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BOOK REVIEW: Sturmgeschutz III on the Battlefield 5: World War Two

Posted By Russ Lockwood, Friday, January 24, 2020

BOOK REVIEW: Sturmgeschutz III on the Battlefield 5: World War Two Photobook Series Volume 20

by Matyas Panczel

Hardback (oversized at 12 x 8.5 inches). 112 pages.

 

This photobook contains 99 black and white photos at one photo per page. Each seems to have been cleaned up, for they are sparkling and crisp. If you want to see STuG III versions in their element, here's one cleaned-up photobook.

Captions are in English and Hungarian. A short introduction provides some spec info, including horizontal and vertical traverse maximums, firing maximums (6 to 8 rounds for models A-E and 6 for F), and gun versions and ranges: models A-E had a 6,000m range, but effective range was below 800m while the F model with longer 75mm L/43 gun had 8,500m range but effective range of 1,000m to 1,200m (p4 - 5). More specs are in the captions, including rounds carried by type and quantity.

But the photos are the main attraction. Notable ones include a STuG III G that partially collapsed a wooden bridge in 1943 (p88), T-34 track sections added to front armor (p56 and 57), various extra equipment loaded on the assault gun throughout, and various field repair scenes throughout.

I have not seen the first four volumes covering the STuG III, but if you're creating a diorama with one of the versions, this series is a great place to find inspiration. Enjoyed it.

Tags:  Vehicles  WW2  WWII 

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BOOK REVIEW: Morane Saulnier MS.406C1: France 1940

Posted By Russ Lockwood, Friday, January 24, 2020

BOOK REVIEW: Morane Saulnier MS.406C1: France 1940: Camera On 14

by Bartlomiej Belcarz

Softcover. 80 pages.

 

This contains two pages of text and 78 pages of photos, usually two to three per page and almost all from unpublished private collections. The text provides specifications and a technical evaluation by the Polish Air Force, which decided to purchase 160 of the planes. All told, the book holds 134 photos with extended captions.

Most of the photos consist of German troops clustered around destroyed MS.406s. Most have French markings, but some are with Polish or Czech markings. Eight photos towards the back are of Allied pilots standing by intact aircraft. Wargamers will find little to use for scenarios, but modelers and dioramists will find many photos useful for reference purposes.

Tags:  Air  WW2  WWII 

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BOOK REVIEW: Air War Over North Africa: USAAF Ascendant

Posted By Russ Lockwood, Friday, January 24, 2020

BOOK REVIEW: Air War Over North Africa: USAAF Ascendant (Images of War)

by David Mitchelhill-Green

Softcover. 224 pages.

 

Another in the series offers 439 black and white photos and two black and white maps covering the North African air war from a US Army Air Force perspective. Six chapters cover: German and Italian wrecks, US Fighters (P-38, P-40, and P-47 primarily), US Photo Recon, Medium Bombers (B-25 and B-26 primarily), Heavy Bombers (B-17 and B-24 primarily), and Airfields and Airmen. An appendix lists aggregate casualties, including 115,382 casualties in total for North African, Mediterranean, and European theaters, of which 44,785 are listed as Killed in Action.

Lots of maintenance and repair photos. Notable are eight photos (p143-144) of the B-17 'All American' that was rammed during a raid by a FW-190 -- its tail was almost severed, yet it flew back to base. Amusing is a pair of photos (p187) that shows B-24 'The Squaw' with original nose art of a naked babe and the repainted nose art of a bikini top- and loincloth-clad pinup babe because the bomber was being sent back to the US on a War Bond Tour. Enjoyed it.

Tags:  Air  WW2  WWII 

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BOOK REVIEW: Wingate's Men: The Chindit Operations - Special Forces in Burma

Posted By Russ Lockwood, Friday, January 24, 2020

BOOK REVIEW: Wingate's Men: The Chindit Operations - Special Forces in Burma (Images of War)

by Colin Higgs.

Softcover. 117 pages.

