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BOOK REVIEW: NAA P-51D-10-NA Mustang: Single No. 4

Posted By Russ Lockwood, Tuesday, October 29, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: NAA P-51D-10-NA Mustang: Single No. 4

by Dariusz Karnas and Artur Juszczak.

With the exception of photo captions, this 24-page booklet contains almost no text -- it's all about the black and white 1/72 and 1/48 scale plans for modelers and illustrations from the technical manuals.

This contains five 1/72 plans, four 1/48 plans, 21 black and white photos (many close-ups), three close-up system color photos, 12 black and white illustrations from the technical manuals showing parts within various subsystems, six color profiles, a page of spray filling instructions to rid a model of rivets, and one color instrument panel that would look cool inside a model's cockpit.

Tags:  Air  WW2  WWII 

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BOOK REVIEW: Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-17F/Lim-5: Single No. 5

Posted By Russ Lockwood, Tuesday, October 29, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-17F/Lim-5: Single No. 5

by Dariusz Karnas and Karolina Holda

Like Single Number 4, with the exception of photo captions, this 24-page booklet contains almost no text -- it's all about the black and white 1/72 and 1/48 scale plans for modelers and illustrations from the technical manuals.

This contains six 1/72 plans, four 1/48 plans, 38 black and white photos (many close-ups), five close-up cockpit color photos, three color photos of MiG-17Fs on the ground, 14 black and white illustrations from the technical manuals showing parts within various subsystems, and three color profiles (left, right, top) with the four FS paint numbers needed to duplicate the camouflage pattern.

Tags:  Air  Vietnam War 

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BOOK REVIEW: Boeing B-17 Fortress: In RAF Coastal Command Service (Second Revised Edition)

Posted By Russ Lockwood, Tuesday, October 29, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: Boeing B-17 Fortress: In RAF Coastal Command Service (Second Revised Edition)

by Robert M Stitt.

This exhaustive study delves into the B-17s in RAF Coastal Command service, mostly for convoy protection, U-boat patrols and attacks, and after mid-1944, meteorological missions.

Second edition corrects a number of minor errors, updates the camouflage scheme information, and adds 80 new photos, diagrams, tables, and period first-person extracts.

The text details specific modifications to the standard B-17s, including various detection devices like the ASV radar, sub-sinking torpedoes, and even an experimental 40mm cannon mounted in the nose of one aircraft. Specific missions, including those that sunk or damaged U-boats are examined, along with crew requirements and operations. The big construction and move to an airbase in the Azores (owned by Portugal) in 1943 gets an interesting look. Appendix A includes short entries describing the fate of every B-17 assigned to RAF Coastal Command.

Of interest to modelers, Appendix B covers standard colors used and Federal Standard numbers that match (or not) those colors for versions B-17 Fortress I, II, and III: sky schemes, sea schemes, in-service finishes, and so on. Period diagrams note Camouflage Scheme for Four Engined Monoplanes and a reproduction of 24 Du Pont Standard Colors help some more. Appendix D showcases black and white photos of nose art. Appendix E has 19 color profiles (side view). Appendix K showcases color schemes and radar configurations of B-17s delivered to the RAF.

All told, the 224-page book contains 255 black and white photos, 14 color photos, 18 photos of log entries, four maps, seven diagrams, 12 charts, 32 scale drawings in 1/48 scale of various configurations, and 19 color profiles.

Of interest to gamers, the only recorded air-to-air battle for RAF Coastal Command B-17s occurred on November 19, 1943, when a B-17 tangled with a JU-290 with inconclusive results. Both aircraft departed the area (p 101).

Of interest to aviation trivia buffs, the RAF installed an experimental 'forward-facing artificial lighting system' to make B-17 light levels match sky light levels as an additional form of camouflage. Photo-electric sensors calculated the intensity needed and brightened or darkened the B-17 on approach towards a U-boat. Experiments showed 'very promising results' but the idea was abandoned due to excessive battery weight (p 72).

The second edition offers an interesting twist on the usual B-17 bomber profiles.

Enjoyed it.

Tags:  Air  Photography  WW2  WWII 

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BOOK REVIEW: III. Germanic SS Panzer-Korps: The History of Himmler's Favourite SS-Panzer-Korps 1943-1945 -- Volume 1: Creation - September 1944

Posted By Russ Lockwood, Tuesday, October 29, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: III. Germanic SS Panzer-Korps: The History of Himmler's Favourite SS-Panzer-Korps 1943-1945 -- Volume 1: Creation - September 1944

by Lennart Westberg, Patter Kjellander and Geir Brendan

Oversized at 12.5x9.25 inches, this photo-heavy book covers the III SS Panzer Corps that brought together Germanic volunteers and conscripts from a variety of SS units raised in Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and elsewhere under one corps organization.

