Saturday, December 22, 2012

Missing A Story of American Merchant Mariners in World War II

Missing a Story of American Merchant Mariners in World War II

By Norma Andreasen

ISBN 9781466485426 Self published 2004 

This book is a good example of why we don't normally review self-published works. The text changes font, websites are reference with hyperlinks not taken out and the research is somewhat lacking.
While the book is an attempt to record the disappearance of tanker Esso Williamsburg in 1942, it tries to be an homage to the US Merchant Marine in general during the Second World War.
Good selection of photos, but the reproduction was not very good. In the text, destroyer HMCS Kootenay spelled Skootenay. Ships of Convoy 101 - research on the convoy would have been nice.
A real disappointment, this book presents like an essay from a high school freshman.

Infamous Aircraft

Infamous Aircraft

By Robert Jackson

ISBN 9781848846586 Paperback 176 pages March 2012

Everyone has a good idea about the history of the famous aircraft of the 20th Century, but about the ones that were, to be polite, not so great.
Author Jackson has done a commendable job of telling the story of some the quirky and novel designs. These range from dirigibles and aircraft, combat and civil, from biplanes to jets.
The text is fairly well written and flows quite well.
Great work and we hope Mr Jackson puts out another book.

U-108 At War

U-108 at War

By Alistair Smith

ISBN 9781848846678 Paperback 144 pages Pen and Sword Press July 2012

Smith has done a very good job attempting to make sense of this private photo collection illustrating just what life was like on a Second World War U-boat. Amazingly none of the subjects seem to mind which leads one to conclude that there was no censorship ban on photography as in most Allied navies. 
A few minor errors of note in the text:
-There was no Province of Newfoundland and Labrador in 1941
-Misidentifies the ubiquitous drifter, used by most European navies, as merchant vessels
- No Type XXI submarines went to France in German service
- Cam ship aircraft pilots would bail out near a ship and not just over land
- Allied Convoy commander was a Commodore not a Commander
- Confused a boat rope with boat lowering in one caption
- Photo on page 144 looks like a toilet seat and hence why the crewmember was in that awkward spot
Apart from this, the photos and most of the text gives one of the best looks at what it was like to have served in the U-boat force with one of the highest fatality rates of any service during this conflict.
Congratulations to Mr Smith and Pen and Sword on this worthwhile addition to the historical record.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Descent Into Darkness

By Edward C Raymber

ISBN 9781591147244 Paperback/eBook 240 Pages US Naval Institute Press March 2012

This book is an excellent account of life as a hard hat navy diver just prior to and the first two years of US involvement in the Second World War. Based in California, the author and his dive team were rushed to Pearl Harbor via aircraft to take part in the desperate attempt to recover survivors from the sunken ships of the famous Japanese attack. Great detail is recorded on the trials and tribulations with some success. Unfortunately most of the efforts later turned to recovery of bodies and valuable items. The exhausting work left many with what in those days were probably cases of undiagnosed PTSD from seen bodies floating around inside sunken ships. One eerie instance even tells of coming across a compartment where some crewmembers of a capsized ship stayed alive for several days before succumbing. 
Later parts of the book detail a brief stint on an Apaches Class fleet tug before it was sunk in the Solomons from enemy action. The survivors were taken ashore and employed on Guadalcanal and Tulagi in various capacities, all the while experiencing the horrors of the snake-infested terrain and combat operations.
This book is an excellent opportunity for the reader to familiarize themselves on what life was like for the junior enlisted personnel of those momentous times.

Destined for Glory

By Thomas Wildenberg

ISBN 9781591149699 Paperback/Ebook 288 Pages 1998 US Naval Institute Press March 2012

This book is in a nice easy to read format and contains some photos of rare and famous aircraft. The art of dive bombing was practiced by all navies in the 1920s through to the final aircraft employed - the Grumman A-6 Intruder. This book covers the development of the dive bomber for the US Navy & Marine Corps up the their successes in the Battles of Coral Sea and Midway. 
For aviation buffs, this book would make a welcome addition to their collection.

Flightline Series 1: de Havilland Sea Vixen 1 and 2

by Roy Sutherland

Click to enlarge

Subtitled as an in-depth photographic study, this book does what it says on the cover.  After an eight page short history of the Sea Vixen by Chris Bucholtz, the remaining hundred pages of this book include clear and detailed colour photographs of every inch of this unique British naval fighter.  No more than three photos are included on any one page and some technical drawings are interspersed where appropriate.  As expected, the photos are of preserved museum aircraft and the one remaining flying Sea Vixen.  Cockpit, landing gear, and airframe details are all here.  Highly recommended for anyone wanting to super-detail the new Airfix or Cyberhobby Sea Vixens. (Jim Bates)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Uncharted Waters: A History of the Canadian Helicopter-Carrying Destroyer Second Edition

By Shawn Cafferky
March 2012
ISBN: 978-1-896440-68-2
$25.00 CDN (plus S&H)

After learning the author was deceased, I was at first tempted to give this book a sympathetic review. However, after due consideration, I decided it would do our readers a disservice. 
The book contains a number of errors, which leaves the other work suspect. Some examples (which should have been caught in proof reading and/or editing):

  • Vice Admiral PW Nelles referred to as Admiral
  • HMCS Prestonian said to be a Loch Class frigate
  • HMS Surprise listed as cruiser instead of the CinC Yacht for the Mediterranean Fleet
  • Stated ASROC could not be fitted on a destroyer hull when the US Navy fitted over 150 ships and Canada four
  • The McDonnel Banshee was never operated from HMCS Magnificent
  • HMCS Crusader was listed as one of the first eight ships to be converted to DDH status - but why this was not done is never revealed.
In addition, the quality of the photos is very poor. Drawings of various proposals would certainly be of use.

