Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Lost Flight of Amelia Earhart

The book is actually a screenplay and as such is not really suitable as an authoritative work of history.

Upon Their Lawful Occasions: Reflections of a Merchant Navy Officer During Peace and War

By Vernon G.A. Upton

Paperback 444 pages Matador 2008 978-1904744252

Vernon Upton served in the Merchant Navy from just before the outbreak of World War II. His experiences of life in peace and war are vividly described in this comprehensive history.
One of the nice features of this book are the plethora of tables and photographs. While nice, at times the tables distract from the narrative and might have been better served with being placed in appendices.
This book is an excellent narrative and is recommended to studies of the Second World War.

THE WHEEZERS AND DODGERS: The Inside Story of Clandestine Weapon Development in World War II

By Gerald Pawle

304 pages Seaforth Publishing April 2009 978-1848320260 Paperback

This is the story of the Admiralty's Department of Miscellaneous Weapon Development, the so-called 'Wheezers and Dodgers', and the many ingenious weapons and devices it invented, improved or perfected.

The author was one of a group of officers with engineering or scientific backgrounds who were charged with the task of winning the struggle for scientific mastery between the Allies and the Germans in what Churchill enthusiastically called 'the wizard war'. Their work ranged from early stop-gap weapons like the steam-powered Holman projector, via great success stories like the Hedgehog anti-submarine mortar, to futuristic experiments with rockets, a minefield that could be sown in the sky, and the spectacularly dangerous Great Panjandrum, a giant explosive Catherine-wheel intended to storm enemy beaches.

The development of these and many other extraordinary inventions, their triumphs and disasters, is told with panache and humor and a diverse group of highly imaginative and eccentric figures emerge from the pages.

First published in 1956, this book is welcome reprint and is a highly worthwhile read.

Avoiding Armageddon Canadian Military Strategy and Nuclear Weapons, 1950-63

By Andrew Richter

9780774808880 UBC Press

$32.95 224 Pages

Published in association with the Canadian War Museum as part of the Studies in Canadian Military History series

The advent of nuclear weapons in the 1940s brought enormous changes to doctrines regarding the use of force in resolving disputes. American strategists have been widely credited with most of these; Canadians, most have assumed, did not conduct their own strategic analysis. Avoiding Armageddon soundly debunks this notion.

Drawing on previously classified government records, Richter reveals that Canadian defense officials did come to independent strategic understandings of the most critical issues of the nuclear age. Canadian appreciation of deterrence, arms control, and strategic stability differed conceptually from the US models. Similarly, Canadian thinking on the controversial issues of air defense and the domestic acquisition of nuclear weapons was primarily influenced by decidedly Canadian interests.

Avoiding Armageddon is a work with far-reaching implications. It illustrates Canada’s considerable latitude for independent defense thinking while providing key historical information that helps make sense of the contemporary Canadian defense debate.

Nuclear weapons were long the untold element of Canada’s military in the 1960s and 70s with the BOMARC surface to air and GENIE air to air missiles as part of NORAD, the RCAF CF-104 purchased for the NATO nuclear strike role in Europe and the RCN’s purchase of the ASROC nuclear ASW torpedo launching system. The most famous result of these programs was the still controversial cancellation of the Avro Arrow jet interceptor by the Deifenbaker government.

Canada has traditionally thought small in defense matters but occasionally aspired to greatness. This book covers well the behind the scenes planning and thought processes behind thoughts on what was and still is a controversial topic.

I was quite happy to see the UBC Press publish this work by Andrew Richter. Although the finished product would have been much improved by the inclusion of illustrations, it is still recommended.