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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