horror. And no doubt they just wanted it to end. But they soldiered on. I could do no less.

MWSA Reviewer: Betsy Beard (March 2018)

Author's Synopsis

Tiger Bravo’s War is an extensively researched, nonfiction account of a company of young paratroopers (B Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 506th Infantry), from the very same battalion in the 101st Airborne Division as portrayed in Stephen Ambrose’s World War II best-seller Band of Brothers, during their first year of combat in the Vietnam War - - - from a bayonet charge in a legendary VC stronghold and street fighting during the Tet Offensive of 1968, to a rescue mission to save a surrounded platoon and rock and roll in the company mess hall, and much more. Thirty of its soldiers would be killed in action, and collectively it would amass 150 Purple Hearts. 

It is also a soldier’s tale of the young men of Tiger Bravo - - - the son of a World War II Japanese fighter pilot, who wins a Silver Star fighting as an American infantryman; the tough kid from rural Texas, who leaves a job cleaning astronaut offices in Houston to volunteer to be a paratrooper; the medic, abandoned by his mother, who would find in Tiger Bravo the family he never had, and over a dozen more with their own unique stories. 

“If anyone wants to feel the fast-paced tempo and dangers of combat, read Tiger Bravo’s War. The vivid descriptions of the soldier’s daily struggle for survival and love for each other . . . is a must read for anyone who wants to understand combat at its most fundamental level.” Lieutenant General David E Grange Jr (US Army, retired).

ISBN/ASIN: ISBN 13:9780998854205, ISBN 13:9780998854229 (ASIN:B075LZ3L83), ISBN 13:9780998854236
Book Format(s): Soft cover
Genre(s): Nonfiction, History, Memoir
Review Genre: Nonfiction—History
Number of Pages: 331
 

A Time For War; by Ronald Wheatley

MWSA Review
This is a collection of newspaper columns written for a local paper which captures the stories of veterans who have some connection to Scituate, Massachusetts.  The book is organized chronologically by conflict, dating back to the Revolutionary War through the recent war in Afghanistan.  Only World War I is missing. 

The author’s ancestor, who was born in 1765, represents that earliest war where he often served as a substitute for others.  Because this Wheatley lost his discharge papers, he had to wait until age 80 before he was finally granted a pension for his service.

The Civil War is represented by three letters from one of three brothers who was involved with the Siege of Petersburg, which lasted from June 9, 1864 until March 25, 1865.  All three letters were written in the summer of 1864.

The longest section is represented by World War II veterans.  The author recognized that veterans’ stories were being lost and were worth recording.  His stated goal is to “provide some insight into not only the veteran’s service but also the times when the veteran chose to serve.”  (page xii)
Reviewed by Nancy Kauffman, MWSA Reviewer

Author's Synopsis:
"This work, fashioned over 20 years, is a marvelous testament to the diversity of those who have participated in American conflicts and of their many and sundry expressions of patriotism...a valuable historical record of martial valor that’s well-researched, intelligently organized, and lovingly offered. An engaging journalistic account of American military and civilian service during wartime."
—Kirkus Reviews

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1-55571-814-5
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle
Genre(s): Nonfiction, History, Biography
Review Genre: Nonfiction—History
Number of Pages: 370