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BOOK REVIEW: The Americans From Normandy to the German Border: August to Mid-December 1944 (Images of War)

Posted By Russ Lockwood, Sunday, November 24, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: The Americans From Normandy to the German Border: August to Mid-December 1944 (Images of War)

by Brooke S. Blades

Another in the marvelous Images of War series offers photographs, mostly from the US National Archives, of US Army troops and vehicles from Aug to Dec 1944. Falaise, capture of Paris, Market-Garden, and Hurtgen Forest sections divvy up the photographs. Offers a bit more overview text than usual, but the 207 black and white photographs are the main appeal, especially for modelers. Also includes five maps. Enjoyed it.

Tags:  Normandy  Western Front  WW2  WWII 

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BOOK REVIEW: The Second World War Illustrated: The First Year

Posted By Russ Lockwood, Sunday, November 24, 2019
BOOK REVIEW: The Second World War Illustrated: The First Year

by Jack Holroyd.

This, too, is a great photo book, with little text, but many extended captions. Contains 898 black and white photos, 93 color photos (central section), 30 black and white maps, three color maps, four color drawings, and four black and white illustrations -- all in 280 pages.

I've seen a lot of the photos before, and some of the color photos seem to me to be colorized versions of black and white photos. The font size of the captions are often quite small.

I am guessing, and this is only a guess, that this may be an oversized formatted book that has been reduced in size to create a lower cost softcover edition.

The first 56 pages cover the 1930s, then come chapters on Poland, Norway, France and the BeNeLux countries, Battle of Britain, and beginnings of North Africa.

I enjoyed the photographs. The captions generally did a good descriptive job, but the squinting got to me.

Tags:  WW2  WWII 

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BOOK REVIEW: Italian Vittorio Veneto-Class Battleships

Posted By Russ Lockwood, Sunday, November 24, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: Italian Vittorio Veneto-Class Battleships

by Andrzei Perepeczko

Well researched history of the battleships divided into three general sections: construction and systems, naval operations and battles, and profile and 3D color renderings of four ships: BBs Vittorio Veneto, Roma, and Littorio and the CA Pola.

As for the Vittorio Veneto, upon initial construction, she suffered from vibrations and flooding at certain speeds. Later rebuilds sorted out the problems -- the rebuilds due to enemy action and Allied air bombings show this and other Italian battleships to be hard-luck cases. Allied air attacks inflicted many hits, starting with the Taranto attack.

Many BBs seem to have spent more time in drydock than at sea, and even once out in the Med, showed meagre results: the Vittorio Veneto scored 1 hit on a British cruiser out of 19 shells fired (p80), 0 for 94 (p83), and at least 4 of 181 (p93). Allied aircraft seemed to have a higher ratio of hits.

For modelers, the third section is the main attraction, with 12 color profiles (BBs Vittorio Veneto, Roma, and Littorio and CA Pola), 20 black and white profiles (five for each ship), and 74 color 3D renderings of various systems of the four ships.

For others, the book contains 108 black and white photos (including British aerial shots), 11 black and white battle maps, nine spec tables, and 55 black and white ship and systems illustrations.

Tis a good examination of the BB class (consider the CA Pola 3D renderings a bonus). Enjoyed it.

Tags:  Naval  warships  WW2  WWII 

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BOOK REVIEW: At the Forward Edge of Battle: A History of the Pakistan Armoured Corps 1938-2016 - Volume 1

Posted By Russ Lockwood, Sunday, November 24, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: At the Forward Edge of Battle: A History of the Pakistan Armoured Corps 1938-2016 - Volume 1

by Major General Syed Ali Hamid

Written by a Pakistani officer, this book mostly covers OOB and TO&E information, starting with the Indian forces in WWII and extending into Pakistani independence. Battle history is mostly WWII, starting in the North African desert, but including Italy, Middle East, and Burma. Good organizational coverage of the transition period as Pakistan became independent from India and military assets were divided between the two.

Includes 89 black and white photos, five black and white illustrations, six black and white maps, two charts, 20 color vehicle profiles (side views), and 16 color insignias. Enjoyed the emphasis on Indian troops' actions in WWII.

