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A very good military read

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A very good military read

Old 27th Jun 2009, 19:52
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timex: You might also be interested in Night After Night, by Max Lambert.
Thanks Henry I'll look it up.
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Old 28th Jun 2009, 07:44
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Have just read "RAF Harrier Ground Attack, Falklands" by Jerry Pook. Fascinating but deeply depressing. Puts the "Brussel Sprouts" RN Captain into focus.

The professionalism that our armed forces display on operations, particularly at unit level, seems to evaporate higher up the chain. Rivalry, snobbery and suspicion seem to breed and degrade our decision making and our ability to analyse and solve problems; not only inter-service but beween cap badges and even between units with the same cap badge. I've seen it throughout my own varied career and from what my son lets slip, it's still there in todays RAF.
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Old 28th Jun 2009, 14:43
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Is that the one where he accuses the Navy of worrying too much about air defence, despite the fact all the ship losses were due to air attack (as were most of the deaths during Corporate, downplays non ground attack aspects of the war, and complains that not everyone is fully up to speed with ground attack operations...

If Woodward/the Sea Harrier force/the RN did so badly then how come they won?
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Old 28th Jun 2009, 15:06
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Yep, that's the one.
If Woodward/the Sea Harrier force/the RN did so badly then how come they won?
They din't. They nearly lost it, but the grunts actually won it once they had been put ashore, despite the less than outstanding air support. There was also a great deal of luck involved.
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Old 28th Jun 2009, 18:04
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So the victory had nothing to do with sailing 8000 miles, dealing with Argentine surface and submarine threats, facing a significant air threat, getting the troops ashore with their equipment (how many landing ships were hit at San Carlos? None, but the escorts and Sea Harriers fought an intense battle during that period), providing naval gunfire support and air support?

If 3 Cdo Bde is considered part of the RN, including the attached units such as 2 PARA and 3 PARA, then....

At least Sharkey Ward acknowledged that there were other important aspects to the operation, and doesn't dismiss the role of the rest of the task force. He even had the decency to acknowledge the contribution of the Harrier GR3 team.

Try Martin Middlebrook's The Falklands War, 1982 (previously published as Operation Corporate and Task Force) for an impartial account.

Last edited by WE Branch Fanatic; 28th Jun 2009 at 18:18.
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Old 28th Jun 2009, 19:34
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Also when considering the outcome of Operation Corporate, especially the air war, it should be remembered that had the RN been allowed to retain AEW capability the results would have been a lot better (for the British). The Sea King AEW was proposed to the MOD for the Invincible class in the late 70s but was vetoed by the crabs because they insisted their land based Nimrod AEW3s (remember them?) would provide all the AEW cover the RN (restricted to North Atlantic ops) could possibly require. RAF interference in the SHAR/Invincible class gestation during the 70s handicapped the RN greatly in 1982. The FAA was forced to accept Sea Harrier sqns with only five aircraft each prior to 82 (as this number was percieved as too small to be threatening to the crabs), though to their credit they had always planned to increase the size of the sqns in wartime, to between 8 and 12 aircraft each in order to maintain a round the clock CAP. Post 82 the sqns began to enlarge to 8 aircraft each, though form the mid 90s onwards they dropped back to 7 in order to make room for a crab sqn aboard ship (7 F/A2 + 7 GR7, alongside 3 SK AEW2 and 5 SK HAS 6).

But back to the point. Once you get above the level of flying officers (from any of the services, who get along fine generally and work well together), the problems begin with the Brass. The further from the 'frontline/coalface/trenches (add your own euphemism) the worse the inter service rivalry. I found Sharkey's book to be very fair and even handed in it's treatment of RAF pilots and crew, many of whom served in the same sqns as he did. His own Brass (eg ADM Woodward) came in for as much criticism as the RAF brass as I recall.
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Old 28th Jun 2009, 20:39
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No that 'Somme' is part of the series by Lyn Macdonald that I can thoroughly recommend. There are probably many books that are entitled Somme. Just googled and still cannot fond it.
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Old 29th Jun 2009, 06:52
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If there's anyone out there, (as it appears from previous posts there is), who had trouble getting into Catch 22, scroll through to about mid book to the chapter titled 'Nurse Duckett' and start reading from there. I guarantee it'll have you back to the start of the book to ensure you haven't missed something similar earlier in the book.

