Books: What are you currently reading?

Actionjick

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I was fortunate to locate and purchase the officially commissioned 3 volume history of the Royal Air Force, 1939-45 at one of my local used book stores. This set is absolutely fascinating and well written as I am nearly finished with the first volume 'The Fight at Odds'. In addition to the expected chapters detailing the fall of France and the Battle of Britain, I was especially intrigued by the accounts of the air campaign during the fight for Norway. Gloster Gladiators operating from frozen lakes, etc. These books are in no way a dry compendium of dates and statistics, as there are numerous personal accounts of actions as related by pilots and aircrew. The writing style of the authors (Denis Richards and Hilary Saunders) reminds me of Rick Atkinson's WWII US Army trilogy... with a bit of dry Anglo humor sprinkled throughout.

Although obviously presented from a primarily British point of view, I would highly recommend this series to anyone such as myself who is fascinated by the history of the Royal Air Force.
Sounds like a great purchase.
 

Yuri0352

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Sounds like a great purchase.
Yes, I was thrilled to find this set, and I didn't hesitate for a moment to use up all of my in-store credits to purchase it. According to the proprietors of the used book store, one of our town's aviation buffs passed away a few years ago, and his family consigned his extensive library to the store. In the last few months I have also acquired the Putnam Aviation history volumes on the De Havilland and Shorts aircraft companies, and an excellent history of the Bell Aircraft company.

Someday when I'm gone, I intend to have my collection passed on in a similar manner.
 

Actionjick

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Yes, I was thrilled to find this set, and I didn't hesitate for a moment to use up all of my in-store credits to purchase it. According to the proprietors of the used book store, one of our town's aviation buffs passed away a few years ago, and his family consigned his extensive library to the store. In the last few months I have also acquired the Putnam Aviation history volumes on the De Havilland and Shorts aircraft companies, and an excellent history of the Bell Aircraft company.

Someday when I'm gone, I intend to have my collection passed on in a similar manner.
Good man.🤗
 

Michael R

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POLAND BETRAYED by David Williamson, published 2009.

This is a high level account of the German invasion of Poland, with the political history leading up to it. It was a decent read. I learned more than I ever knew about Poland's creation. I learned that the Polish air force gave as good as it got, but defeat was inevitable because of the numbers. Reminded me of what I often read about Germany's defeat; that they were beaten by material numbers not quality. I think one could say the same for Poland to some degree.
 

Gordon

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Well, I'm sure that qualitative advantage shifted from side to side and over time during the war. I think it's hard to say that one side was absolutely better quality than the other.
 

Actionjick

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Well, I'm sure that qualitative advantage shifted from side to side and over time during the war. I think it's hard to say that one side was absolutely better quality than the other.
On the modern battlefield you can have all the advantages with quality but if you don't have fuel to move it those advantages mean next to nothing.
 

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I'm re-reading "And Die In The West" by Paula Mitchell Marks
The story of the gunfight at the OK Corral, the lead-up and the aftermath. Fascinating stuff. Marks talks about how even the lawmen often operated with one leg either side of the line of legality. She busts a few myths too e.g. long pockets being preferred over holsters and talks about how the business of "being the fastest on the draw" was basically nonsense. Gunfights tended to commence with pistols already drawn, and nobody, no matter how fast, could beat someone who had already started to draw, because of the reaction time required (unless I suppose, the first gunman fumbled his draw ).

An experiment that seems to support this idea:
Place a cotton wool ball, match box, ping-pong ball or something of similar size on a table. Ask a friend to hold his hand a few inches above the ball. Then put your hand a few inches above his hand. The object is to grab the item first, but he must not move his hand until you have begun to move yours. You will win. The reason is that his brain must process the fact that you have started to move and command his own hand to move, and by the time this has happened, the ball is in your hand. It's a neat trick for parties. :)
 

Ric of The LBC

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An experiment that seems to support this idea:
Place a cotton wool ball, match box, ping-pong ball or something of similar size on a table. Ask a friend to hold his hand a few inches above the ball. Then put your hand a few inches above his hand. The object is to grab the item first, but he must not move his hand until you have begun to move yours. You will win. The reason is that his brain must process the fact that you have started to move and command his own hand to move, and by the time this has happened, the ball is in your hand. It's a neat trick for parties. :)
"Well raise my rent. You are the Waco Kid" (from memory, not sure of the accuracy
 

Michael R

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SHANGHAI 1937 - Stalingrad on the Yangtze
by Peter Harmsen copyright 2013

I learned some stuff reading this book. One of them is that the Chinese could have won this battle if they had done some things differently. This book has a lot of first person accounts on all sides. I enjoyed reading the book.
 

