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BOOK REVIEW: Legionnaire: Five Years in the French Foreign Legion

Posted By Russ Lockwood, Tuesday, September 17, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: Legionnaire: Five Years in the French Foreign Legion

by Simon Murray. Entertaining day-by-day diary of his time in the FFL, 1960 to 1965, a member of the FFL paratroopers.

Much about brutal training, lousy food, and punishments in Algeria, but only a couple passages regarding combat against guerillas (he calls them "fell").

Of note is the fell's camouflage ability and seeming to have an escape route even when "cornered." Enjoyed it.

Tags:  Cold War Era  North Africa 

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BOOK REVIEW: Waterloo: The History of Four Days, Three Armies, and Three Battles

Posted By Russ Lockwood, Tuesday, September 17, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: Waterloo: The History of Four Days, Three Armies, and Three Battles

by Bernard Cornwell

I thought this was a work of fiction, but imagine my surprise when after a few chapters, I realized this was a non-fiction book.

Odd that Cornwell abandoned active voice for mostly passive voice, which I find awfully hard to read. Waterloo contained the requisite information within, with a new tidbit here and there taken from a letter, but overall, I ended up skimming through it. I imagine it's more valuable to those new to the period and less so to those steeped in wargaming lore.

Tags:  Napoleonic 

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BOOK REVIEW: Hidden Figures

Posted By Russ Lockwood, Tuesday, September 17, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: Hidden Figures

by Margot Lee Shetterly.

I enjoyed the movie and so received the book as a gift. Yet, once again, a movie makes dramatic events that are not in the book and not as amazing as what's in the book. This book covers the story of black women computers (people who perform math calculations, not the electronic gizmos) at NASA overcoming dual problems of racism and sexism. The book actually starts with recruitment of Dorothy Vaughn and others in 1943 and travels through their triumphs and travails through the end of the 1960s.

A remarkable story even more impressive than the movie. Enjoyed it.

Tags:  Cold War Era  Space 

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BOOK REVIEW: Morning Star Midnight Sun: The Early Guadalcanal-Solomons Campaign of World War II August-October 1942

Posted By Russ Lockwood, Tuesday, September 17, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: Morning Star Midnight Sun: The Early Guadalcanal-Solomons Campaign of World War II August-October 1942

by Jeffrey R Cox.

Impressive. Lots of detail, good writing, and a nice juxtaposition of strategy amid the tactical events surrounding land battles on Guadalcanal, naval battles of Savo Island and Santa Cruz, and air battles ranging up and down the Slot. Incisive examination of the fortes and foibles of the commanders on both sides. Enjoyed it.

Tags:  Asia-Pacific  Naval  WW2  WWII 

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BOOK REVIEW: Chain of Command

Posted By Russ Lockwood, Tuesday, September 17, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: Chain of Command

by Frank Chadwick. Yes, game designer and wargamer (and NY Times bestselling author from his nonfiction Desert Shield book back in the 1990s) Frank Chadwick moved into science fiction with a look at battles among the stars. Oddly enough, while I was reading this, I kept thinking of Guadalcanal et al from the book Morning Star, Midnight Sun I happened to be reading at the same time.

Sure enough, at the end of CoC, Chadwick cites the Guadalcanal and Solomons campaigns -- not Traveler RPG -- as inspirations for some of the events in the novel. Solid main character with 'advantages' that all good main characters contain, evil aliens to boo and hiss, and a supporting cast of heroes, heroines, incompetents, and red shirts.

Would like to see a sequel. Enjoyed it.

Tags:  Sci-fi 

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BOOK REVIEW: The Admirals

Posted By Russ Lockwood, Tuesday, September 17, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: The Admirals

by Walter R Borneman.

Biography of the four 5-star Admirals in WWII: Nimitz, Halsey, Leary, and King. Fortes and foibles aplenty and an excellent view of the interlocking personalities surrounding them, including Spruance, Fletcher, MacArthur, Kimmel, Marshall, Knox and others at top echelons of US command. Enjoyed it.