For those not familiar with the scene, Yossarian is in hospital, (pulling yet another dodgy subterfuge to get out of flying on ops), when Nurse Duckett in her toght while uniform dress leans over to attend to the patient in the bed beside Yossarian's.

Yossarain makes an abrupt and rather forceful upward movement of his fingers-extended hand. With the exception of the memorable phrase 'balancing on her divine fulcrum' I'll leave the rest of Nurse Duckett's reaction to Yossarian's assault to the imagination of the reader. However, it is quite possibly one of the funniest, laugh aloud word pictures I have ever read.

The book contains so many mind-twisting segments. For example:
- Heller's description of how Milo Mindebinder could buy eggs and 10 cents a dozen and sell tham at 5 cents a dozen and make a profit - and sort of make that understandable and believable to the reader.

- Milo's privatising of the war, to the point where Yossarian's USAAF B25 squadron gets airborne and bombs its own base because it's cheaper for the Germans to sub-contract the Americans to do it than to do it themselves. (Shades of Iraq 2003 and onwards!)

- Yossarian getting arrested for being AWL, 'a very serious offence', immediately after Natley throws his girlfriend to her death from his hotel room window - which the MP's totally ignore.

- and of course, 'Catch 22' itself, where the flight surgeon, (just after removing another flyer from ops because he's clearly demonstrated he's not mentally fit to fly on ops because he wants to), tells Yossarian he can't take him off ops because Yossarian has proven himslelf to be sane by not wanting to fly operational missions.

A great read.

Another good 'war-ie' which hasn't been mentioned yet is Tolstoy's 'War and Peace'. A door stopper that needs a lectern to be read comfortably, it none the less explores the war of 1812 and the wildly differing effects war has on different characters in some depth. I liked Prince Andre, who executed every Frenchman he came across, his intention being to make war so terrible the invader would think twice before doing anything like it again. How very different to the attitude of the majority on our side today, (but not perhaps, of Terry Taliban).
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Old 4th Jul 2009, 22:56
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"Lone Survivor" by Marcus Littrell.

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Old 7th Jul 2009, 12:47
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Have just finished Apache (Ed Macy) and Sniper One (Dan Mills).

Not too taxing, but good reads, and topical
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Old 7th Jul 2009, 13:22
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A Very Good Military Read

If Chickenhawk is the best book written about hellicopter flying in Vietnam then A Lonely Kind of War - Forward Air Controller by Marshall Harrison has to be by far the best book written about fixed wing flying .

I read Robert Prest Phatom Pilot when it came out in 1979 and often wonder why someone who writes with such passion has not written anything else (that I am aware of ) since.

Non fiction : I would go for Cadillac Flight by Marshall Harrison . Its a bit "Boys Own" but certainly held my attention.

The 633 Squadron books by Frederick E Smith might not be the best in terms of aviation writing but I have yet to read a book that brings the characters lives and emotion to life in the way that he does.

I bought Stanley Stewarts Flying the Big Jets on the reccomendation of someone on this forum . It is an excellent read full of absolute gems that had me highlighting one section after another.
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Old 7th Jul 2009, 14:32
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Think Like A Bird - Alex Kimbell

This book I found facinating. Not only did it have the action of flying on ops in the 1960's in Aden but it also clearly brought out the relationship between QFI/QHI and "stude".

Having had first-hand experience of being the latter 30 years ago I can vouch for its accuracy. I still think of Mr. Summers and his character could have been one of many QFIs I knew....

I do wonder though if "Mr. Summers" was his real name or if not, who the real person actually was. He deserves a book of his own.