Tags:  Modern  Tanks  WW2  WWII 

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BOOK REVIEW: Napoleon's Imperial Guard Uniforms and Equipment: Volume 2: The Cavalry

Posted By Russ Lockwood, Sunday, November 24, 2019

 

BOOK REVIEW: Napoleon's Imperial Guard Uniforms and Equipment: Volume 2: The Cavalry

by Paul L. Dawson

Companion volume to The Infantry.

Exhaustive archive data about IG cavalry, complete with chart after chart of inventory per regiment. Interesting to me was an examination of inventory cloth against preserved samples to ascertain uniform colors, especially facings, combined with an analysis of color illustrations and paintings drawn by period and thereafter artists.

Equipment gets a thorough analysis as well, all supplemented with period and thereafter color illustrations as well as color photographs of museum-preserved uniforms. Also includes paintings by artist extraordinaire Keith Rocco.

All told: 280 color photographs of uniforms or close-ups of parts of uniforms and equipment, 87 color uniform illustrations by Otto, Herschel, Martinet, Hoffman, and others, six Keith Rocco uniform illustrations, and 78 charts (some short and some multi-page) filled with additional color information. The book also contains a multitude of bulleted lists of equipment inventory, again, with color information within.

As you can image, most of it reads like an inventory list, but if you are seeking a detailed appraisal of IG uniforms and equipment, this is one extensive collection of color uniforms and inventory. At 370 pages, 'tis a weighty tome.

 

Enjoyed the information.

Tags:  Napoleonic  Uniforms 

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BOOK REVIEW: The History of Toy Soldiers

Posted By Russ Lockwood, Tuesday, October 29, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: The History of Toy Soldiers

by Luigi Toiati.

At a massive 621 pages, this book traces the company by company history of toy soldiers -- indeed, almost soldier by soldier -- that every collector will drool over.

He covers what I consider toy soldiers -- Victorian-era metal Britains at about 54mm high -- and also the full run of soldiers starting with clay figures of ancient times. Also included: flats, half-round, paper, plastic, and wood. It's a full-spectrum book.

He mentions, but does not delve too deeply into, wargaming miniatures of 25mm or smaller. Yes, H. G. Wells makes an appearance, along with mentions of Scruby, Featherstone, Airfix, Minifigs, Mirliton, and so on in Chapter 15 (pgs 518-535), which covers wargaming. Be understanding if he doesn't mention wargame companies such as Old Glory or Games Workship because the focus remains on the collectible toy soldier, not the wargame figure.

Not only is this a truly herculean effort at gathering information on over 600 companies and their products, the entire tome contains 600 illustrations (I may be one or two off in my count), about 99% of which are color photographs of toy soldiers, toy soldier sets, and so on. Now, it is NOT a catalog of each soldier ever produced with a photo of each figure. It's more of an overview.

I once visited Malcolm Forbes' museum in New York City with its few thousand soldiers, vehicles, and ships (as well as various historical documents). This museum closed, but I understand his collection of 1 million plus toy soldiers resides in a museum in Algiers. You'll probably find all the soldiers in the book there.

Anyway, the other illustrations are black and white photos of people and black and white drawings of old toy soldiers. In addition, the author drew about 20 whimsical black and white illustrations for the chapter headings. Indeed, Toiati's passion for mini metal men often shines brightly when he describes the collecting part of the hobby.

That said, the book can often read like an encyclopedia as each company usually gets anywhere from a paragraph to several pages describing its offerings and any special casting or marketing techniques, personalities, or other anecdotes of interest. Some entries will make your eyes glaze over while others amaze, or at least amazed me. For example, during the medieval period, besides rare toy knights for aristocratic boys, there was some contraption in 1516 using strings (p17) so 'gamers' could make the knights battle -- sort of like an early version of rock 'em, sock 'em robots.

In 1614, Albertus Struzzus produced a set of wooden soldiers plus 24 pages of instructions as a gift to the future Spanish King Philip IV as probably the first documented miniatures wargame (p20).

In 1744, when Louis XV visited Nuremberg, Seyfried printed a sheet of paper soldiers from the Regiment Orleans Cavalrie that was "recognized as the first expressly made both to be cut out and to play with" (p95) paper soldiers. Since it was printed in black and white, 'gamers' needed to color it in themselves.

