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A very good military read

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A very good military read

Old 20th Aug 2015, 05:24
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You're welcome doesn't seem to be the right response but I'm sure you know what I mean.
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Old 20th Aug 2015, 09:06
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"The Great Leader and the Fighter Pilot"

Great read, parallels the life of youngest Mig 15 pilot in the North Korean air force who defects and the rise of the original Dear Leader and how he started the disastrous war on the Korean peninsula.

Very interesting flying references to the Russian "honchos", a regiment of instructor pilots who fought the Americans whilst Korean and Chinese pilots were poorly trained and avoided combat. Also tells the story of aggressive American pilots crossing the Yalu and shooting down Migs in the landing patterns of Chinese airfields.

Brutal accounts of allied carpet bombing of North Korean cities and Kim Sungs own Stalinist brutality.

Available on Kindle.
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Old 20th Aug 2015, 12:45
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'D-Day Through German Eyes. The two books which make up the volume
Thank you very much for that, a quite different perspective on the events of 6th June 1944. However, what I found of most interest from a historical point of view was the final section of the 2nd volume. If it is correct, then the Germans had developed a Fuel Air Explosive (FAE) weapon decades before anyone else.

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Old 20th Aug 2015, 13:15
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Yellow Sun,

Uniquely in the book, that was the interview I found reflecting my understanding of German wartime 'weapons testing'
After proudly explaining the results of using one of the FAE devices, the interviewer asks in a surprised tone:
'So you have used one of these devices in action then?'
'No', we created a test environment' is the response.
'You mean - Russian prisoners?'
'Let's move on....', say the interviewee.
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Old 20th Aug 2015, 15:56
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Yes, it struck me quite forcefully:
Uniquely in the book, that was the interview I found reflecting my understanding of German wartime 'weapons testing'
After proudly explaining the results of using one of the FAE devices, the interviewer asks in a surprised tone:
'So you have used one of these devices in action then?'
'No', we created a test environment' is the response.
'You mean - Russian prisoners?'
'Let's move on....', say the interviewee.
That is why I was careful to preface my comment about it with:
If it is correct
Whilst it may not be possible to fully verify the interviewee's story, some research should be able to confirm that he existed and may have been in the areas referred to at the appropriate time. Without any form of corroboration it has to remain, for the time being at least, a "story"

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Old 21st Aug 2015, 20:54
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"The Aardwark Is Ready For War" by James Blinn. Anti-hero is a PO anti-submarine specialist on a carrier heading to the Gulf War. Fiction of the Catch 22 variety.
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Old 10th Nov 2016, 07:35
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"Pegasus the Heart of the Harrier"

Kindle edition can be bought for 99 pence, £.99 ! Unbelievable price.

Instant download for Kindle from Amazon. superb read.

( £25 paper edition)

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Old 10th Nov 2016, 09:57
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Malta’s Greater Siege & Adrian Warburton DSO* DFC** DFC (USA)

Review written by Tim Callaway, editor of Aviation Classics:

There are many books written about people and places at war. These are often chronologies, lists of events and names culled from official records which, while being accurate, lack the human element. The drives, ambitions, hopes and dreams of the players, the people whose actions affect the recorded events are lost, subsumed in a sea of detail. The what is fully revealed, the why is missing in action.

Then, occasionally, against these grey monoliths of fact appears a history with warmth and character that gleams like sunshine, casting a light of understanding on its players and bringing them to life. This, Paul McDonald’s second book, is such a volume, his fascination with and respect for the stories he has chosen to tell puts it firmly in that rare category of histories. Make no mistake, the detail is still here, Paul’s research can only be described as painstaking in every respect, but the facts are informed and coloured with the glorious frailties of humanity. In this case, that is a particularly difficult task, as he has chosen to tell not one story in this book, but five.

The first of these stories is that of Malta and its hardy people during the Second World War. In this story Paul sets a scene, describing the pre-war island, then follows how it changed through the siege. The detail of events is interspersed with snapshots of the Maltese people at war; moments of triumph, as the crowds on the harbour cheer the safe arrival of transport ships bringing vital supplies to the island are mixed with moments of horror and pain, as a young man digs through a bombed building for three days and nights without pause to find the body of his girlfriend.