"What makes [III SS Panzerkorps] remarkable is not its military performance -- although the corps often achieved important defensive successes against a far more superior Red Army -- but rather as a political crystallization point for decisive and long-term components of Himmler's pan-Germanic visions." (p.46)

The text covers the individual units, from battalions to divisions, most of them named (like 5th SS Wiking division, 11th SS Nordland division, or SS Panzer Abteilung Herman von Salza), interspersed with various actions. Sidebars profile weaponry. Besides the odd typo, one minor hiccup to the book: The text breaks between page 202 and 203 -- not sure if a page is missing or just a sentence.

Of particular note are the individual reminiscences collected by individual soldiers and officers that would make for some interesting skirmish actions. I wonder if any rule set could duplicate one Panzer IV taking on 16 Soviet tanks ... and eliminating enough to force a morale break -- an Iron Cross effort back then.

Since the III SS Panzerkorps is written from the SS perspective, it glosses over atrocities, although I was surprised to learn that the SS rotated troops between concentration camps and front-line units (p xix-xx). Maybe I shouldn't be.

Much of the book consists of 372 black and white photos, often taking up half a page for greater clarity than smaller formatted books. The vast majority are photos in the field, so those who like uniform and diorama details will appreciate the larger size, and some are personal photos being printed for the first time. Most of them offer extended captions that prove as interesting as the text. Other photos are head shots used to accompany the personal reminiscences.

Also included are 19 propaganda posters (sadly in black and white, not color), five maps, two photos of documents, and one black and white drawing of a SS trooper circa 1944.

The book amasses quite the tome of III SS Panzerkorps information in one volume and there's another coming. Enjoyed it.

Tags:  Eastern Front  Photography  WW2  WWII 

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BOOK REVIEW: Kaiserliche und Konigliche Eisenbahn-Bau Kompanie: In Western Galicia 1914-1915 - Volume 2 (Camera On 16)

Posted By Russ Lockwood, Tuesday, October 29, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: Kaiserliche und Konigliche Eisenbahn-Bau Kompanie: In Western Galicia 1914-1915 - Volume 2 (Camera On 16)

by Marek Dubinski and Tomasz Basarabowicz

This 80-page book of photographs follows engineering companies repairing bridges in Galicia during World War I. Pages 3 to 7 provide a text overview of the war, two black and white photographs, and two maps (sans scale) of the area of repair operations. Pages 8 to 80 showcase 112 black and white photographs, often double-page spreads, with captions.

For those with modeling ability, if you're into WWI Eastern Front bridging dioramas, this is a bonanza of photo information. Besides engineer uniforms, you get detailed close-ups of specific parts of a bridge as well as farther away shots of partial and completed spans. Of note, the engineers used existing spans dropped into a river or gully as the foundation for new spans.

I was especially taken with the bridging of the River Tanew (June 1915) with a temporary wooden bridge and a later permanent one -- the caption noted the temporary bridge would be dismantled.

Also of note are the horse-drawn (instead of locomotive-drawn) short wagons loaded with supplies on narrow-gauge 'field railroads.' That puts a visual to Prit Buttar's excellent four-book history of Eastern Front WWI. Sometimes a picture is indeed a thousand words.

Also, if you want to see what tracks look like after a shell impact, the photo on page 38 is a gem. Actually, many of the photos are gems.

That said, a better text approach would be to change the generic overview of WWI operations in Galicia for a concentration on how engineering units operated -- sort of nuts and bolts, numeric discussion of how they evaluated a dropped bridge, how they rebuilt one, how they repaired hits to rail lines, and so on. The captions contain some quantitative info, including that most bridges took a week or so to erect to span a small river, but it left me wanting more info about a subject I know little about. Maybe for volume 3?

That said, this info may have been in Volume 1.

In any case, if you're into WWI engineering, modeling such, or logistical history, Camera On 16 is for you.

Enjoyed it.