The first color sheet of paper soldiers was credited to H R G Silbermann, printed in 1845 with the first one being of the Garde Imperiale de Napoleon III (p98). And on it goes, type by type, company by company, and soldier by soldier until he ends somewhere around the year 2000, for Toiati asserted that "the very concept of toy soldiers started to fade" (page xvii).

Kudos to Pen and Sword publishers for using thick glossy paper. This book exudes quality and is worthy of its heft.

The History of Toy Soldiers offers an incredibly impressive amount of research on the topic of collectible toy soldiers. Enjoyed it.

Tags:  Photography  Toy Soldiers 

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BOOK REVIEW: The Curse of Oak Island: The Story of the World's Longest Treasure Hunt

Posted By Russ Lockwood, Tuesday, October 29, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: The Curse of Oak Island: The Story of the World's Longest Treasure Hunt

by Randall Sullivan.

I am absolutely fascinated by the ever-larger and ever-more sophisticated mining equipment brought in by the Lagina brothers to search for treasure allegedly buried on Oak Island. This book serves up an exhaustive investigation into Oak Island history only hinted at in the popular TV show.

Sullivan originally wrote a 2004 article for Rolling Stone magazine about the treasure hunt and came back in 2016 for a followup -- this book.

Fans of the show know the theories presented on TV range from reasonable to whackadoodle, and Sullivan, no apologist, used his research skills to debunk many, leaving a few of the more reasonable ones about who may have buried a treasure IF, and that's a big IF, a treasure was indeed buried there, and what that treasure might be.

Along the way he skewers a number of TV show themes -- you know the producers play up the barest scintilla of an alleged historical fact for ratings. For example, one theme was that the treasure contained Shakespeare's original folios. This was based on a half a line by Francis Bacon about leaving treasure in a faraway land to future generations. Bacon, the alleged author of the Shakespearean plays, also allegedly experimented with mercury as a preservative. Some alleged findings from drilling contained parchment and mercury, although not combined. That's a lot of alleged in there. The only connection not made was that Francis Bacon is six connections away from Kevin Bacon. Fake maps, tall tales retold in a variety of tin-foil hat books, convoluted connections, PT Barnum-like fundraising shenanigans -- all get a look by Sullivan.

Past treasure hunters get a close look, often backed by a variety of records, about their operations and destructions of the property around 'The Money Pit.' If there was a treasure vault, my guess, and at this point my guess is as good as any, it that the constant drilling, including anything smacked by the Lagina's 40-inch diameter drilling tubes, destroyed anything that required sealing against fresh water or sea water. Also, considering the number of shafts that were sunk all around the area and nothing found, the odds of missing a massive treasure vault are slim.

The sum total of 'valuable' stuff excavated from in and around the Pit are a couple pieces of leather, some bones, and allegedly a trace amount of gold. The rest? A bunch of wood.

As best I can piece together, Marty Legina sold his mining company for $58 million, paid $7 million for most of Oak Island, and sunk another $5 to $10 million into the search for all these years. The book doesn't mention what they get paid per episode.

The other items of value were all found on the surface, including a garnet brooch and a medieval cross. It all seems like a big decoy -- any treasure likely had been found by a cabbage farmer in the 1700s who paid bills with doubloons. That leaves the mystery and the archeology and that search is still ongoing. The new TV season starts soon.

One hiccup in the entire book: Chapter 27. This deals with ghosts. Up until this point, the whackadoodle theories were from other people. Here, Sullivan drinks the Kool-Aid about a cursed island and his theory that Oak Island is less about storing treasure to be recovered than it is about storing something that should remain bound within the earth.

That, by the way, was the theory espoused on another 'reality show' called Ghost Mine. I told you I was a sucker for mining shows.

If you enjoy the show, tin foil hat theories and all, you'll enjoy this smoothly-written book. And except for Chapter 27, I enjoyed it.

Tags:  Archeology 

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BOOK REVIEW: Entrepreneurs of the Old West

Posted By Russ Lockwood, Tuesday, October 29, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: Entrepreneurs of the Old West

by David Dary.