Tags:  Asia-Pacific  Naval  WW2  WWII 

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BOOK REVIEW: Taken at the Flood: The Roman Conquest of Greece

Posted By Russ Lockwood, Tuesday, September 17, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: Taken at the Flood: The Roman Conquest of Greece

by Robin Waterfield

It's a little bit dry at times, the battle descriptions are nil, and sometimes Waterfield overwhelms you with too much detail about all the squabbling Greek City state names and timelines, but overall, this was a fascinating look at how the Roman Empire nibbled away at Greek independence to nab a new province.

It describes all the Macedonian Wars, dips into the league wars, and pokes into wars in Asia Minor -- all the while analyzing the geography and politics of Roman interest in Greece. The alliances, counter-alliances, and duplicity of all involved will make your head spin. Enjoyed it.

Tags:  Ancient 

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BOOK REVIEW: Apostles of the Revolution: Jefferson, Paine, Monroe, and the Struggle Against the Old Order in America and Europe

Posted By Russ Lockwood, Tuesday, September 17, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: Apostles of the Revolution: Jefferson, Paine, Monroe, and the Struggle Against the Old Order in America and Europe

by John Ferling

This biography of the Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, and James Monroe interweaves their efforts among the events of the American Revolution through the end of Monroe's presidency. Exceptional political detail, although prose varies between reading each word with intense interest to skimming, skimming, skimming to escape onto the next topic.

For political, not military, buffs.

Tags:  American Revolution 

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BOOK REVIEW: Pirates & the Lost Templar Fleet

Posted By Russ Lockwood, Tuesday, September 17, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: Pirates & the Lost Templar Fleet

by David Hatcher Childress.

The litany of conspiracy-theory speculation is enough to make history buffs weep. No wonder we suffer from fake news. This book's subhead is: The Secret Naval War Between the Knights Templar and the Vatican. This is NOT a history of medieval Templar naval efforts to battle French (and Vatican-allied) ships...it is a 700-year overview of every conspiracy theory and half-truth about Templars treated as fact, including the Ark of the Covenant buried on Oak Island (Canada), all 17th century pirate captains were Templars, and Homer's Odysseus was caught in the tidal bore of the Bay of Fundy (Canada). This mish-mash tosses everything to see what sticks.

At times I thought a Cthulu book I was reading offered just as accurate a depiction of history...

If I have to say something positive, it had a short discussion about, and small reprints of, old 15th and 16th century maps (I enjoy cartography) – that were created by aerial cartography (!?) – and that Columbus used such cartography to found a Templar haven in the New World. See what I mean?

Tags:  warships 

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BOOK REVIEW: Arnhem: Defeat and Glory -- A Miniaturist Perspective

Posted By Russ Lockwood, Monday, August 26, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: Arnhem: Defeat and Glory -- A Miniaturist Perspective

by G. S. W. DeLillio.

Upon first glance, this 2002 book seemed like a nice picture book of the author's diorama of 1944 Operation Market Garden. Nicely crafted, the diorama used thousands of 20mm figures and includes vehicles. True, photos a plenty show off vignettes that track the operation, but that hardly does the book justice.

You get a comprehensive overview of the battle, complete with wargame-friendly OOBs, commander bios, drop times, and a running narrative of how the battles swayed back and forth illustrated by 114 photos of the diorama. It presents wargamer-friendly info in an oversized 8.75x11.5-inch hardcover format.

And what magnificent modeling he did: Regular shots, close-up shots, and shots of the same vignette but from different angles show excellence. Gliders, aircraft, tanks, jeeps, artillery, and troops of all forces involved, including a couple of French Char B tanks used by the Germans, show up. My favorite? Boat landing on the river bank amidst smoke (top page 86).

I am not sure, but some of the vignettes remind me of just such a diorama in 20mm that was 60 feet long and presented at the HMGS Fall-In convention in Maryland a decade ago.

Sadly, what is missing is a chapter on the creation of the diorama. As this is the illustrative centerpiece of the book, it would have been nice to learn what he used, how he emphasized this event over that event, and so on.

Given that 2019 is the 75th anniversary of Market Garden, Arnhem books should see an uptick in interest. It's not as dramatic as Cornelius Ryan's A Bridge Too Far, but it deserves to be on a Market Garden reading list, with the photos as a distinct bonus.

Enjoyed it.

Tags:  Modeling  WW2  WWII 

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