History

Home Was Never Like This - The Yardley Diaries by Col. Doyle R. Yardley; Charles A. Turnbo, Editor; Jan Fallon, Book Designer

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Author's Synopsis

"Home Was Never Like This" was written by Colonel Doyle R. Yardley, commander of the 509 Parachute Infantry Battalion - the first American parachute battalion to attack an enemy, making the longest airborne flight from Land's End England to the Invasion of French North Africa. Col. Yardley was captured during the Invasion of Italy and spent 16 months as a prisoner of war in Oflag 64 in Szubin, Poland.Col. Yardley kept penciled entries of his experiences in England and as a POW, describing in details the events and the soldiers who were part of the war effort. He wrote "Home Was Never Like This" with the intention of publishing his memoirs after the war. Yardley escaped, leaving his journals buried behind in Oflag 64. They were miraculously returned to him after the war.Unfortunately, shortly after his return to civilian life, Col. Yardley died. His diaries were kept in a forgotten footlocker until his nephew, Charles Turnbo, discovered them on the family farm. Charles dedicated his efforts to publishing "Home Was Never Like This" in memory of his uncle, all the soldiers of the 509, and those who served our country during WWII."Home Was Never Like This" is a heart-wrenching and often humorous look into his life and the lives of the hundreds of others involved in or effected by the war.

Genre(s): History
Format(s): Soft cover
ISBN/ASIN: ISBN-10: 0989278247, ISBN-13: 978-0989278249

The Amphibians Are Coming! Emergence of the 'Gator Navy and its Revolutionary Landing Craft by William L. McGee

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Author's Synopsis

A biographical history of the revolutionary World War II landing craft and the unsung heroes who manned them.

  • Provides a brief history of amphibious warfare, from the Revolutionary War to the 1942 Guadalcanal and North Africa campaigns.

  • Puts the reader aboard the revolutionary landing craft designed and built to speed assault troops directly to the beach.

  • Profiles the famed "Green Dragons," the high-speed destroyer transports that filled a pressing Marine Corps need for ship-to-shore delivery prior to the availability of the new landing craft.

  • Focuses on the "Earlybird" Flotilla Five LCTs, LSTs and LCIs and their crews, from landing craft design and construction, to amphibious training and crew and flotilla formations, and to on-the-job warfare training in the Southern Solomons -- all in preparation for their first invasion of enemy-held territory, Operation TOENAILS.

FROM THE FOREWORD
"McGee combines exhaustive research with the words of the men who took the theory of the amphibious doctrine and the new machines to sea. His dedicated work will surely help keep the day-to-day naval record of the 'Greatest Generation' from being lost."
- John Lorelli,  author "To Foreign Shores, U.S. Amphibious Operations in WWII"
 
110 b/w photos, 13 maps, plus charts, appendices, notes, bibliography, and index.

OTHER TITLES IN THE SERIES:

Vol. II, THE SOLOMONS CAMPAIGNS, 1942-1943: From Guadalcanal to Bougainville, Pacific War Turning Point. Winner of the Military Writers Society of America 2018 Silver Medal Award for History.

Vol. III, PACIFIC EXPRESS: The Critical Role of Military Logistics in World War II

Pacific Express: The Critical Role of Military Logistics in World War II by William L. McGee

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Author's Synopsis

PACIFIC EXPRESS is on the Marine Corps Commandant's Professional Annual Reading List for Logistics.
 
Under one cover, an edited collection of the best works by military historians on the importance of military logistics in WW II. 
 
Consider this: In World War II, 16.1 million men and women served in the U.S. Armed Forces. For every individual who served in combat, there were ten supportive personnel, both overseas and on the home front. Victory may be won or lost in battle, but all military history shows that adequate logistics support is essential to the winning of the battles. 


The editors profile the major components that made up the "Pacific express" in WWII including:

U.S. Navy Seabees and U.S.Marine Corps Engineers who built the Advance Bases.

U.S. Navy crews who manned the amphibious force and Fleet s floating mobile Service Squadrons throughout the vast reaches of the Pacific.

U.S. Merchant Marine and U.S.Naval Armed Guard who manned and defended the thousands of WSA cargo ships,transports, and tankers to "deliver the goods."

U.S. Coast Guardsmen who manned hundreds of U.S. Army and Navy long-haul vessels and thousands of battle-loaded amphibious landing ships and craft.

111 b&w photos, 7 maps, 21 figures, tables & charts, plus appendix, notes, bibliography, and index.