Tags:  Photography  WWI 

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BOOK REVIEW: The Western Way of War: Infantry Battle in Classical Greece

Posted By Russ Lockwood, Wednesday, October 23, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: The Western Way of War: Infantry Battle in Classical Greece

by Victor Davis Hanson

It is interesting how good authors can succinctly confine to some 244 pages in 19 relatively short chapters so much valuable insight and information. This is the hallmark that defines good history writing, taking history from the mundane rewriting of the usual secondary sources, which is so common today, to the positive insightful and informative interpretation of primary sources in a readable fashion.

Unlike T.A. Dodge who gorges the reader with information and insight in large volumes, Dr. Hanson leaves the reader equally informed but with less detail. Dr. Hanson wishes to leave the reader with considerable flavor.

Initially after reading The Western Way of War, I perceived that a gifted doctoral thesis had been done. Not wishing to judge a book by its cover I did not bother to read the back cover that lists review quotations and ends with a brief paragraphs revealing Hanson's credentials. After using Hanson's work in researching the hoplite period I also discovered at least six other works by Dr. Hanson listed on the web. These are on order.

John Keegan aptly points out that Dr. Hanson closes on the dark side of warfare in western history with modern man learning little from the previous lessons of history and worse yet twisting the values of why western man fights. But not with standing the work's greatest value is one of insight. Dr. Hanson carefully defines Greek hoplite battle by breaking down its components. Hanson first establishes a perspective of warfare for the Greek hoplite and then develops the battle experience itself. This experience begins with the armor; some of its development, its use, its weight; all from the wearer's vantage point.

Phalanx as Family

The phalanx of the hoplite is viewed as a family and friend organization. An expression of society to make war not so much a thing to be avoided as much as a thing to finished quickly and decisively. It is with the use of primary sources that Dr. Hanson cleverly reveals what it was like psychologically and physically to be a member of a phalanx.

In following chapter Dr. Hanson reveals the significance of leadership to the phalanx. Leadership that lead the way. Again it is through citation of sources and interpretation that a clear picture of what a commander of the phalanx was required to do. Here the author clearly details the value, the obstacles and the finality of the hoplite commander.

The morale of the hoplite is developed quite nicely bringing home the significance of the shared experience of Greek society. The "regimental system" gains a greater import than other sources have revealed.

Best in Battle

The best chapters deal with the actual parts of the battle, the charge, the collision, the cohesion and attrition and then the confusion of battle. The remaining post battle chapters deal in depth with wounds, the pursuit and its path of destruction.

The Epilogue details the significance not of battles but the significance of battle to the hoplite Greek. The battle to the hoplite is a thing that defines his position in society (his position within the phalanx with family and friends) and his resolution to determine a marked finish as witnessed by winning or losing a battle. A battle finished declares to all that the larger political issue is concluded from that point on.

Dr. Hanson darkly concludes that this simplicity has been lost to us today. He also concludes that methods of warfare are reflective of societies and that that of the Greek hoplite was somehow purer; the clash of hoplites was not complicated. The arrays that faced off were simple organizations with simple short term purposes. The hoplite realities during those clashes were pure and simple-win or loose by force of arms. Victory was resolution of political desire determined by one simple event: the battle fought then and there.

Would I recommend this work? The answer is most certainly. The value of The Western Way of War is its insight first and foremost. The details contained here as to arms, armor and the application of specific tactics is invaluable and sustained by careful research. This book should be considered a classic buy for authoritative writing on the Greek hoplite.

Tags:  Ancient 

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BOOK REVIEW: Cities of Vesuvius: Pompeii and Herculaneum

Posted By Russ Lockwood, Wednesday, October 23, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: Cities of Vesuvius: Pompeii and Herculaneum

By Michael Grant

This reprint of Grant's 1971 book delves into the ash-covered ruins of Pompeii, the mud-covered ruins of Herculaneum, and various Roman villas and villages buried by the 79 AD eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

Once again, Grant delivers an informative and eminently readable book. From descriptions of furnishings to an explanation on how various villages succumbed to the blast, this thin volume offers a good overview of the entire catastrophe.

Chapters include a history of the settlements, Vesuvius as a geological feature, towns, temples, private homes and villas, paintings and mosaics, farms, and public life. Seventeen maps, predominantly building floor plans, punctuate the text, and 37 black and white photos in a central section illustrate the point of interest.

I had visited Pompeii back in 1985, and immediately wished I had read this before going. It would have been a big help, especially if you could poke around on your own. However, it being 2002, this book is 30+ years old, and much recent archaeological work and interpretations have occurred -- obviously none reflected in this reprint. In fact, in many places, Grant notes that this building or area has yet to be excavated.

