Monday, December 30, 2013

Lost Black Sheep: The Search for WWII Ace Chris Magee

Review by Jim Bates

When most people think about VMF-214, aka "The Black Sheep," they remember either Pappy Boyington or the fictional characters from the 1970s TV show. Few know that a member of VMF-214 was not only an ace, but his life was probably more interesting than the fiction they remember with nostalgia. His name was Chris Magee.

Robert T. Reed's book, Lost Black Sheep: The Search of WWII Ace Chris Magee, is written in two parts; the first, a biography of Mr. Magee, the second, a search for Mr. Reed's roots, and the two turn out to have significant crossover.  Chris Magee grew up in Chicago and, as a young man, tried to get to Europe to become a fighter pilot in World War II. He failed at first, but did end up training in Canada with the RCAF. After graduating with his wings from the RCAF he joined the United States Marine Corps and became the second highest scoring ace with the Black Sheep. Mr. Magee was not the typical fighter pilot as portrayed on screen. He was a deeply intellectual man, who was a voracious reader and a great writer.  Several of his letters are included in the book and they are well written, observant, and quite amusing at times. Post-war, Mr. Magee continued flying as a mercenary with Israel, later became a bank robber and then spent some time as a guest of the Federal Government. After paying his debt to society, he dropped off the face of the earth.

The second section of the book is more personal for Mr. Reed. He discovered that the man he grew up calling "Dad" was not his biological father; it was actually Mr. Magee.  Robert tracked down Mr. Magee and set out to establish a relationship. What does an ace, robber, and mercenary do in old age? Apparently, settle down to a life in a small apartment outside of Chicago to continue his intellectual quests, spending most of his time with his nose in a book. The story continues as Mr. Reed becomes acquainted with his father and reintroduces Chris to both his fellow Black Sheep and Mr. Magee's remaining estranged family members.

Lost Black Sheep is quite interesting and enjoyable. After finishing it, I longed for more insight into what made Mr. Magee tick.  Clearly he was far from the stereotypical fighter pilot and certainly no two dimensional underscripted TV character.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Juan de Fuca's Strait: Voyages in the Waterway of Forgotten Dreams

By Barry Gough 9781550176179 Harbour Publishing Paperback and maps 288 pp August 2013

I was looking forward to reading this book, having read some of Dr Gough's earlier works. The text starts well recounting the lives and feats of the seafarers, merchants, naval officers and explorers who searched for the fabled passage from Pacific to Atlantic which of course never existed. About halfway through the whole gist of the book seems to shift to a political correctness theme and thus causes the book to fall apart. This caused me to give up reading the remainder. When a writer wants to include 21st Century terms such as "First Nations", "Salish Sea" and "Haida Gwaii" brings the rest of the manuscript into question. What other parts of this book has history been assuaged to change events to make people appear either bad or good for political correctness? This book belongs in the trash bin. Very disappointing.

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Naval Institute Guide to the Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet, 19th Ed

Naval Institute Guide to the Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet, 19th Ed
Naval Insitute Press Annapolis March 2013 9781591146872 Hardcover 688 pages

Very happy to see the publishing of the 19th Edition of this Naval Institute staple and that the considerable talents of Richard Burgess has been added to the production. As usual the book is profusely illustrated and with many excellent lists and tables in a large format. The one think I could do without are the numerous listing of retired classes of ship, which seems to fly in the face of the intent of original editor James C Fahey. Apart from this, the book is highly recommended and should be added to the bookshelf of military and civilian personnel with an interest in the US Navy, US Coast Guard, NOAA and Military Sealift Command.

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The Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World, 16th Ed

The Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World, 16th Ed
Naval Institute Press Annapolis August 2013 9781591149545 Hardcover 1,008 pages 

Called “the nation’s premier naval reference book,” The Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World is internationally acknowledged as the best one-volume reference to the world’s naval and paranaval forces. Updated regularly since 1976, it has come to be relied on for all-inclusive, accurate, and up-to-date data on the ships, navies, coast guards, and naval aviation arms of more than 170 countries and territories. Large fleets and small maritime forces get equally thorough treatment. Comprehensive indexes make the book easy to use and allow for quick comparisons between ships and fleets.