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Ed Donoghue

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Currently reading two books. THE PANZER KILLERS BY Danisl P. Bolger re. the 3rd Armored Division and General Maurice Rose. is pretty good. The other one is ROCK FORCE by Kevin Maurer, dealing with the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment and it's 1945 drop onto Corregidor. Interesting read.
 

holdit

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I've just got the audiobook version of "HMS Ulysses". I've read the paper version a few times already - roughly once every five years. Far-fetched in some aspects but a real page-turner. I think it inspired some scenes in "HMS Nightshade" a comic strip in "Battle Weekly" which also had some great series' like "Charley's War" and "Johnny Red".

I'm also listening to "Pickett's Charge" by Philip Thomas Tucker. I'm not too sure about this one. The author says he sets out to bust some of the myths of the "Lost Cause" argument, but blames Longstreet for much of what went wrong, which if I remember correctly was a central pillar of that same Lost Cause Myth. His other main argument seems to be that Lee's plan, far from being ill-thought-out, was actually a stroke of genius because it envisaged a simultaneous attack from the rear by Stuart's cavalry, which never happened. Maybe it was a brilliant plan in the way Market Garden was a brilliant plan in that everything had to go right for it to succeed, which in the real world would mean it wasn't a great plan at all. He also claims that other similar attacks were made in the 19th century on defended positions on higher ground but doesn't give many examples apart from Chapultapec about which I can't comment. He references Austerlitz and Marengo (he references Napoleon a lot) but these seem to me to be very different kinds of battles. Napoleon was under attack and losing badly at Marengo and at Austerlitz the Russo-Austrians thought they were the only ones doing the attacking, so the fight for the Pratzen heights was more of an encounter battle.

Tucker also tries to take the emphasis off the Virginian contribution i.e, Pickett's division, claiming that other divisions actually performed better, particularly the North Carolinians (I think). We'll see how things progress. A criticism of the style would be that the author seems to think that if a point's worth making once, it's worth making ten or more times e.g. the fact that Lee's plan would have given him an 8-1 numerical advantage at the critical point(???) - more investigation needed by this reader, I think, and did you know that the copse of trees wasn't that tall, but was easy to see from all round because of the higher ground on which it stood? I know that now, and if I have to hear it one more time....
 
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Persian Fire -The First World Empire and the Battle for the West - Tom Holland.

This book concisely illustrates the formation of the Persian Empire up until the self proclaimed chosen one of all gods - Darius. His self delusion being reinforced by military skill, brutality and propoganda to create numerous vassal states. You get embroiled with wars and the use of various methods to expand and control an empire; so much so that you begin to forget about the outside world........the vastness of the Empire is everything and all encompassing, although there is some knowledge of the Ionian Greeks in Anatolia, ( Turkey ) and the subjugation of Egypt by his predecessor.......Darius went from direct subjugation by force to co-ercion by asking for earth and water only and acknowledgement of Persian primacy, ( just like in the film -300....).

After subjugating the Punjab ( India ), gold coffers swelled and Darius began to focus his attention towards the Ionian Greeks who were well established and prosperous. Demands for subjugation were difficult to attain. Darius wondered why this was and met an answer. Strangers with long hair wearing red cloaks and brusque manners came to an audience as ambassadors for a far off and unknown to him,city state. They did not kneel or present themselves as the Ionian Greeks had done before with a degree of fear and humbleness. Darius had to ask one of his Ionian Greek vassals as to their nature. His response ...." They are Spartans !", and Darius responded with the words, " Who are the Spartans ? ". He was about to find out..............

The rest of the book is obviously about the defence of Greece fron Darius. He was responsible for waking a giant which would not soon after spawn new invaders from the North who became predominant in Greece under Philip of Macedon and eventually his son , Alexander who created an Empire bigger than Darius' and whose God/s were greater than anything Darius could have a claim to........Moral of the story.........stick your paw in too many honeybee nests and one day , they will sting you to death.

I like the way this book conveys how mysterious and almost otherworldly these times were, imbued with legends of the past , former greatness and demise.....revenge.......gold..........brutality.......magnificent buildings etc.......It is a pity that Alexander was born too late..........The God- Apollo versus the God-King Ahura Mazda..........No contest......the West would have continued to the Ganges river in India.........if he had survived and sired an heir, that is. 😞.........His glory eclipsed Darius, anyhow. 👍...
 
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VonHutier

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Agreed,
SHANGHAI 1937 - Stalingrad on the Yangtze
by Peter Harmsen copyright 2013

I learned some stuff reading this book. One of them is that the Chinese could have won this battle if they had done some things differently. This book has a lot of first person accounts on all sides. I enjoyed reading the book.
Agreed , very good book..
 
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