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A very good military read

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A very good military read

Old 3rd Dec 2009, 17:14
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Something you may not have seen, as it was initially published in a limited paperback run but has deservedly just picked up a major publisher, is this book from Wellington pilot Bill Bailey who sadly passed away in 2007: Alone I Fly.
Excuse me for gatecrashing this forum - I am the son in law of the author. I thought you might like to know that the title referred to above is indeed now published by Pen & Sword and available from the likes of Amazon and should be able to be purchased from your local bookshop.

The ISBN is 978-1848841659 - Please ensure you dont get confused by reference anywhere to the paperback edition published as a Print on Demand by London press. This is no longer available though still seems to come up in the online bookshops. The book is now published in hardback with photographs and the retail price is 19.99 - though its being sold at a discount at the moment. It is indeed a cracking read from a very remarkable man.

Thank you.

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Old 4th Dec 2009, 20:04
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You all should beg, borrow, or steal a copy of this new book.

Under a Bombers Moon
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Old 4th Dec 2009, 20:27
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A Good Read

I concur with some earlier posts re First Light by Geoffrey Wellum - one of the best, if not THE best account of The Battle of Britain I have read.

Closer to the ground, Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose is outstanding in every way. He delves into the personality of all the major players and it is replicated in an awsome manner in the BBC series. A classic. I defy anybody not to shed a tear in the final programme, particularly when Dick Winters relays the 'Grandpa, were you a hero in the war.....................?' story.

Dick Winters is thought of like a god by his men.
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Old 4th Dec 2009, 20:43
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Thanks, Samuel, I'll look that up.

A few pages ago Oberon mentioned the eye-wateringly excellent Pte McAuslan books by George MacDonald Fraser. Even better - especially if you wish to read about war from the perspective of an intelligent, articulate Private soldier, is MacDonald Fraser's "Quartered Safe Out Here" (the title is itself a quote from a previous-generation's spokesman for real people in the military - Rudyard Kipling). One bit I remember is his comparison between the soldiers of his time and the post-war army; as he put it: "[we weren't] professional soldiers, but we were expert soldiers". If you read it, I think you'll agree.
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Old 6th Dec 2009, 03:19
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Stephen Ambrose? That would be the late Stephen Ambrose, and while I'm inclined to agree with Band of Brothers, both the book and the TV series, I have found all of his 'research' to be a bit one-sided and very narrowly focused on how America, and Easy Company in particular, won the war, virtually alone. It is very entertaining, and clearly factual from a US viewpoint, but largely ignores the fact that they weren't alone!

His book on D-Day is some 36 chapters, from memory; only the last three or four of which mention any British involvement, and that centres on their bit part role and "inability to get around Caan". The new book on D-Day by Antony Beevor is far better researched, and therefore more historically accurate than anything Ambrose ever wrote!
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Old 6th Dec 2009, 11:31
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Stranger to the Ground

by Richard Bach of Jonathon Livingston Seagull fame.

A(n) (autobiographical) "novel" about a USAF Reserve Pilot recalled to active duty, flying an F-84F from England to France through a thunderstorm.

Bach uses flash back to take us into the experience and psyche of a cold war jet pilot, during the eventful flight.

Crafted by a master aviator and writer.


Phantom over Vietnam, by John Trotti.

Trotti tells the story of a Marine Phantom Pilot flying ground attack missions in Vietnam with a great deal of technical realism.
Trotti writesan almost technical manual on how to fly and fight the F4, but in an entertaining and easy to understand manner.
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Old 6th Dec 2009, 13:41
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Afraid I gave up with Stephen Ambrose after the plagiarism row
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Old 7th Dec 2009, 07:06
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Try Mark Berent - his books include Rolling Thunder, Steel Tiger, Eagle Station, to name a few. Berent was a Vietnam war fighter-jock and writes gripping flying sequences, woven together with history and politics in a fascinating way.
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Old 7th Dec 2009, 08:51
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Nothing beats the series of books about Biggles.
Glad someone's metioned Biggles! Timeless classics.