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Old 7th Jul 2009, 16:03
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One I thoroughly enjoyed is the recent 'Fall out Roman Catholics and Jews' by Tony Haigh-Thomas, who these days is very high up in the Shuttleworth Collection organization. Post war flying in Vampires, Venoms, Hunters etc. Very readable, and nice not to read 'War Stories' for a change.
F4 Phantom by Robert Prest [superb, puts you in the cockpit]
Chickenhawk, of course.
First Light, by Geoff Wellum. sooooooo different and unputdownable.
Best Aviation novel, The Wild Blue. Can't remember the author, without going into my loft. Excellent knowledgable novel about post war military flying, with civilian business as well.
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Old 7th Jul 2009, 17:25
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Any cartoon collection by Bill Mauldin. IIRC some were called Up Front, Back Home and Back Up Front. I am sure there were more.

After an excellent landing etc...
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Old 7th Jul 2009, 21:03
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Cool Finally a decent book about UK Chinooks!

A little birdy told me there is a book coming out on 6 Aug, by Maj Mark Hammond DFC (A bootneck on exchange at Odiham) about his escapades flying Chinooks in Afghanistan, in late 2006. The book is called 'IMMEDIATE RESPONSE' published by Penguin.

Don't worry, apparently it is not just about Hammond, it is all about the UK Chinooks flying in theatre and focuses on the IRT and all the lives they have helped to save. I heard a rumour that it might even be funny in places!

A percentage of the proceeds is going to Help For Heroes, which is nice and as an ex Chinny mate, I have already pre-ordered it on Amazon.

If it is any good (which I hope it is) it will hopefully allow the great unwashed to experience what the lads got up to in 2006 and still get up to in spades in 2009.

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Old 28th Aug 2009, 06:14
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Have just finished reading Phoenix Squadron. Whilst a good military read, can I be the only person who wonders what all the fuss was about and why it merited a book?

OK, so the Bucc crews flew a long mission and they were operating in parameters that they weren't using on a day to day basis and it possibly stopped any hostilities breaking out. But we're talking about a 10 minute fly-by over Belize City ffs.

I suspect that the crews themselves wondered why they had suddenly come to attention nearly 40 years later about what was, to them, part of the day-to-day job.

Bit like eating a meringue - looks great and substantial but is just sugar and air and leaves you feel somewhat dissatisfied.
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Old 28th Aug 2009, 07:53
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I have just re-read 101 Nights by Australian Ray Ollis, a novel based on his experiences flying with 101 Squadron on special ops in Lancasters. Out of print, but SH copies available on Amazon. Written in the early fifties it still had the immediacy of recent memory, warts and all.

By the bye, Goodbye Mickey Mouse was written by Len Deighton.

I can still re-read Sagittarius Rising by CD Lewis & Winged Victory by VM Yeates and, as previously mentioned, Fate Is the Hunter by Ernest K Gann is the best book there is about the early days of civil aviation.
Nobody, I think, has mentioned The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman about the events that led up to WW1. Lyn McDonald is the master of WWI narrative history, mostly gleaned from interviews of old soldiers during the 60's & 70's.

JG Masters follow up to Bugles & a Tiger - already mentioned and unmissable as an education into fighting the Pushtuns in Waziristan - is The Road to Mandalay. This is his story about fighting with the Chindits in Burma. Also, sadly out of print but, again, available over the internet.
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Old 28th Aug 2009, 08:23
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"Wild Blue" was written by Walter Boyne and Steven Thompson 1986,published in paperback in the UK 1987 by Arrow Books. Good short novel stories on flying from Korea to Vietnam . Particularly enjoyed the B-47 and C-124 . Well worth getting hold of .
Parallel to "Chickenhawk" for fixed wing flying "The Ravens" by Christopher Robbins 1987 about Air America ops in Laos is a good unknown history.
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Old 28th Aug 2009, 08:49
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Wiley, I think Catch 22 was and is one of the best books of all time. Pure genius.
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Old 28th Aug 2009, 12:12
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Couldn't agree more. I was left feeling: "And? So effin what? Suddenly, nothing happened."

I think his publishers were rather surprised that his immaculate "Vulcan 607" hit the top ten and pressured him to do a follow up.
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