 

Most of the 134 black and white photos came from the photograph album of one of the Chindits, so modelers and dioramists seeking source material for Col. Orde Wingate's Long-Range Penetration Group will appreciate this volume. A short 18-page introductory text encapsulates the Chindit contributions during WWII, especially during Operation Loincloth and Operation Thursday.

One odd disconnect between the marketing material and the printed book: the marketing page notes an appendix detailing Chindit gallantry awards, including three Victoria Crosses, but the printed book lacks such an appendix. One typo in a caption (p48) where the photo clearly shows a Chindit message to circling aircraft "Plane Land Here Now," but the caption reads "Please land here now."

Photo books always offer something interesting. In this case, mini-bulldozers and graders were flown into the jungles of Burma to create makeshift airfields to support long-range operations (p103). You don't think of C-47s as being armed, but waistgunners manned machine guns in at least some C-47s over Burma (p74-76). It'd be nice to know the story behind a spoon being more valuable than gold (p58), and if so, why they weren't air-dropped along with all the other supplies. Enjoyed it.

Tags:  Burma  WW2  WWII 

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BOOK REVIEW: North American Aviation P-51B/C & F-6C Mustang

Posted By Russ Lockwood, Friday, January 24, 2020

BOOK REVIEW: North American Aviation P-51B/C & F-6C Mustang (Yellow Series)

by Robert Peczkowski.

Softcover (Oversized 8.25x11.75 inches). 160 pages.

 

If you want to know this plane inside and out, especially if you revel in technical illustrations from manuals, here's your book. Peczkowski covers the whole aircraft down to individual subsystems, including black and white and color photo close-ups.

No air-to-air battles or memoir-style combat recaps, but includes: 145 black and white photos, 83 black and white technical illustrations, 59 color photos, 28 color profiles (including one with German markings and one with Japanese markings), and 25 1/72-scale black and white drawings for you scratch model builders. Also covers the RAF Mustang III.

Tags:  Air  WW2  WWII 

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BOOK REVIEW: I am Not a Number: Decoding the Prisoner

Posted By Russ Lockwood, Friday, January 24, 2020

BOOK REVIEW: I am Not a Number: Decoding the Prisoner

by Alex Cox

 

Patrick McGoohan once said that everything you need to know about the TV show The Prisoner is in the show. Filmmaker Cox took him at his word and dissects the show with one basic premise: you need to see the shows in the order they were filmed, not presented on TV. Only then can you follow the progression of the mysteries, and the answers revealed, about the character, the location, and who is number 1.

As 2017 was the 50th anniversary of the airing of the show, Cox starts by assuming Number 6 (the character never gives a name, nor do any Number 2s provide a name) is NOT a spy, but an engineer who invented something big, bad, and ugly.

Most of the book consists of retelling the plot of the 17 episodes, along with examining bits and pieces of scenes and dialogue to support or refute his assumption. At the end of each is a section entitled 'What Have We Learned?'

As the show is a journey, I'll save the mildly interested some speculation. Cox believes Number 6 is indeed a rocket scientist, not a spy, by examining his actions through 17 episodes. Number 6 is never called Drake (from McGoohan's previous series Danger Man), although script editor George Markstein later claimed Number 6 was indeed Drake. The Village is located in the UK, run by the British, and is a camp for scientists too valuable to be allowed free run in society. Number 1 was the rocket, aka the first UK manned mission to the moon.

Although released to his home, Number 6 is still a prisoner, complete with butler and doors that open as he approaches, in a society that craves individuality without allowing people to be individuals.

I am a fan of the show and enjoy such dissections, and so enjoyed the book. Be seeing you...

Tags:  Spies 

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BOOK REVIEW: Battles of the Greek and Roman Worlds

Posted By Russ Lockwood, Monday, January 13, 2020

BOOK REVIEW: Battles of the Greek and Roman Worlds

Subtitled: A Chronological Compendium of 667 Battles to 31 BC, from the Historians of the Ancient World

By John Drogo Montagu

What a magnificent compilation of ancient battles from the dawn of recorded history to 31 BC.