I also back Chickenhawk and Catch 22, well worth a read.

Have Appache - Ed Macy on my xmas wish ist and it seems now I'll need to add a few more. Cheers guys
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Old 7th Dec 2009, 16:00
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Some excellent reads.....

I recently read 'Low Level Hell' about OH-6A 'Little Bird' Scout pilots in Vietnam. The author (Hugh Mills) was the recipient of 3 Silver Stars, 4 DFCs, 3 Bronze Stars, 3 Purple Hearts and 72 Air Medals - he was also shot down 16 times! Kind of puts things in perspective for me every time I get shot at in AFG. Amazing read.

I also read 'The Junior Officers Reading Club' by Patrick Hennessey, an educated but still 'right in the action' read.

Finally, 'Immediate Response' by Mark Hammond - the only book about the RAF Chinook Force in AFG (Ironic that it was written by a Royal Marine - love him or hate him!) and another excellent read that put me firmly back in the cockpit in theatre.

Buy em all and have a well read Crimbo!

Is anyone else wondering where the h*ll this year went?
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Old 8th Dec 2009, 12:00
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Books I can just pick up and read a few pages of again and again any time:
"Gallipolli" and "The Great War", both by Les Carlyon. I could not put either down the first time I read them. Even now I cannot fathom how men endured what they did.
"Kokoda" by Peter Fitzsimons. Like Gallipolli, it has almost mythical status here in Australia, but until I read this I had no idea how tough (what an understatement) it really was. Heroes all.
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Old 8th Dec 2009, 13:32
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I'm currently reading Junior Officers Reading Club, but I haven't go to the bit where the author is (allegedly) rude about the Light Blue. So far (200 pages) it's a fascinating account of a young Guards officer from RMAS to Afg via Iraq.
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Old 8th Dec 2009, 16:58
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'War in a Stringbag' by Charles Lamb, is a gripping read. From having his ship sunk under him, through the raid on Taranto, finding in flight a stowaway in his Swordfish, and getting shot down & taken prisoner by the Vichy French in North Africa, I thoroughly recommend it.

'Diving Eagle' by PW Stahl, is an autobiographical account of the war from a Ju88 pilot flying from Northern France. His description of being ordered to fly missions in which they never saw the ground, let alone Coventry, their target, shows that mad orders were given on both sides. Its still available on Amazon.

Mustang Pilot' by Richard E Turner, who flew escort missions over Germany was an unputdownable read too, although it is a while ago since I read it.

For a non-aviation read, 'A Fortunate Life' by Albert Facey, gives a good description of Gallipoli from the view of a soldier who fought and was seriously injured there, and lost two brothers in the same battle. If you ever think you have had a hard life, read this and it will put things into perspective!

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Old 8th Dec 2009, 17:56
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'With Naval Wings' by John Wellham - a great insight into waging war in a Swordfish, written by a fascinating man whom I had the honour to host at a Taranto Night dinner many moons ago
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Old 8th Dec 2009, 18:36
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Not entirely sure about the 'Junior Officers' Reading Club'. I was looking forward to getting a copy, and skimmed a friend's copy before I picked my own up. From the bits I saw, I have to admit that it is very well written, and the author really does manage to get across many of the issues associated with being in the today's 21st century military. But it does seem to become a bit of an anti-RAF rant towards the end, and that really put me off pursuing it any further, the author losing a lot of credibility that he had built up in the first half of the book.

If you're looking for a couple of useful rather than enjoyable reads pre-OOA, then the following might be worth a look:

'Afghanistan The Bear Trap' - written by Brigadier Mohammad Yousaf who worked in the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate - effectively becoming C-in-C Mujahadeen. What's more it is actually very readable unlike many doctrine / theoretical texts.

'The Bear Went Over the Mountain' is a collection of 'vignettes' originally written by Soviet officers who had fought in Afghanistan. It looks at Mujahideen TTPs and gives the reader an idea of good and bad ways of trying to fight COIN ops in a mountainous / desert landscape.

