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Subject: Military History Bookshelf - February 2018 rss

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John Robinson
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Welcome to Februarys Military History Bookshelf.


The start of another month. Let everyone know what you are currently reading or if you have just finished then tell us what you thought of it.

My current book




When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, few experts believed the fledgling Mujahideen resistance movement had a chance of withstanding the modern, mechanized onslaught of the Soviet Army. But somehow, the Mujahideen prevailed against a larger and decisively better equipped foe.
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Jeff Saxton
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I believe Elphinstone learned this too, the hard way.
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Ivor Bolakov
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Life in Europe after WWII hasn't always been smiles and sunshine. The cruel treatment of civilians is merely par for the course, and while some of it was to be expected, the continued rape, murder, and ethnic cleansing just doesn't look good on humanity's résumé. People who survived concentration camps went 'home' to find their houses taken, their families dead, and their neighbours prepared to kill them.
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Jason Maxwell
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I asked this last month but it was after the initial rush of postings so I'm hoping by re-asking it early this month I might get some ideas(other than Tacitus) from the assembled brain trust. I'm looking for any recommendations on books covering Roman Britain. I'm looking for a good overview to start, then I'll dive down deep on specific subjects I might be interested in (having visited Chester/Deva in March, good odds that will be one area I want to dig into).
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Jason Maxwell
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Meanwhile its technically not history but I'm reading the classic cold war spy novel Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carre.
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Roger Hobden
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Finally finished Empires of the Sea, by Roger Crowley.



A book on History that reads like novel.

Highly recommended.



BTW, this is the next book up for the current BGG Wargame subdomain BOOK CLUB. The thread of the BOOK CLUB is here.
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John Robinson
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JasonRMax wrote:
I asked this last month but it was after the initial rush of postings so I'm hoping by re-asking it early this month I might get some ideas(other than Tacitus) from the assembled brain trust. I'm looking for any recommendations on books covering Roman Britain. I'm looking for a good overview to start, then I'll dive down deep on specific subjects I might be interested in (having visited Chester/Deva in March, good odds that will be one area I want to dig into).


My hometown, some nice Roman ruins there, are you after fictional books like the Eagle series from Simon Scarrow? or this

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Roman-Britain-History-Guy-B%C3%A9do...
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Sam Smith
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Two fairly recent and overall well reviewed overviews are by Peter Salway and Guy de la Bedoyere (see Google or Amazon). Personally I rather like Salway's punchy style, though de la Bedoyere is also good.

Adrian Goldsworthy has written several vg factual books on the Roman Army, though not specifically focused on Britain. He's also recently brought out a Northern-Britain-based fictional story called Vindolanda, which I haven't read but must investigate at some point, as he's also previously written some Peninsular war fiction which wasn't bad, IMO. Quite good militarily speaking and quite refreshing to have characters who behave like people of the period not a modern badass hero. Hope this helps.

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Jason Maxwell
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jon7167 wrote:
JasonRMax wrote:
I asked this last month but it was after the initial rush of postings so I'm hoping by re-asking it early this month I might get some ideas(other than Tacitus) from the assembled brain trust. I'm looking for any recommendations on books covering Roman Britain. I'm looking for a good overview to start, then I'll dive down deep on specific subjects I might be interested in (having visited Chester/Deva in March, good odds that will be one area I want to dig into).


My hometown, some nice Roman ruins there, are you after fictional books like the Eagle series from Simon Scarrow? or this

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Roman-Britain-History-Guy-B%C3%A9do...


More like your link, actual history. Though I saw the Simon Scarrow books at a used book stall in the Bath market so the first one is sitting on my to be read shelf too.

My wife and In really enjoyed our day in your hometown, especially since it was a last minute change to our plans we made on the London-Manchester train the day before. Originally we were going to go to Leeds to see the armory but I figured my wife might appreciate something different and we settled on Chester. Had a nice morning walking the walls and an afternoon shopping after lunch at a sandwich shop in a little alley off the cross.

samwise46 wrote:

Two fairly recent and overall well reviewed overviews are by Peter Salway and Guy de la Bedoyere (see Google or Amazon). Personally I rather like Salway's punchy style, though de la Bedoyere is also good.

