Sunday, April 29, 2007

Monte Cassino: The Hardest Fought Battle of World War II by Matthew Parker

Monte Cassino: The Hardest Fought Battle of World War II by Matthew Parker is a serviceable history of the 4 allied attempts to cease this key feature of the German fortifications in Italy. The book not only deals with Americans, British and Germans but the Italian locals Polish and New Zealand as well. The author has used various sources including interviews with survivors from all sides.

The one real irritation I have is that the pacing of the book seems to be off. We get to the final German surrender within five pages later we're talking about veterans having problems integrating in society. It's like he ran into a maximum word count ceiling. It's a little frustrating much is made of the attempts to bridge the river and get armor across but the way the text is written it seems like victory was assured at that point which undercuts his main thesis. That the battle was closer to World War I then World War II.

Yes I consider there to be some hyperbole in the subtitle. That's probably an issue with the PR department and not the author.

A useful history recommended for its handling of Polish and New Zealand accounts of the battle.

Is available through Abebooks.

For more WWII book reviews take a look at My World War II bookshelf.

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Battle That Stopped Rome: Emperor Augustus, Arminius, and the Slaughter of the Legions in the Teutoburg Forest by Peter S. Wells

The Battle That Stopped Rome: Emperor Augustus, Arminius, and the Slaughter of the Legions in the Teutoburg Forest by Peter S. Wells describes the destruction of three Roman legions by Germanic tribes in 9 AD. The book weaves together the literary sources such as they are with archaeology and even a little bit of forensics to construct the battle in the Teutoburg forest. I liked how the book dealt with the various pieces of evidence.

One minor criticism I'm sure some will have is that a couple of short fictional vignettes in the text. These are pretty short and can be easily ignored without taking away from the rest of the book.

A recommended look at a famous Roman military disaster that helped shape the eventual extent of the Empire in northwest Europe.

Is available through Abebooks.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Chief of Defence Staff Military Families Fund: Money for tanks but apparently not for personnel

For some context hears the original press release and some commentary from bloggers here and here.

So we have enough money for tanks in the budget. Which I think we need but apparently not for personnel. Instead they have to set up a charity to deal with some of the things that the government should be doing and quite frankly as a taxpayer I'd be happy to pay for.

How we treat the families [remember the stories about substandard housing? ] of those that we send into harm's way says quite a bit about us. It strikes me we are being found wanting at least are elected representatives are.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Support Canadian Forces bloggroll

No matter where people stand on the issue on the mission in Afghanistan I believe or anyway hope that most support our troops. This and my feeling that there hasn't been much blog activity on this has led me to create this bloggroll.

The rules for inclusion are pretty easy. You must be willing to add the code to your blog's sidebar and do a posting on why you support the troops. Your page doesn't have to specifically talk about the mission in Afghanistan or Canadian politics. This isn't just for the military and political junkies. After you do so drop me a comment with your post URL. I’ll take a look I'll add you. Here's the code to add just cut and paste what's inside the box.

Naturally I reserve the right not to add web sites with pornographic content or hate speech.

Disclaimer: this is completely unofficial and has no relationship with either the Canadian Forces or the government of Canada.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Bounty:the true story of the mutiny on the Bounty by Caroline Alexander

The Bounty:the true story of the mutiny on the Bounty by Caroline Alexander is a superbly researched history of the mutiny that took place on HMS Bounty in 1789. The book lays out a description of the actual seizing of the ship and much more. Of particular interest is the way that the careers of many of the crew are described both before and after the fateful voyage. Lots of archival research has been done in parish records and archives in the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States.

The question of why Fletcher Christian seized the ship is somewhat avoided. Alexander rightly points out that the evidence just isn't there are just theories. The relationship between captain William Bligh and Fletcher Christian is laid out. It was a lot more substantial than I knew before reading this book. Bligh receives a pretty sympathetic treatment.

The way that the story of the mutiny has changed over time is also dealt with. The campaign on the part of the Christian family is an interesting one. The breadfruit’s impact on slavery as well as the abolitionists anger about the issue is something I hadn't considered before.

Instead of traditional endnotes there is a 40 page commentary which provides citations as well as explanations of the sources and editorial comments.

A superb history highly recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

New tanks good idea

It feels good to be right. Now if they had only decided to do this a few months back the equipment could actually be in the field now. Canadian Forces to refresh aging fleet of tanks.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

"Make mail free for Canadian Forces overseas " Paul Zed

A superb idea from Saint John Liberal MP Paul Zed. Let's see Stephen "I love the troops" Harper shoot this down. Remember it is what you do not what you say. And yes before anyone points it out currently postage is the same price as domestic mail.