This new 16th edition, presents information on all the major and minor maritime developments that could impact the world scene in the years to come. Heavily illustrated with 4,450 black & white  photos and 179 multi-view line drawings, Combat Fleets  provides the user with the most detailed views available for identification and comparison purposes. Additional aids for the user include a section on how to use the book, lists of terms and abbreviations,an informative ship-name index, and more. An expanded chapter on the Chinese navy provides major updates on the status of their new aircraft carrier and the latest Chinese submarines, surface ships and naval missiles. Dozens of detailed line drawings depict exactly where weapons and sensors are located on the world’s combatants such as the Iranian Ghadir-class submarines, the French Forbin-class destroyers, and the U.S. Navy’s Littoral Combat Ships.
The ship data section for each country provides full coverage of all ships, from the largest aircraft carriers to the smallest training and auxiliary craft. The vessels of the world’s coast guards and customs services are given thorough treatment as well. But the book is much more than a ship encyclopedia. It includes information on the personnel strengths of each country’s naval forces, major base locations, and details on maritime radar, sonar, naval aircraft, and weapon systems currently in service.
For the Canadian section, I was disappointed in the section not being up to date. 

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Asian Maritime Strategies

By Bernard D Cole 9781591141624 Naval Institute Press Hardcover & eBook 320 Pages October 2013

An analysis of the current state of maritime defense in Asian waters. With the financial capacity of the US to maintain a permanent presence in the region in doubt, the strengths and weaknesses of the nations in the region is what should be examined in detail. The smaller nations are also covered as well as the larger ones such as China, India and Japan. The one disappointment of this books was the lack of illustrations and tables to put things in perspective. This book is a timely addition to current geopolitical thought processes.

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Liberty Incident Revealed

By A Jay Cristol 9781612513409 Naval Institute Press Hardcover & eBook 416 Pages September 2013

This book is an update of the author's 2002 treatise on the Israeli attack on USS Liberty in 1967. Former naval aviator and current judge and law professor Cristol successfully sued the National Security Administration (NSA), under freedom in information laws, for their files on the attack. He has added six chapters to this new version, in what will surely become the definitive account on this unfortunate incident and firmly believes the historical record is accurate. Hopefully this will be the case and bring closure to all persons with a personal connection to the tragedy.

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21st Century Mahan

By Benjamin Armstrong 9781612512433 Paperback & eBook 192 Pages August 2013

The hypothesis behind this work is that the writings of Alfred Thayer Mahan have been extensively written about but not too widely read. This book is a compilation of five essays written by Mahan and is recommended for young naval officers to get a good grasp on the timeless aspects of service life and strategy.

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Congo The Miserable Expeditions and Dreadful Death of Lt Emory Taunt USN

By Andrew CA Jampoler 9781612510798 Hardcover & eBook 288 Pages June 2013

Having read Heart of Darkness in college, I had a feel for the subject matter before reading. Author Jampoler was in a party of six that traveled the Congo retracing the travels of Lt Emory Taunt USN. The late 1800s were the pinnacle of the colonial movement by European and US governments. Belgium colonized the Congo and Taunt was there for some of the travails of independence and colonization and the resultant social upheavals. The books is adequately written but the problem is the sanctimony of the author condemning Belgian atrocities that the US was equally, if not more so, guilty of during the subjugation of the Philippines.

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

British Phantoms: FG.1 and FGR.2 (F-4 K/M) in Royal Navy and RAF Service, 1966-78 (The Ultimate F-4 Phantom II Collection, Volume 4)

By Patrick Martin 978-3-935687-84-3 2012 Double Ugly Hardback; 160 pages , B&W and Color Illustrations plus Color Plates

Reviewed by Jim Bates

One of the early kits that remains in my memory is the Matchbox British Phantom.  As a young boy, nothing seemed cooler, and I've had a slight obsession with the Spey-engined Phantom ever since.  With such wonderful memories, what a great treat it was to open Patrick Martin's new book.  The 160-page hardcover has everything one needs on the topic.  Chapters include design and development, operational use, colors and markings, and squadron data.  Every page is well illustrated with many photos, most in color, with some black and white shots interspersed.  Also included among the text are color side-view drawings of some of the interesting markings that the Spey Phantoms have carried as well as an appendix illustrating the FG.1 and FGR.2 camouflage schemes with four view drawings.  Carrier operations with the Fleet Air Arm, and land based reconnaissance, strike, and finally air defense use by the RAF of the F-4 are covered, including a short segment on the Phantoms that participated in the 1969 Daily Mail Atlantic race.  While the book is more a general history of the type and not a detail oriented modelers book,  detail of interest to modelers can be observed in many of the photos.  About the only flaw I can see is that I need to wait for the second book that will cover the service after 1979.  Highly recommended to both the F-4 modeler and the Phantom fan.