FROM THE FOREWORD:
"As the grandson of three World War II veterans, read this book and you will understand what it took to win this war and why the men and women who made it happen are called the Greatest Generation."
- Dennis R. Blocker II, Pacific War Historian, USS LCI (Landing Craft, Infantry) National Association

OTHER TITLES IN THE 3-VOLUME SERIES:
Vol. I, THE AMPHIBIANS ARE COMING! Emergence of the 'Gator Navy and its Revolutionary Landing Craft

Vol. II, THE SOLOMONS CAMPAIGNS, 1942-1943: From Guadalcanal to Bougainville, Pacific War Turning Point. Winner of the 2018 Military Writers Society of America Silver Medal Award for History 

Hitler's Last Christmas: The Day the Entire Mighty Eighth Air Force Entered the Battle of the Bulge by Donald Kilburg Jr

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MWSA Review

Many Americans know the basic story of the Battle of the Bulge, including the fact that bad weather grounded most Allied aircraft during its first few days. However, even fairly well-informed researchers might not be aware of the extent that the mighty 8th Air Force returned to the air on Christmas Eve of 1944. Hitler’s Last Christmas by author Donald Kilburg Jr. shines a needed light into this massive display of Allied air power, which definitely helped turn back the last-ditch Nazi offensive that had started on December 16, 1944.

Kilburg’s well-researched book puts the reader in the middle of the action—drilling all the way down to bomb group (and even squadron-level) to provide a granular level of detail of the mission that day. The book includes an extensive bibliography to help the serious researcher, although lack of footnotes makes it hard to tell the specific source of information.

Despite a few rough spots, this book provides a great deal of detail, and will appeal to a wide range of readers interested in this important but largely overlooked part of World War II history.

Review by John Cathcart (August 2019)


Author's Synopsis

Hitler's Last Christmas is the documentary story of the largest aerial bombing mission in history. On Christmas Eve 1944 the 8th Air Force launched a maximum effort mission to eliminate tactical targets that were supporting Hitler's surprise Ardennes Offensive. 2046 heavy bombers and 853 fighters, every flyable aircraft available to the 8th Air Force in England were dispatched to accomplish the objectives of the 8th's Mission 760. This book details the events of the day from formation to return through the stories of the participants and the official records of the day.

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1-9772-0639-8
Book Format(s): Soft cover
Review Genre: Nonfiction—History
Number of Pages: 309 

Edison 64 by Richard Sand

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MWSA Review

There are some history facts that just cry out for someone to personalize and share with the world. This book is one of those chronicles history that begs to be told. Edison High School in Philadelphia—which is now no longer standing and was replaced with a shopping mall—was home to the most former students killed in Vietnam of any school in the entire USA. There were sixty-four young men killed who had attended Edison, and they later became known as the Edison 64. A plaque and a flag now mark the old location of their high school. This book takes memories and stories of people who knew them and who went to school with them. Some family members, some high school friends—but all have been damaged emotionally in some way. In fact, the whole community of Philadelphia has suffered in some form. This book allows the rest of the nation to know these young men. The author shares photos of them along with the emotional remembrances of fellow alumni who also went to Nam and survived the war. The book is a written tribute and memorial to the sixty-four and to the community where the young men grew up and went to school: a moving reading experience. You cannot but feel some pain for all of us as a nation. Those at Edison High School gave more than their fair share. We can all be proud and grateful that such young men lived. This is author Richard Sand's best book to date.

Review by Bill McDonald (June 2019)


Author's Synopsis

Edison 64—A Tragedy in Vietnam and at Home tells the moving, but little known story of 64 students from Edison High School in North Philadelphia who were killed in the Vietnam War. That is the largest number from any school in the Country.

Forewords are by Former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, who calls it "an extraordinary contribution" and Former Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court, who describes it as "remarkable.” Both are decorated Vietnam Combat veterans. The book contains history, interviews, and poignant photographs.

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1-948460-00-2
Book Format(s): Soft cover
Review Genre: Nonfiction—History
Number of Pages: 246

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

The History of Human Space Flight by author/historian Ted Spitzmiller sets the gold standard for history books about space flight. This book gives the reader a true education in its 600+ pages of great storytelling. It might be "history" but the author makes the book feel like you are getting a personal tour of the space program from all the experts. Not only does he give us a great inside look at our own space program (NASA) but also some inside information on what the USSR was doing and what Germany contributed to both space programs. Insightful and informative. 

I found the book to be more than I had expected or hoped it might be. It left me satisfied that I had gotten a full picture of what transpired: the early efforts to get rockets into space, the first daring men to ride rocket ships into space, and the moon landings. This is truly an adventure story witnessed by the world, but until now it was not documented so we could all fully appreciate and understand. This book has filled that gap of knowledge with abundant information and data and stories about real people who had courage.

This book is on my personal bookshelf and I will have my grandchildren read it. I salute the author's efforts. Well done!

Review by Bill McDonald (May 2019)


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

Ramadi is the capital of Al Anbar province in Iraq. In 2006 it was the location for some of the bitterest fighting in Operation Iraqi Freedom as insurgents and Coalition Forces fought for control of the strategically important city. Into the middle of this cauldron of devastating urban warfare was thrust Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines led by then-Captain Scott A. Huesing.

Though well trained and leavened with a cadre of Iraq war veterans, the Echo Company Marines were still shocked by the ferocity of violence that greeted them during the height of the insurgency, something that never let up during the unit’s deployment.