The other point of concern is the $19.95 price--a rather inflated opinion of a 30+ year-old book, even if it is Michael Grant. At $9.95, this 162-page book would be perfectly acceptable, but I suspect you can find a more up to date work for twenty bucks.

Cities of Vesuvius is not the last work on the subject, and the price provides a sticking point. However, Grant's work is as dependable, solid, and well-written as ever and you'll get a good grounding of the event, aftermath, and archaeological finds.

Tags:  Ancient 

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BOOK REVIEW: Roman Warfare

Posted By Russ Lockwood, Wednesday, October 23, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: Roman Warfare

By Adrian Goldsworthy

If you haven’t guessed by now, I rather enjoy these Cassell History of Warfare paperback editions of oversize hardbacks. This one was originally published in 2000, with the paperback in 2002.

Each book presents a short, concise analysis of military history by relatively well-known academics in 240 pages. For $15, it’s a great introduction to a period, with enough graphics and photo images to illustrate particular points. I may quibble here and there, and occasionally take a particular author to task about something or another, but overall, these are fine recountings of a historical period.

Roman Warfare continues the tradition. It covers much ground, from 753 BC to roughly 500 AD, following the establishment of Rome by force of arms and its eventual rise and fall of the Republic and Empire.

It’s all neatly portrayed, follows the formation and transformation of the Legion and various other arms, highlights some notable battles, and examines the reasons behind success and failure. There’s a neat summation of the differences between limitanei (border troops) and comitatenses (field army) that’s as good as you find in entire books devoted to the subject.

All told, Roman Warfare is another winner.

Tags:  Ancient  Roman Empire 

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BOOK REVIEW: Barbarians and Romans: AD 418-584: The Techniques of Accommodation

Posted By Russ Lockwood, Wednesday, October 23, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: Barbarians and Romans: AD 418-584: The Techniques of Accommodation

By Walter Goffart

Goffart, a professor of History at University of Toronto, pens quite the academic work, full of footnotes and deadly dull prose. That he has researched the subject of settling barbarians inside the Roman Empire is not debatable--he's done his homework. That anyone will be awake by the end of Chapter 1 is open to speculation.

The subject proves to be promising. Goffart takes the approach that Roman accommodated, that is, officially granted lands, to barbarians quite a bit more than given credit for. Indeed, rather than the rapacious invasions of conventional wisdom, the Romans manipulated the tribes. The tribes settled in Gaul and Italy and thus prolonged state institutions into the so-called Dark Ages. The approach is well documented. What Goffart challenges is the level of success achieved over a long period of time.

Goffart's execution provides ever-increasing increments of dread with each page to be turned. If the goals of academia are imparting knowledge and crystallizing thought, he observes both topic and analysis under an avalanche of dry, stilted, and dull writing. Put another way--you know you're in trouble when his footnotes take up one-third to three-quarters of each page. If all those extended footnotes are so important, they should be reflected in the main text. It's lazy writing, it's crappy writing, and it's boring writing, and pity his poor students who probably had to buy this sorry book for a course.

If you harken back to American colonial history, you understand that the Quartering Acts imposed by the British government upon the colonists caused considerable complaint. Other topics from American history include forced resettlements of Native Americans, land grants during the 19th Century in the West, and the role of public land in the US. Imagine the excitement of reading how the Romans applied their law in similar situations. It's the idea that the past can serve as future guidance that makes history interesting. This book starts with a study of quartering under Roman law, then moves into an analysis of land grants and other allotments under a variety of laws.

Alas, such excitement peters out. I lasted the first 50 pages, then started to skip forward in the hopes of recapturing the initial interest. What this needs is a complete and total reorganization, restructuring, and rewrite. I don't have an idea how well Goffart's premise holds up -- Barbarians and Romans is a voluntary read for me. I do know that such a fascinating topic deserves a better fate.

Tags:  Ancient  Roman Empire 

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BOOK REVIEW: Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome’s Greatest Politician

Posted By Russ Lockwood, Wednesday, October 23, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome’s Greatest Politician

By Anthony Everitt

This is an absolutely superb book. Everitt captures the Republic-loving Cicero with thoughtful prose, sneaky insight, and compelling research. The result is a page-turner.

Nothing else needs to be said. Cicero is an excellent, positive profile of its subject.

Tags:  Ancient 

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