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Britain's Future Navy

By Nick Childs Pen and Sword Books Hardback 192 pages ISBN: 9781848842915 Published: 14 March 2012

Author Nick Childs has put together a thorough examination of of current Royal Navy (RN) equipment after the 2010 massacre of the fleet with the infamous SDSR cuts. 
Childs presents many useful ideas and suggestions for the RN of the future. 
Not examined is the glut of senior officers, a problem afflicting most navies in the industrialized world as they are loathe to give of their positions despite having much smaller forces to command. In the UK, the cost of these officers includes the education of their children in private schools at taxpayer expense.

This book should be required reading for politicians bent of further military cuts.

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Plain Sailorman in China: The Life of and Times of Cdr. I.V. Gillis, USN, 1875-1948

By Bruce Swanson et al Naval Institute Press 9781612511054 Hardcover 272 Pages July 2012

The late Bruce Swanson learned about Gillis while doing research and was so excited he undertook to write a biography. While handwriting the text, Swanson unfortunately passed away and left the work in the hands of friends who brought the work to completion. 
Gillis was the first US Naval Attache in China, a sign of increased US diplomatic presence in China after the Boxer Rebellion and other events of the first decades of the 20th century.
The book details, in an easy to read fashion, life in the US Navy and China in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Marrying a Chinese woman, Gillis eventually most of the rest of his life in China, a period that included Japanese internment during the Second World War, until his death in 1948.
Congratulations of the writing team on this fine tribute to both Commander Gillis and the late Bruce Swanson.

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Uncommon Warriors: 200 Years of the Most Unusual American Naval Vessels

By Ken Sayers Naval Institute Press 9781591147602 Hardcover 288 Pages July 2012

Having written a number of books in this format, I can fully appreciate the author's passion and joy in compiling this welcome addition to naval history. Mr Sayers has compiled a list of all the disparate array of vessels that were included in the miscellaneous auxiliary classifications of AG and IX. Contained are brief histories of the vessels Sayers thought were the most noteworthy and are a nice extra. Numerous illustrations are contained and we give this book a hearty well done!

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The Zimmermann Telegram: Intelligence, Diplomacy, and America's Entry into World War I

By Thomas Boghardt 9781612511481 Naval Institute Press 2012 Hardcover 344 pages

At first I had doubts about this book as it seemed a needless duplication of the work of the late, great Barbara Tuchman on the same subject. While this latest effort is not of the caliber of Tuchman, it does paint a good picture of the intriques, both military and political, which eventually lead to US involvement in the First World War. In that regard, we do recommend this latest examination of this fascinating era of history.

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Monday, May 27, 2013

Allied Master Strategists: The Combined Chiefs of Staff in World War II

Naval Institute Press ISBN 781612510811 Hardcover & eBook 288 Pages November 2012
Calling the Combined Chiefs of Staff the glue that held the British-American alliance together in World War II, David Rigby describes the vital contributions to Allied victory made by the organization, which drew its members from the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, the British Chiefs of Staff Committee, and the British Joint Staff Mission. Readers get a good understanding of the personalities involved and insights into the relationships between the Chiefs and Allied theater commanders. The role of the Combined Chiefs in economic mobilization and the bitter inter-Allied strategic debates are fully examined. Detailed information is also given about the Casablanca Conference and the Chiefs’ often highly contentious meetings in Washington. 
With one of my relatives having been a member of the RCMP security detachment at the 1943 Quebec Conference, the workings and machinations of these leaders of US and British military forces has been of interest. 
Author and Professor David Rigby has chosen an excellent subject for his thorough treatise on the relationship that led to victory in World War II. Most works to date have focused on one nation or the other, but here Rigby does a pretty good job of documenting both. 
We look forward to the next work of history from Dr Rigby.

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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Kissing Sailor

Naval Institute Press 9781612510781 Hardcover & Ebook 224 Pages May 2012

Lawrence Verria and George Galdorisi do a fine job of dispelling the many long-held misconceptions of the identity of the famous couple photographed, The Kissing Sailor, taken August 14,1945.
WWII had just ended and there was jubilation in the streets! A sailor, dressed in uniform and a nurse shared a spontaneous kiss that was captured by photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt.  It was published in LIFE magazine and history was made. The authors take us through a tale of several decades and though many tried to claim it was them, the true identity of the couple is finally revealed.  Well done!