Many books cover the USA's Western Expansion, but this specifically covers the shopkeepers who opened up stores or supplied the Army. There's a few gunfights, Indian raids, or bandit actions mentioned, and then only in passing. Instead, you get a detailed accounting of the personalities and their wares that made the trek across the plains and set up shop in frontier towns in the 1800s.

The prose can often be as dry as the desert, especially when it goes into inventory mode of what a merchant carried in a wagon or on the shelves, but if you need an accounting of retail activities in the Old West, and what to put on the shelves of your Gunfighter's Ball stores, this is the book for you.

Tags:  American West 

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BOOK REVIEW: Nicaragua 1961-1990: Volume 1 - The Downfall of the Somoza Dictatorship (Latin America at War Number 10)

Posted By Russ Lockwood, Tuesday, October 29, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: Nicaragua 1961-1990: Volume 1 - The Downfall of the Somoza Dictatorship (Latin America at War Number 10)

by David Francois.

I readily admit I know little about Nicaragua. Francois changed a lot of that, starting with the independence movement with Mexico that set up the United Provinces of Central America (Nicaragua, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras) in 1823 and soon thereafter set up five independent countries. Apparently, the squabbling started early.

Francois traces Nicaraguan history through US occupation, the rise of the Samoza family, and the rise of Sandino, who led a guerilla movement called the Sandinistas. The history covered in this volume, from 1961 to 1979, provides an amazing recital of a multitude of squabbling guerilla groups that came and went even without government action and repression.

Of interest to wargamers, 'battles' over the taking, holding, or losing of a village would be great skirmish actions with sometimes no more than a dozen combatants per side.

For the longest time, huge battles involved 100 to 150 guerrillas against a like number of Guardia National troops. After reading about World War I and II, so-called 'heavy losses' of about a dozen or two in such skirmish actions amount to very little considering the European carnage years earlier. Only towards the end, when international support for the Somoza government waned and support for the Sandinistas (FSLN) waxed did the battles grow into the thousands -- albeit with plenty of skirmish level actions in between.

Like many books, this needs maps, especially because I have no idea on the location of 99% of the towns. The included large-scale country map shows provincial capitals, but little else. It does contain 94 black and white photos, three maps, 16 side-view color aircraft (planes and helicopters) illustrations, and five side view color vehicle illustrations.

An excellent introduction.

Enjoyed it.

Tags:  Central America  Cold War Era 

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BOOK REVIEW: Nicaragua 1961-1990: Volume 2 - Contra War (Latin America at War Number 15)

Posted By Russ Lockwood, Tuesday, October 29, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: Nicaragua 1961-1990: Volume 2 - Contra War (Latin America at War Number 15)

by David Francois. I enjoyed this sequel to Volume 1, which recaps events from 1980 to 1990.

Unlike the original Sandinista movement with fighters in the tens, the Contra movement offered up combatants in the thousands. Indeed, the book noted roughly 300,000 troops and militia served in the Sandinista (government) army and about 30,000 for the Contras (p.65).

Interestingly enough, the Contras used the same tactics from the same over-the-border locations as the Sandinistas did when they overthrew the Somoza family. The Contras just weren't as successful after the US withdrew overt support (thanks to Congressional funding cuts and subsequent Iran-Contra scandal) and Russia and Cuba stepped up their aid. It's all chronicled in well-written prose, although if you're not familiar with the history, you'll be checking the glossary often enough to sort out the acronyms used to describe ever evolving organizations.

Kudos for including corrections for Volume 1 on pages 2 and 3, although they refer to Latin America at War number 9 while I'm staring at the first book's cover that clearly says number 10. If there's a third book, I'd ask the author to clarify whether Pedro Centano 'El Suicida' (p34) and Pedro Ortiz 'El Suicida' (p35) are the same fellow.

I'd like better detailed maps, especially because I possess almost no knowledge of Nicaraguan topography. Map maven that I am, I prefer more maps than black and white photos of ill-clad militia. Volume 2 contains 90 black and white photos, six color photos, three maps, 13 side-view color aircraft (planes and helicopters) illustrations, three side-view color vehicle illustrations, and three color uniform illustrations.

If you get Volume 1, also get Volume 2.

Enjoyed it.

Tags:  Central America  Cold War Era 

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