15 months

Just watch Defense Secretary Robert Gates's news conference on CNN. The armshare strategist in me says that unit familiarity with the local situation can only be good but man this is going to play havoc with recruitment and retention. It also makes me wonder about unit effectiveness. Something there hasn't been much research done for counterinsurgency. Most have been done on fixed deployments. Algeria had a combination of both but there were political variables that makes the analysis pretty difficult. It has not been easy to get numbers for recruitment and retention recently wonder why.

Afghanistan casualtys

This Toronto star article is interesting reading. Basically we have more casualties than other NATO countries. Problem is in the analysis this means maybe we should get out. Where the more obvious conclusion is that we need to get better protection. The peace tried to dismiss this by saying when we get better equipment the insurgents will be better to. This is true partially but other NATO countries apparently have this equipment now and it's saving their people.

Update: it's nice to be right.

Belinda Stronach I am shocked just shocked

Now she's gone. Somehow I'm not particularly surprised. I'm sure the press corps will be missing her. Considering Magna's Chrysler takeover bid this makes sense. Even though I don't think they really have much of a chance. So which woman is going to be the new brunt of Spector and Mckay's name calling?

Sunday, April 08, 2007 a web site to watch looks like it should be a very interesting resource for insurgency material. It was started up by a disabled war veteran. So far there is mostly links to the usual suspects but the site says they will be adding new stuff as they go along. What they do have now is an excellent list of documents. However no pictures or videos yet. Its all in one place which is good.

This will be a web site to watch in the future. I'll be very interested to see just what they come up with.

The Pacific Campaign: World War II, the U.S.-Japanese naval war, 1941-1945 by Dan Van Der Vat

The Pacific Campaign: World War II, the U.S.-Japanese naval war, 1941-1945 by Dan Van Der Vat is an excellent history of this theater of operations in World War II. The book is quite long weighing in at nearly 180,000 words but often reads like a summary due to the amount of information crammed in. It is still quite readable.

Der Vat is quite opinionated when discussing the various operations. He doesn't think much of Douglas MacArthur for instance.

There is a quite long introduction that gives a superb summary of Imperial Japanese history prior to the war. This helps explain the often bizarre decisions that to place throughout the conflict. The war with China is covered in possibly the clearest way I've come across before. All of this in about 50 pages.

Unfortunately the conclusion is about two pages long. I wonder if he had a maximum length clause in his contract and was very close to it. This being sent an excellent book.

Highly recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.

For more WWII book reviews take a look at My World War II bookshelf.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

The Blood Road:the Ho Chi Minh Trail and the Vietnam War by John Prados

The Blood Road:the Ho Chi Minh Trail and the Vietnam War by John Prados is a history of the logistics system that extended from North Vietnam through Laos and Cambodia and into the South. The book is much more than a discussion of the construction and attempts at interdiction of the trail. Prados manages to relate the trail to the wider Vietnam conflict and even the antiwar movement back in the United States. This is history and its best. Along the way many famous members of the American military establishment are mentioned including Norman Schwarzkopf and the usual suspects in Washington and Saigon.

The trail started out as literally a walking trail which would be covered over by porters after it was used. Eventually it would become a multi lane paved highway that even included a pipeline by the end of the conflict. The decision to invade Laos is covered in detail as well as the failure of the invasion.

A superb history recommended for anyone who has an interest in the Vietnam War.

Is available through Abebooks.

Friday, April 06, 2007

CSI:New York is not history

Flit has an excellent rant about how horrible the Canadian knockoffs of the history Channel and Discovery are. I couldn't agree more why is the History Channel showing CSI: New York and a show called Things That Move? And all this true crime stuff? As I recall there is a digital cable channel called Mystery were you figure a lot of this stuff would show up. Apparently History and Mystery are owned by different parent companies so that helps explain it.

New US Army uniform bad idea

Apparently those who designed the new U.S. Army uniform [the Army Combat Uniform] weren't terribly bright. This review describes the good, bad and ugly aspects of it. Perhaps most terrifying is that it's made from 50% cotton and 50% nylon. Let me repeat that it's made from 50% nylon! When I was in Boy Scouts we were being constantly warned about nylon and fire. Apparently these idiots never received the memo. Now they have to hand out tan Nomex flight suits to at risk personnel.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Clos the deal with some T&A

If you want a Saudi Arabian arms deal all you have to do is pay the "costs" of some actresses. Don't worry if you get caught.
Goldsmith’s move f[to shut down the bribery inquiry] ollowed a series of threats made directly to Tony Blair by the Saudi government. The Saudis warned that they would halt all payments on the contract and cut diplomatic and intelligence ties with Britain unless the criminal investigation was stopped.
Tony Blair apparently lacks a backbone when dealing with Saudis not just Bush.