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Hirschfeld: The Story of a U-Boat NCO, 1940-1946


Seaforth Publishing Paperback 9781848326224

There have been many memoirs written by U-boat commanders of the Second World War, a book such as this, based upon the diaries of a senior Petty Officer telegraphist, written in 'real time' is something very special. Wolfgang Hirschfeld, whose diaries Geoffrey Brooks has translated is a born story teller. 

The principal chapters describe his experiences during six war patrols in U-109, in which he served as the senior telegraphist. His is a tale which covers the whole kaleidescope of emotions shared by men at war - a story of immense courage and fortitude, of remarkable comradeship born of the dangers, frustrations and privations shared and of transitory moments of triumph. 

Throughout runs a vein of humour, without which resistance to stress would have been virtually impossible. We get to know one of Germany's great U-boat aces, 'Ajax' Bleichrodt, holder of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and, in a special biographical appendix, learn how he finally cracked under the strain. The role of Admiral Karl Donitz, the dynamic commander of the U-boat service, so fascinatingly described by Hirschfeld, is of special interest - not least because even this dedicated Nazi had clearly realized by September, 1942, that the war was fast being lost. 

In 1944 Hirschfeld was promoted Warrant Officer and found himself on a large, schnorkel-equipped boat (U-234) heading for Japan with a load of high technology equipment and, in addition, a quantity of uranium ore. The possible significance of that uranium has been deeply researched by Geoffrey Brooks and is discussed in a second appendix.

An entertaining read documenting what life was like in the German Navy during the Nazi regime. Wolfgang Hirschfeld had extensive combat experience onboard U-109 and U-234. In 1945, U-234 was transporting two senior Japanese officials as well as a complete ME-262 jet fighter and nuclear materials to Japan at the time of VE Day. Surrendering to USS Sutton, Hirschfeld's war was over.

Illustrated and revamped from original German version, this final effort is a very interesting read indeed.

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The Seabound Coast The Official History of the Royal Canadian Navy 1867-1939 Volume I

Dundurn January 2011 1014 pp 978-1-55488-907-5 7 in x 9.25 in

From its creation in 1910, the Royal Canadian Navy was marked by political debate over the country's need for a naval service. The Seabound Coast, Volume I of a three-volume official history of the RCN, traces the story of the navy's first three decades, from its beginnings as Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier's tinpot navy of two obsolescent British cruisers to the force of six modern destroyers and four minesweepers with which it began the Second World War. The previously published Volume II of this history, Part 1, No Higher Purpose, and Part 2, A Blue Water Navy, has already told the story of the RCN during the 1939-1945 conflict.
Based on extensive archival research, The Seabound Coast recounts the acrimonious debates that eventually led to the RCNs establishment in 1910, its tenuous existence following the Laurier governments sudden replacement by that of Robert Borden one year later, and the navy's struggles during the First World War when it was forced to defend Canadian waters with only a handful of resources. From the effects of the devastating Halifax explosion in December 1917 to the U-boat campaign off Canada's East Coast in 1918, the volume examines how the RCN's task was made more difficult by the often inconsistent advice Ottawa received from the British Admiralty in London. In its final section, this important and well-illustrated history relates the RCN's experience during the interwar years when anti-war sentiment and an economic depression threatened the services very survival.
From confederation of all but one of the remaining British colonies in North America in 1867, the thought of Canada having a naval service was one of the furthest things from the minds of political leaders. Being colonies, they had long been used to having the Royal Navy protect them from foreign intrigues as required and the Monroe Doctrine whereby the USA would come to the defense of any nation in the Americas from foreign attack lead to complacency.
However in 1905, Royal Navy commander Jackie Fisher in London put into a place to modernize British forces. This resulted in the withdrawal of British naval and ground forces from Canada, forcing Ottawa to finally attempt to come to terms with their own defense.
Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier attempted to create what became the Royal Canadian Navy but his implementation plans came to naught with the defeat of his government in 1911.
This book, written by an authoritative and respected team, is certainly a welcome addition to Canadian history.

