The Iliad and The Normandy Invasion

At first I thought that someone had made a mistake with the cover of this translation of the Iliad. But then I realized just how brilliant it is.

The Greatest Army (and Navy) Stories Ever Told

The Greatest U.S. Army Stories Ever Told: Unforgettable Stories of Courage, Honor, and Sacrifice (Greatest)

The Greatest U.S. Navy Stories Ever Told: Unforgettable Stories of Courage, Honor, and Sacrifice (Greatest)

By titling his books “The Greatest US Army Stories Ever Told,” and “The Greatest US Navy Stories Ever Told,” Iain C. Martin makes a bold claim, given the services’ long and intersting history. Still, I have to believe that Martin meant it as more than hyperbole, and that he as spent a great deal of time saparating the wheat from the chaff.

So are these the Greatest Army and Navy Stories ever told? I don’t know, but they are certainly very good and have provided me with many good evenings of reading.

Each of the stories is an excerpt from a different period, and are arranged chronologically. Martin has done a good job not only of representing the various wars, but also of offering multiple points of view. In each volume are the writings of commanders, foot soldiers (or sailors), reporters, and historians.

Of the two, I think that I enjoyed the Army stories more (although that could be the result of a relative lack of knowledge of Naval history). Beginning with a recount of Washington’s Crossing by historian David Hackett Fisher, the Army stories include selections from Revoutionary War soldier Joseph Plumb Martin; Mexican American War correspondent George Wilkins Kendall; Civil War nurse and author Louisa May Alcott; Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and Ulysses Grant; Chief Red Horse; Spanish American War Correspondent Richard Harding Davis; World War II correspondents Andy Rooney and Ernie Pyle; General Ridgeway’s account of Inchon, Reporter Joe Gallawy on Vietnam; plus pieces on the first and second Gulf Wars, and the infamous “Black Hawk Down” incident in Somalia.

On the Naval Side were John Paul Jones; historian Nathan Miller on the Constellation – L’ Insurgente engagement; Historian James de Kay on Stephen Decatur’s attack on Tripoli; C.s Forester on the Battle of Lake Erie; James Fenimore Cooper on the USS Constitution; Herman Melville on his days as a seaman; reports from the Monitor and Merrimack; Captain H.D. Smith at Mobile Bay; George Dewey; a harrowing account of sub disaster; an excerpt from “At Dawn We Slept”; Commander Walter Winslow’s account of the Java Sea; George Feifer’s history of the Kamikaze; Commander Frances Omori’s account of navy nurses in the Korean War, an account by Sherry Sontag and Christopher Drew of a Cold War submarine game of cat-and-mouse; and an excerpt from Chuck Pfarrer’s “Warrior Soul” about Navy Seals.

Each selection is put into its proper perspective with a short introduction and postscript by Martin. These are well done, and helped to fill me in on some things I didn’t know or had forgotten.

I have absolutely no quibble with the pieces selected except to say that we perhaps did not need eight pieces on the Second World War in the Army volume (and a similar number in the Navy volume). We may have been better served, perhaps to have selections from some more less-well covered periods. I am sure that there are some great storeis from the Boxer Rebellion, the Moro Wars, (or somesmaller,less known naval escapades) etc. But then, maybe Martin did consider tem and they were judged not to be among the “greatest.”

In the end, I think that these are two teriffic books, and worth adding to your shelves.

The Elephant God E Book

Fans of colonial wargaming looking for a good read should check out Gordon Casserly’s The Elephant God. Written in 1921, it’s set in colonial India.

Of all the swarming herds of wild elephants in the Terai, the Mysore, or the Ceylon jungles no man, white or black, has ever seen one that had died a natural death — yet many have watched them climbing up the great mountain rampart of the Himalayas towards regions where human foot never followed. The Death Place of the Elephants is a legend in which all jungle races firmly believe, but no man has ever found…

It’s available as a free ebook download.

A History of Warfare By John Keegan

It’s an ambitious title, but military historian John Keegan is up to the task. In A History of Warfare, Keegan analyzes the role of warfare in society, and the progression of war through four “ages” which he characterizes as “stone, flesh, iron and fire.” Most interesting is that Keegan refutes von Clausewitz’s contention in “On War” that war is simply an extension of national policy. While this is not a book about any particular war or battle, the thoughtful wargamer will find this interesting for the ideas and questions it poses.

A History of Warfare

Stillwell and the American Experience In China by Barbara Tuchman

Historian Barbara Tuchman won her second Pulitzer Prize in 1971 for Stillwell and The American Experience In China My copy is a first edition hardback, but this great book fortunately is still available in paperback. Using “Vinegar Joe” Stillwell as the catalyst, Tuchman examines thirty years of US policy in China: from the end fo the Manchu Dynasty to Mao Tse-Tung. The book offers insight to a number of military operations, from the Chinese Warlords of the 1920s to the Pacific War of the 1940s. If the movie “The Sand Pebbles” has ever caught your imagination, this book is sure to do the same.

Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911-45