Adrian Goldsworthy has written several vg factual books on the Roman Army, though not specifically focused on Britain. He's also recently brought out a Northern-Britain-based fictional story called Vindolanda, which I haven't read but must investigate at some point, as he's also previously written some Peninsular war fiction which wasn't bad, IMO. Quite good militarily speaking and quite refreshing to have characters who behave like people of the period not a modern badass hero. Hope this helps.


I have a couple of Goldsworthy books but not one that really features Britain yet. I'll have to check out Vindolands.

Thanks for the additional Guy de la Bedoyere recommendation and I'll check out Salway as well.
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THE MAVERICK
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jon7167 wrote:
My current book


It that a retitled version of The Other Side of the Mountain?

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On to Petersburg: Grant and Lee, June 4-15, 1864

The final installment (of 5) of Gordon C. Rhea's Overland Campaign series of books.
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Ben McClellan
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WW2 just does not interest me that much, but there are a ton of seemingly fantastic games available on the topic. So I decided to start with a general overview on the topic:



I'm about halfway through, and am quite enjoying it. I have Beevor's 'The Second World War' on reserve, but wonder if it's necessary reading after this?
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Ivor Bolakov
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Beevor's a historian, Hastings is not. Always worth reading a historian.
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Tim Parker
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Almost done with The German Air War in Russia by Richard Muller. It has been most interesting and has filled a gap in my East Front knowledge. I'll post a detailed review when I finish.
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Andy Daglish
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Bought in the OUP sale.

US public opinion starts to shake as the US Army gets shot up again and again whilst attacking across rivers and mountains in Italy. The chapter on FDR's "Unconditional Surrender" mystery is probably the most significant, with the extreme murk of the deal with Admiral Darlan being the origin. Here he carries on as administrator in North Africa in return for ordering French forces, which outnumbered the invaders 2:1, to cease fire. He was the only Frenchman with sufficient clout, but was only in Algiers because he was visiting his sick son. Shortly after he is assassinated while every senior MI6 officer is in town, the weapon used being traced back to Churchill's circle. He is replaced by a rather more deliberate albeit disastrous choice from the Vichy government, who, the Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle reassures its readers, only very occasionally has their co-religionists beaten up. Ike turns a blind eye as it keeps the local muslims onside. Unconditional surrender is therefore useful as they don't want other Darlans in other occupied countries, not least because demonisation of collaborators & quislings makes working with them look bad. US public opinion begins to reflect this also.

In a similar vein the Morgenthau plan backs up Goebbels propaganda whilst also exposing wartime disunity of various US government departments, whose more violent ideas are moderated by wise & calm electorate, whose large German moiety probably will express displeasure of FDR's post-war plans by voting against him at the upcoming election.
Recommended.





The latest one on 1066, something of an archaeological survey with critical examination of the sources, don't get killed in the rush.

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Reading this at the moment, got the four volumes for xmas.
Very interesting, and a topic I know very little about, be that the 100 years war in particular or feudal europe in general.

Death isn't as prominent as I thought it would be. You read about battles the battles in general, ie 'castle x fell', or 'siege x was abandonned after 2 weeks', not about casualties or horrific act of wars. First time I read something that made me shrug was at +- page 250: a french raider was parading mutilated english bodies through the streets of calais. Before that it looked a bit like a jolly affair
Not necessarily a bad thing, just something I noticed.
Very detailed, more based around politics
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M Evan Brooks
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RATING:

Finally completed this one, after three months of tedious reading. I have enthusiastically recommended the first volume of this trilogy, and eagerly anticipated the second volume. However, second entries in trilogies have a problem of merely serving as glue between the first and third volumes. Such is the case here. The writing shows much research but the narration is disjointed and often appears to be mere vignettes between different areas of the world (e.g., Mongolia, Western Europe, China, Japan, etc.) without an underlying thread tying it together.