Arranged in chronological order from Ithome (724 BC) to Actium (31 BC), each of the 667 battles gets from a paragraph up to a page describing the action, number of troops, generals involved, and outcome. Since they are in chronological order, you can follow a series of battles in a war. And best of all, at the end of each battle is a notation of the ancient source.

A short introduction discusses the Greek and Roman armies, naval warfare, sources, and "reliability of data." The latter subdivides into a general outlook on separating fact from fiction, a look at numbers, and how dates were obtained. It's quick, to the point, and lets you know that the author struggled with accuracy in interpretations. There's also a glossary of terms.

Fifteen maps and 18 battle maps are included as well, although they are somewhat plain and serve as general guides, not intricate battle studies. For example, the battle maps do not include terrain.

Still, what a remarkable compilation. Ancient buffs need this book--a perfect complement to Loebs and Penguin translations.

Tags:  Ancient 

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BOOK REVIEW: The War at Troy: What Homer Didn’t Tell

Posted By Russ Lockwood, Monday, January 13, 2020

BOOK REVIEW: The War at Troy: What Homer Didn’t Tell

By Quintus of Smyrna

This reprint of the 1968 book, originally published by University of Oklahoma Press, is a narrative version of an epic poem written by Quintus circa 360 AD or so. It was meant to fill in the gap between Homer’s two poems, Iliad and Odyssey.

The Iliad, which tells the story of the Greek siege of the city of Troy, ends with the death of Hector, but Troy unconquered. The Odyssey begins after the fall of Troy. The War at Troy, then, fills in the gap--including the famous Trojan horse episode, as well as the death of Achilles.

It is not an easy read. I am sure the translation must be pretty close, but when you take the liberty of changing poem into prose, it should be a little cleaner, a little tighter, and with more native verbs. As it stands, it conforms to the necessary tenets of English, but it lacks heroic prose. It’s workmanlike, and, well, that’s about it. Oddly enough, Combellack is primarily translating another text from 1891.

In any case, for those wanting their Quintus in a form other then from a Loeb, this is acceptable.

Tags:  Ancient 

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BOOK REVIEW: The Crowd in Rome in the Late Republic

Posted By Russ Lockwood, Monday, January 13, 2020

BOOK REVIEW: The Crowd in Rome in the Late Republic

by Fergus Millar

This is a book destined for library shelf space in every academic institution for higher education. And unless you intend post-graduate level research, that's exactly where it should remain.

Millar took what I figured would be an exciting subject and pounded it into unconsciousness. "Dull" would be a gracious remark at a faculty soiree. That he knows his subject is not in question--he' an expert. That he can contort English into sentences is not in question--he's literate. That anyone will still be awake is not in question--The Crowd in Rome in the Late Republic is coma inducing.

Ponderous prose liberally interspersed with Latin terms ooze you onward. I ended up reading and re-reading sections to understand inferences, importance, and interpretations. It didn't help. I was no closer to understanding crowd reaction on page 57 as I was at the start...and I struggled to reach page 57...over multiple nights.

I even skipped ahead to the conclusion in the hope I could glimpse his arguments. It was all for nought. Perhaps Millar may be a brilliant lecturer--the book evolved from the Jerome lecture series--but if he muddies his speeches as much as his writing, no doubt a good many future scholars will be snoozing in their seats.

I've often found excellent books in the discount bin. They've opened up a wide range of topics to me. Alas, Crowd is not one of them. The only readable part is the blurb on the dust jacket.

Tags:  Ancient 

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BOOK REVIEW: The Peloponnesian War

Posted By Russ Lockwood, Monday, January 13, 2020

BOOK REVIEW: The Peloponnesian War

By Donald Kagen

Purchased off the discount rack for $9.95, this is a superb history of the Peloponnesian War between Athens, Sparta, and the rest of the Greek World. Written as a condensed version of Kagen’s four-volume academic tome, the prose floats you in and out of the 30 years of battles, political intrigues, alliances, operations, and other aspects of war. Better yet, the publisher included 29 maps. When you read about a city state, you can find it on a map. Well done!

If you are in the least bit interested in the Athens-Sparta conflict, buy this book. It’s that good.

Tags:  Ancient 

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