For these reasons, we reluctantly cannot recommend this book.

Nomonhan 1939

By Stuart D Goldman

ISBN 9781591143291 Hardcover & eBook 288 pages US Naval Institute Press April 2012 

Largely ignored by history, the Soviet Union's war with Imperial Japan along the Manchuria/Mongolia border is finally studied in depth. This war's outcome, with the Soviets victorious, lead to dramatic changes in the future course of World War II. The Japanese defeat lead them to instead focus south to the Philippines and Southeast Asia. The Soviets, after their victory, were then free to enter into their infamous non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany which preceded the invasion of Poland. Congratulations to Dr Goldman for documenting this event.

Strike Warfare in the 21st Century

By Dale E Knutsen


ISBN 9781612510835 Hardcover & eBook 208 pages Naval Institute Press May 2012

Strike warfare is a term rarely used in the media and almost never explained, although reports of conflicts often describe its application or effects. To provide readers with a better appreciation for this powerful military capability, Dale E. Knutsen defines the term and traces its development. The book opens with a discussion of strike warfare operations and addresses the targets, defenses, resources, and steps required to prosecute an attack. The second half of the book describes how strike weapons are developed. The author’s goal is to eliminate the uncertainty, mystery, and outright fiction that sometimes exist in various explanations of the term. Knutsen closes with some thoughts about lessons learned and trends for the future.
The author spent many years at NAWC China Lake and is a good source of unclassified information on this topic. This book makes for a handy reference tool without getting too dry. The days of aircraft flying low on a bombing run a thing of the past with today's technology making the target not even aware they are about to be vanquished.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Echoes Across Seymour

ISBN 13: 978-1-55017-588-2
ISBN 10: 1-55017-588-2
Price: $39.95 CAD; $39.95 USD
150 B&W and color photographs
8.75 x 11.25 - 256 pp
November 2012

Another masterpiece from Harbour Publishing. The very active Deep Cove Heritage Society selected three members to put for the history of the area of North Vancouver roughly east of the Seymour River. Included are an Indian Reserve, waterfront, various commercial and residential neighborhoods including Deep Cove and the Mount Seymour ski and recreational area. The book is printed in an easy to read two column format and profusely illustrated with black and white and color photography. For current, former and future residents of this dynamic region, this book is highly recommended.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Float Planes and Flying Boats

9781612511078 By Capt. Robert B Workman USCG (Ret'd) Naval Institute Press 2012

With nearly 300 vintage photographs and close to 300 pages of text, retired U.S. Coast Guard aviator Capt. Robert Workman presents a complete picture of naval aviation’s rapid development between 1911 and 1938.  Frustrated by the lack of information specifically about the Coast Guard’s aviation heritage, the author undertook research of his own.  The result is a balanced look at early naval aviation that, for the first time, gives full credit to the important contributions made by Coast Guardsmen.  He shows that it was thanks to their creativity, skill, and determination, along with efforts by the other sea services, that such great strides were possible.  Several chapters are devoted to the inventions of the float plane and flying boat and why the flying boat was considered more seaworthy and reliable.
This book contains an excellent collection of photos and research but lacks focus on what it wants to be. Not sure if it was to be a biography of first USCG aviator Elmer Stone, a history of events or a history of the aircraft involved. Author Workman would have done well to split this into separate projects. The end result was a big disappointment.

The Uchuk Years

Book Cover
978-1-55017-582-0 By David Esson Young Harbour Publishing 2012

On the wild west coast of Vancouver Island, those days still exist, as this book reveals in vivid detail. Relating the trials and tribulations of what surely must be the last of Canada’s historic coastal shipping lines, The Uchuck Years is a rare first-person account by an old salt who owned and captained his own vessels. Enduring for sixty-five years, the company that came to be known as Nootka Sound Service Limited is still in operation to this day, though David Young no longer owns it and has recently sworn off serving as skipper even in a relief capacity.
Initially serving the communities of Ucluelet and Bamfield, the company refocused its efforts when Highway 28 was punched through the mountains from Campbell River to Gold River in 1959. Logging and mining camp bosses farther up coast in the Nootka Sound and Kyuquot areas were convinced of the company’s usefulness, allowing it to move its service farther north along the remote West Coast. The four company vessels—all named Uchuck—have hauled passengers and freight ranging from the more usual outpost supplies to broken aircraft, totem poles and, more recently, kayaks and camping gear for eco-touring expeditions. Every day is an adventure on the Uchuck and the ships have been called upon countless times to perform boat rescue and other emergency support. Young’s gripping first-hand accounts of stormy passages through waters once known as the “Graveyard of the Pacific” are interspersed with his anecdotes about the colourful boss loggers and hermits who make this storm-tossed but incredibly scenic wilderness one of coastal BC’s most fascinating places. The Uchuck Years is transportation history par excellence, a great seafaring yarn and an important history of one of BC’s most charismatic regions.

I have always been fascinated by this class of ship, built in the US for the US and British Navies in World War II. This book is a great addition to the historical record on this type of ship whose two most famous postwar conversions were Jacques Cousteau's Calypso and John Wayne's Grey Goose. Uchuk III should be included in this grouping. The author spent 40 years working on the remote western Vancouver Island wilderness and brings this experience to good use. The reader is left feeling as if they are there during the narrative. Thank you Harbour Publishing for bringing yet another of your classics on British Columbia history to market.