Both of these were written by practitioners who had been involved in combat ops over many years; as many of today's 'fighters' are direct descendents of the Mujahideen - often using similar if not idential TTPs - both books could be worth a read.

For a slightly more academic perspective on the Taliban, 'Decoding the Taliban' is quite an informative read, and has individual chapters on many of the individual provinces, meaning if you can't face reading the whole book, you should still be able to take some relevant ideas away from individual chapters.
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Old 8th Dec 2009, 19:29
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Traffic_Is_Er_Was: You might enjoy "A Bastard Of A Place" by Peter Brune.

IMO it is a better book than Kokoda because it covers the most of the Papua New Guinea campaign, and exposes the way in which very senior officers tried to protect their positions.
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Old 8th Dec 2009, 21:20
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I would agree with henry crun - 'A Bastard of a Place' is a far superior book to Peter Fitzsimon's 'Kokoda'.

Another book about the Kokoda campaign by the same author (Peter Brune) that I'd highly recommend is 'We Band of Brothers, the biography of Ralph Honner'.

Honner was the Australian commander at the Battle of Isurava, the single battle which, although the Australian militamen lost, in that they retreated from the field after the battle, probably did more the blunt the Japanese advance along the Kokoda Track than any other.

Damian Parer's iconic photograph of Honner addressing his troops immediately after the battle would probably be familiar to most Australians, and the speech he gave to them was more or less a 20th century St Crispian Day's Speech from 'Henry the Fifth'.

Both books deal with the fighting around Buna and Gona immediately after the Kokoda battles, involving (and killing off the majority of) the same Australian troops who fought on the Kokoda Track. The fighting at Buna and Gona was probably among the most savage one-on-one fighting that went on in WW2, right up there with Stalingrad. (Read about those battles and see if you'd agree with Max Hastings' assessment that the Australians bludged their way through WW2.)

You might not enjoy reading about those battles if you're an American. Neither MacArthur nor the American troops who were involved come out of it looking very good, and neither do most of the Australian senior officers, who, trying to please MacArthur (who repeatedly announced victory in the New Guinea campaign prematurely) tried to dictate the terms of the battle with little or no idea of the appalling conditions the troops were fighting in.

The battalion officers on site eventually won the day by ignoring the attack plans issued from afar and using the novel ploy of walking their troops into their own artillery barrage so as to have their men inside the Japanese trenches before the defenders emerged from their bunkers after the arty barrage stopped.
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Old 8th Dec 2009, 21:41
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Just looking at my collection and i have the urge to re-read 'Sagittarius rising' by Cecil Lewis. Flying with the RFC over the Somme when he was barely 18, before joining Albert Ball in 56 Sqn. Humbling stuff.
Another of my favourites would be fighter pilot by Paul Richey - his writing of the 'Beautiful women of Metz' caused me to overnight there when working in Europe. I ended up in a bar full of gay men - artists, who gathered regularly to show their works and enjoy each others company. A time I wouldn't have experienced without Richeys narrative.
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Old 9th Dec 2009, 02:54
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Thanks guys. Will look for them both.
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Old 9th Dec 2009, 06:09
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Loud and Clear: The Memoir of an Israeli Fighter Pilot
Author(s): Spector, Iftach
Edition: 1st
ISBN10: 076033630X

Amazing read from a retired Israeli general with a dozen kills and who lead the attack on the USS Liberty as well as being the only pilot whose bombs missed the reactor at Osirak. He was also a major figure in the pilot's revolt against the use of airpower in the occupied territories.

Some people may struggle with the style of writing but the amount of historical information will make a great read for anyone interested in that period of history. It is certainly a myth buster on the organizational capabilities of the IAF- the author's aborted strike deep into Syria lead to a chance strike on armored columns in the Golan which possibly changed the course of the Yom Kippur war. Frontal assaults on SAM 6 batteries etc...
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