Against this backdrop four more stories weave around each other to fill the tapestry. The first of these four is the story of the men and women of the Royal Air Force, Army and Royal Navy units who fought on the island. This is told in detail, from the theatre and local commanders to the pilots and groundcrew of the fighter, bomber, torpedo and reconnaissance squadrons that made Malta such a thorn in the side of the Axis powers. Many people are portrayed, all of whom are fleshed out with Paul’s talent for characterisation, the losses in the savage fighting are felt all the more keenly as a result.

Taking the lead in the narrative are the stories of three individuals. The legendary reconnaissance pilot Adrian Warburton, the dancer Mary Christina Ratcliffe and the talented and resourceful aircraft engineer Jack Vowles. Despite his fame, Adrian Warburton has, up until now, been something of a mystery, an ethereal figure that few have managed to clearly explain or understand. In tracing his story from his schooldays to his lonely death in 1944, Paul has brought a fresh understanding to this complex character, putting the reader in the cockpit with him through interviews with those who knew Warburton best. One of these was ‘young Jack’, Jack Vowles, an intuitive and inventive engineer who worked closely with Warburton, finding ways to improve the performance of his aircraft in between patching them up. He was able to work closely with Paul on the creation of the book, his colourful insights are scattered throughout it. Christina of Malta is herself one of the heroes of the siege, a woman who entertained the people on Malta as a part of dance and music acts as well as a working as a plotter in the air operations centre on the island. Her love affair with Warburton is sensitively handled, the stories of their time together revealing many human traits, including the pilot’s puckish sense of humour and the dancer’s resilient spirit. It is these insights that makes the history on these pages come alive. There is so much detail of interest, from the fact that Warburton attended St Edward’s school in Oxford at the same time as Guy Gibson to the fact he was a close friend of Elliot Roosevelt, the son of the US President and commander of the US reconnaissance units in the Mediterranean theatre, all of which serve to bring Warburton into sharp focus for the first time.

It is this focus that makes the last chapter of this remarkable book both compelling and believable, telling as it does the story of Warburton’s last flight from the point of view of the enigmatic pilot. A wealth of known detail is expanded by supposition, thoughts you can imagine crossing the pilot’s mind. The last line is utterly chilling.

Paul McDonald is uniquely qualified to write this book. Not only was he a Royal Air Force reconnaissance pilot, but he was also based on Malta during his career and got to know many of the people he brings to life in these carefully crafted pages. I was once told that good historians are accurate, great historians are storytellers. If so, then the author is most definitely one of the latter.
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Old 10th Nov 2016, 12:30
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I got as far as page 7 of this thread and had to stop. Amazon will be delivering 8 books during the course of this week.

I'll pick up on page 8 in a month or 2.

BTW - First Light and Chickenhawk. 2 of the best books I've read.

Great thread.
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Old 10th Nov 2016, 13:56
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For a good read about 21st century warfare, and in particular information age warfare, try this article from the Atlantic. War Goes Viral. I'm someone who has been soaking in bits and pieces about information age warfare for about 20 years, and have found Lind's various pieces on 4th Generation Warfare to be of interest and current applicability.

The article is well worth the read by anyone with an interest military affairs.