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A Two-Edged Sword The Navy as an Instrument of Canadian Foreign Policy

McGill Queen University Press 496 Pages 6x9 35 b&w photos ISBN 9780773540514 November 2012 Paperback, Cloth, eBook

An interesting look at an often overlooked aspect of Canadian naval operations - support of foreign policy. Sadly the Royal Canadian Navy has never been good at public relations with most of the Canadian population clueless about what they do and who they are. This book goes a long way to bringing one aspect of naval policy

Well illustrated and fully indexed and annotated, this scholarly work Adjunct Professor of History at the University of New Brunswick, this book is an excellent effort from a writer with such excellent credentials.

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Monday, May 20, 2013

The Hunters and the Hunted

The Hunters and the Hunted

By Bryan Perrett Pen and Sword Books Hardback 150 pages ISBN: 9781848846388 Published: 31 August 2012

1914 was probably the last year of the traditional chase and engagement of enemy ships on a large scale. This had little changed from the days of sail except for employing newer technologies. 
In addition, 1914 was probably the height of international ambitions for colonialism with most industrialized nations and some not (Russia) hoping to add overseas territories. To this end, one of the major roles of naval forces was to protect these colonial interests and this is the thrust of this book.
Author Perrett, is an experience writer on historical matters and here he does a good job of bringing not only 1914, but the rest of the First World War (albeit in limited scale compared to 1914). After 1915, the improvements in aircraft saw them employed in naval operations and these actions employed the technology when they could.
These actions take place off the Falkland Islands, Dutch East Indies, Pacific, Africa and the Mediterranean. 
Thanks for the author and publisher for putting out this important addition to naval history.

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Naval Institute Guide to the Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet, 19th Ed

By Norman Polmar and Richard R Burgess 9781591146872 Naval Institute Press Hardcover 688 pages March 2013

Very pleasantly surprised to read Rick Burgess, arguably the most knowledgeable person alive on US Naval Aviation, has now joined the Normal Polmar on this series. This is probably the most comprehensive publication on the current US Navy and related sea services in print today. Comprehensive listings of ships, aircraft, weapons and electronics. The only quibble we might have is the inclusion of discarded ships, which seems to distract from the apparent aim of series founder James Fahey. Apart from that, this book is superb and is highly recommended.

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Monday, February 18, 2013

British Warships and Auxiliaries 2013/14


Maritime Books 2013 

The annual welcomed edition from Maritime Books, British Warships and Auxliaries is now available. Nobody has a better grasp on the current Royal Navy than the editor of Warship World, Steve Bush. Fully illustrated in color (with the exception of the author's portrait picture) and detailed, this book is a must for the bookshelf of navy professionals and enthusiasts alike.

C Class Destroyers


Maritime Books 2012

40 ships of the C Class were planned for the Royal Navy in World War II with 32 completed and the last eight cancelled in favor of newer designs. The class was broken down into five groups of eight, with each octet being given CA, CH, CO, CR and CE names. The Royal Canadian Navy was to receive the who CH group (something I did not know) but due to manning considerations this was deferred to the later CR group. In any event the war ended before the CRs entered service and only two went to the RCN, four to Norway and two to Pakistan.
Each variant of the C Class incorporated improvements over the previous batch with later ships having a large dual purpose gun director which necessitated the removal one of bank of torpedo tubes.
The CA group were given a partial modernization in the 1950s and HMCS Crescent was the only member of the class to receive a Type 15 style modernization. Coming in 1955-56, Crescent's modernization was far and away the best Type 15 style modernization of any navy.

Profusely illustrated in the Maritime Books manner, this book is an entertaining read.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Blue Moon Over Cuba - Aerial Reconnaissance During the Cuban Missile Crisis by Capt. William B. Eckler USN (ret) and Kenneth V. Jack

Blue Moon Over Cuba - Aerial Reconnaissance During the Cuban Missile Crisis by Capt. William B. Eckler USN (ret) and Kenneth V. Jack
By Jim Bates

What started out as an attempt to publish the memoirs of Capt. William B. Eckler, the Commanding Officer of VFP-62 during the Cuban Missile Crisis, this book evolved into much more.  It is basically a one stop summary of the Cuban Missile Crisis and how photo reconnaissance was able to prevent war in the fall of 1962.  All aspects of the Crisis are discussed, including the operations of VFP-62 with their RF-8 Crusaders, ruminations on aerial photo reconnaissance and the technology involved, and the behind the scenes military and political maneuvering both in Washington and in the United Nations.  The book also make is clear that once the Crisis was over VFP-62’s work was not done, as they needed to fly missions to verify that the missiles had been removed and that additional weapons had not been imported.  The combination of all of these items makes this a fascinating book and an excellent read.  Highly recommended.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Town Class Cruisers