Echo in Ramadi joins other books on the subject as an excellent account of the Battle of Ramadi. What sets it apart, and gives it a particularly gripping veracity, is that it’s a story of the unit told from the point of view of its commander. Huesing spares no detail, nor himself, in the telling of Echo Company’s effort to wrest neighborhoods from insurgent control. The result is a war with no quarter asked or given—one where, as he graphically details, rules of engagement are callously manipulated by the insurgents and turned into weapons against Coalition Forces.

Huesing’s narrative covers the gamut of Echo Company’s experience, from the bonding that began with training to the fellowship that grew stronger when the Marines went into battle. Huesing reveals the complexity of company command, from basic leadership to the stress of chaos of urban combat. The many interlocking layers of command responsibility are vividly recounted, no more so than when Huesing makes a satellite phone call from his command post to comfort the mother of a Marine under his command who had been wounded.

Huesing pulls no punches in revealing the physical and emotional cost of their deployment. The tally of the butcher’s bill paid by Echo Company did not end when they left Iraq, but continued after they returned to the States and later, after discharge. Along with the physical wounds were the psychological scars of post-traumatic stress that contributed to the suicides of some men from the company and to Huesing’s own brush with death in a single-vehicle automobile crash.

Echo in Ramadi is one of most powerful accounts of the Iraq war. Its page-turning narrative reveals the stark, gut-wrenching triumph and tragedy that is the human cost of war.

Review by Dwight Jon Zimmerman (May 2019)


 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

A snapshot and insights of modern-day “warriors”

Author Steven London takes readers into the hearts and minds of modern-day warriors of the Army’s 4th Infantry. He captures the history of the unit’s time in Afghanistan through the personal experiences of those who served—not just officers, but an over-all good cross-section of soldiers that served there during these current times of war.

There is an intensity and honesty in the simple telling of what these young warriors did while there. Some of it highlights events of their tour of duty in a diary form, while other stories are shared in a more reflective narrative including some of the emotional hardships endured after they returned home to divorces, PTSD, and TBI issues, among other things.

This book makes a good snapshot of what life was like for these troops and also shares an important piece of military history told from those with their boots on the ground. It makes for an interesting read for both military people and for those who never wore the uniform but who may wish to understand a little deeper what happened to these warriors once upon a time.

London doesn’t try to sell everyone as heroes but shows them as very much human, and that makes this a very honest look at how war feels and looks like to those who have served in combat zones.

Review by Bill McDonald (June 2019)

MWSA's evaluation of this book found a number of technical problems--including some combination of misspellings, grammar, punctuation, or capitalization errors--which indicate that further editing would lead to a much-improved final product.


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

War Animals: The Unsung Heroes of World War II tells the story of American and Allied dogs, horses, mules, birds, and a cat that assisted the war effort as part of the Greatest Generation. Bestselling author Robin Hutton brings these stories to readers in an entertaining manner while interspersing historical facts important and necessary in this kind of work. This is not just another animal book; it’s a book of war hero animals’ contributions to winning World War II.

Hutton captures the animal personalities, and particularly in the cases of the dogs, shows the tremendous power of the human and animal bond. She educates readers on how countries initiated the animal recruitment and training programs, and includes quotes and research from animal organizations and war departments demonstrating a truly combined effort to use every available asset to achieve the impossible goals.

The author recognizes the sacrifices ordinary citizens made in giving up their beloved pets for duty and follows the pets through their time in service. She does a phenomenal job in painstakingly documenting the recognition these heroes earned and includes photographs of many receiving their respected Dickins Medals. The collection of photographs complimented the work tremendously and leaves a lasting impression on readers.

Extremely well-researched and documented, War Animals is an important and one-of-a-kind compilation of World War II history. The fact that it is also written like a series of movie scenes makes this work that much more enjoyable. The reader gets to know the animals, their owners, their handlers, and their fans, and their many varied exploits. The author does not gloss over the realities of war but manages to bring light and much-deserved recognition to heroic war animals and those who cared for them.

Review by Valerie Ormond (April 2019)


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

The monumental 607-page book symbolizes the monumental work that author Loretta Hall must have done in order to write this book. By her own admission in a note to the reader, she has had more of a developmental editor role than author, although that does not undermine by any means the importance and magnitude of what she has had to do in order to bring Space Pioneers: In Their Own Words to the public. Quite the opposite, in fact.

The stories, which follow a chronological order, are told by the space pioneers themselves, as the title promises. The author, however, introduces most of the stories, which are told in a way that can interest an average reader who would otherwise be lost with too much technical jargon. Although the chapters are topic- and subject-based, I found that each chapter can potentially stand on its own, meaning one can easily hop from chapter 3 to chapter 9 without feeling as though one has missed much. Given the 90 personal accounts contained in this book, I would imagine readers could find it easy to focus on accounts that interest them more than others. I have, for example, experienced this myself when reading a few stories to my son, who is seven years old, and loves to learn about outer space. As a result of these stories, there is now one more boy who daydreams of, one day, becoming part of a book titled Space Pioneers.

Review by Brunella Costagliola (May 2019)


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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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

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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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

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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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

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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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

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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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

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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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

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