Know the battlefield, if you want to win the fight.
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Old 11th Nov 2016, 15:19
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Great thread, so many good books here. I too consider First Light to be one of the best aviation books to come out of WW2; Geoffrey Wellum strikes me as such a decent and humble man.
Matterhorn: I had sometimes to remind myself it was not non-fiction.
How about Hans and Roudolf by Thomas Harding. The banality of life as the Commander of Auschwitz; Or, The Narrow Road To The Deep North by Richard Flanagan, an amazing account of life a a prisoner of the Japanese, but much deeper than that.
A couple of worthwhile non-military books: Five Days At Memorial, Sheri Fink. An account of life, and death, at a New Orleans hospital during the flood that followed hurricane Katrina, and the following investigation. It raises moral and ethical questions about 'mercy killing', euthanasia and murder. Also a fascinating book by the brain surgeon Henry Marsh: Do No Harm.
Finally, a word about Winged Warrior, probably for another thread, but I was amazed at the mention of the number of Meteor losses, 145 in 1953.
I am filling my wish list with your suggestions, keep em coming.
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Old 11th Nov 2016, 15:38
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As I have mentioned on another thread, Apache Dawn by Damien Lewis is thoroughlly recommended.
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Old 11th Nov 2016, 15:42
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The Great War for Civilisation by Robert Fisk. Not strictly military, but filled in loads of gaps in my knowledge of how the Middle East changed, particularly post WW1 and subsequent developments throughout the ME inc military involvement there.
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Old 14th Nov 2016, 10:38
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Warlike Sketches by Arrol Macfarlane. He kept a diary of his Army Air OP experiences through the invasion of Italy, and then moved to North West Europe with the occupation forces in Germany. He wrote up his account from the diary after the war.

An incredible story of flying Auster aircraft right up in the front line, through the major battles in Italy. If you think of the Auster AOP as an inoffensive little aircraft, think again. Some of the battles actually depended on it for their success. He records 389 operational sorties, many of them under fire, and sometimes from before takeoff until after landing and occasionally all night too. He compares that with the 30 operations flown on a bomber squadron, most of the time not under fire at all.

Well written and full of atmosphere. £7.50 for a paperback, through Amazon. First published by Arrol's family only a few weeks ago.

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Old 14th Nov 2016, 11:49
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Don't forget "Chickenhawk" : A Huey driver's view of the Vietnam police action...

Oops, forgot about this:

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Old 14th Nov 2016, 17:19
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Knife Edge by Richard Villar, is very good, about his experiences as a badged SAS medical officer. Just started his new book 'Winged scalpel', really does expose the aid industry.

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Old 29th Nov 2016, 10:48
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Thanks to Schiller in a very early post - "Between Silk and Cyanide" is indeed an excellent read. It has an at times amusing style, but the historical stories of what went on in Bletchley, and how inefficient the early days were are a real eye opener.
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Old 30th Nov 2016, 13:50
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For anyone interested in the North African/ Mediterranean campaigns of WW2, 'To war with Whitaker' by Hermione, Countess of Ranfurly makes fascinating reading. Coupling that with Harold Macmillan's wartime diaries of his time as the British Minister for the area, provides a remarkable insight into the politics of the time. There is an unusual conjunction of the characters involved in these two, quite separate, accounts of the people and places.
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Old 30th Nov 2016, 21:28
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That Pegasus Heart of the Harrier book is a superb read.
Halfway through it now based on the recommendation here.
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Old 30th Nov 2016, 23:54
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"Defeat Into Victory" - Bill Slim's account of the Burma campaign. Seminal work on leadership, delivered with diplomacy, pragmatism and compassion. Importance of airpower, offensive and support in a time before helicopters repeatedly brought out.

" The Scramble for Africa", Thomas Pakenham. Not strictly a war book but plenty of war in it at every level, from the grand strategic, as European powers balanced their Treasury outlay with risk and reward; to the desperate survival against enemy and elements. It details the role of trade, alliances, host nation support and local resources. My favourite was the alliance of the British with the Gungo, a fierce tribe of cannibals who ate their way through the battlefield.

"On the Psychology of Military Incompetence", Norman F Dixon. Having blown himself up "due largely to my own incompetence", Dixon studied as a psychologist and treats us to historical vignettes, examined later through several models of our decision making processes. Goes a long way to explaining the "fog of war" and how easy it is to make a quick decision, rather than a good one. The section on pre-cognitive dissonance is interesting as it is often displayed by politicians. See Maggie at the onset of the Falklands and Gulf 1 conflicts.

"Quartered Safe out Here" George MacDonald Fraser - author of the Flashman books. His personal account of his active service against the Imperial Japanese Forces. Gritty stuff and superbly written.
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