2012 Maritime Books

After reading this book right after completing C Class Destroyers from the same publisher, I can tell you that reading of both was enjoyable.
Other works to date have focused on the technical history of these famous cruisers, but this one details their operational service.
Conceived in the 1930s as a response to the growing size and capability of cruisers, these ships were the British response. Four of these ships were lost in action, Edinburgh, Gloucester, Manchester & Southampton. Six served in the postwar fleet with one preserved by the Imperial War Museum in London, HMS Belfast/
Three small errors noted in the text:

  • Plumper blocks called plummer blocks
  • Type 279 numbers transposed as Type 297
  • Confusion on Saint John, New Brunswick and St John's. Newfoundland
Profusely illustrated, this book is highly recommended. 

America's Black Sea Fleet: The U.S. Navy Amidst War and Revolution, 1919-1923

Right up front, I have to say, this is one of the best books that USNI Press has put out in some time. Skillfully written an English professor and retired USNR Captain, Dr Shenk has crafted an excellent treatise on this heretofore little known fleet.
The US Black Sea Fleet operated from Constantinople from the end of the First World War through the horrors of Russian famine and Turkish genocide of Christians until 1923.
Shenk weaves a tale of the egotistical Admiral Mark Bristol USN, who essentially outdid the State Department as the most important American figure in the region. Bristol allowed the use of naval radios to transmit stories for reporters and news services that painted him or his policy in a favorable light. In addition, Bristol often allow the use of destroyers to transport persons or groups in his favor around the region.
The fleet was mostly destroyers augmented by cruisers or battleships for short periods and commanded from ashore or from yacht USS Scorpion (pictured below), which was often used for social functions by Bristol. Some of the young officers serving in theater would become well known in World War Two  and after: Kinkaid, Gallery and Leahy to name a few.

Constantinople was the Roaring 20s was full of desperate White Russians who had fled the Bolshevik takeover at home. To make ends meet, many would perform any type of job they could get such as teachers, maids, waitresses and even prostitutes. Anyone could walk into a restaurant in Constantinople and be served by a former princess.
US Navy ships were permitted to deliver food aid to starving Russians at Black Sea ports. US sailors were first hand witnesses to bodies lying everywhere due to the famine.
The animosity between Greece and Turkey during this period was intense and Greece invaded parts of Turkey to support native Greeks in Turkey. Many of these Greek residing in Turkey were prevented from fleeing and many ended up dead. The Black Sea Fleet was instrumental in saving the lives of hundreds of thousands of fleeing Greek and Armenian refugees at Smyrna and elsewhere.
Also during the fleet's period of existence was the slaughter of at least one million Christian Armenians in Turkey, a fact that Bristol did not fully comprehend while it was happening. Ninety years ago the idea of that kind of genocide as practically unthinkable in Bristol's defense.
Wow, I've not been as gripped reading a history since I read Barbara Tuchman's classic Guns of August in high school.
We certainly hope that Professor Shenk writes again soon.

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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Yorke Island and the Uncertain War Defending Canada's western coast during WWII

Yorke Island and the Uncertain War, Defending Canada's western coast during WWII 

By Catherine Marie Gilbert

9780919537934 Ptarmigan Press Campbell River 2012 

Yorke Island, at the entrance to Sunderland Channel near Sayward, has had very little coverage is the history of Canada or British Columbia. Kudos to Ms Gilbert for correcting this oversight.

Yorke Island was slowly developed slowly in the late 1930s in the frugal Mackenzie King government of the day, which was loath to spend anything on defense. With war looming in August of 1939, local militia were ordered to activate personnel for duty at York Island, whose duty was to protect the northern approaches to the vital Georgia Strait which includes Vancouver and southern Vancouver Island. Initially the island was home to army personnel but later additions were from the Royal Canadian Air Force and Royal Canadian Navy. 

One of the most famous persons assigned to the island was the famous Vancouver policeman, Bernie Smith. Smith enjoyed duty on the island, but many did not as there were a few suicides and personal anguish. But being wartime this was probably true at many military installations all over the world.

Profusely illustrated, the book makes a welcome addition to the historical record.