Stalin's actions with his underlings (there are no more peers) never really show any coherence or cohesion. There are some questionable decisions by the author; he often shows a person with his birth date, but never the date of his death, which makes the use of Wikipedia a mandatory detour. There are indications of future problems for an individual, e.g. Mongolian leader Peljidlin Genden, an early confidant, "did something no one else ever had or would -- he snatched Stalin's pipe and smashed it" (p. 279). While this may well foreshadow his ultimate fate, the author does not really follow up and forces the reader to look elsewhere for the resolution. The author characterizes Khrushchev as having developed "a reputation for bootlicking" and footnotes a source, but does not really address any other evidence of such behavior (p. 518).

Certain narration is poetically incongruous: "Stalin was profoundly alone in the sulfuric aquifers of his being" (p. 526). Yet nowhere does the author ever give a convincing rationale for the Great Terror. Stalin literally sentenced his former comrades to death; yet he had shared the experience of Siberian exile with them. One can see that Hitler may have done the same to Rohm and the SA, but at the same time, Hitler had a reason in that he sought to establish a closer relationship with the Army and had established a new organization which was more personally loyal to him (the SS). Stalin did not have any such justification other than he wanted to decapitate the older generation and replace them with younger Communists who had grown up in the new regime.

There are too many asides which go nowhere, e.g., "Stalin trusted no one (other than perhaps Abram Isayevich Legner, his Jewish tailor" (p. 681); he characterizes Red Army general Grigory Kulik as a "notorious bully and blockhead" (p. 741) without fully justifying this description; he characterizes British politician Stafford Cripps as a "wealthy vegetarian" (p. 775) which does nothing to expand the narrative.

Stalin's obsession with Trotsky is pervasive in the first half of this volume, but the subsequent assassination appears almost as an afterthought.

Overall, a disappointing sequel.

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Dave Carey
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Pursuing my ongoing fascination for the Age of Sail I have just started:



which is a great read. My old Dad was a sailor to his bones and although he didn't date back quite as far as the age of Nelson I still find that reading books like this make me feel closer to him.
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Grant Johnson
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My civil war knowledge is fairly weak on the Peninsula campaign- my go-to Army of the Potomac books are Catton's trilogy, and he doesn't spend a ton of time here. So this is filling a lot of gaps. Love seeing the young brigade commanders who are going to move into much bigger roles later- something of a wow moment to see Hancock vs Early at Williamsburg.

Also excited to read extensively on Gaines Mill and Malvern Hill as I got to walk across the battlefields last summer.
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Mark Helton
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I picked this book up from a used book store a little bit ago.



I was always interested in the battle of Italy during WW II.
(Seems like the Germans managed to hold up a significant portion of the Allies troops for a fairly long time. Although, it could be said that those German troops could have been used elsewhere just as much.)

Anybody read this, and is it a good read?
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Bob Zurunkel
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markhelton wrote:
I picked this book up from a used book store a little bit ago.



I was always interested in the battle of Italy during WW II.
(Seems like the Germans managed to hold up a significant portion of the Allies troops for a fairly long time. Although, it could be said that those German troops could have been used elsewhere just as much.)

Anybody read this, and is it a good read?


Don't recall the title, but one book I read on the Italian Campaign concluded that both the Allies and the Germans achieved their strategic objectives in Italy.

I read the Cassino book many years ago. As I recall, it was good. I still have it anyway, which means it couldn't have been bad.
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M Evan Brooks
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Rating:

The third volume in Robert Citino's analysis of the German Army in World War II.

Volume I: Death of the Wehrmacht: German Campaigns of 1942

Volume II: The Wehrmacht Retreats: Fighting a Lost War, 1943

Volume III: The Wehrmacht's Last Stand: The German Campaigns of 1944-1945

More of an analysis than a narrative, the author attempts to explain how the German Army lost its war despite its tactical supremacy. This does not mean that narrative is lacking; it is present, but the author succeeds in presenting more than a simple narrative.

The most obvious flaw is the lack of adequate maps. Professor Citino presents an excellent rendition of what units were where and what they did or tried to do. However, the maps are substandard; I recommend using a World War II atlas or a wargame map to allow the reader to fully understand the narration (for the Eastern Front in the third volume, I would recommend Victory Roads).

While I concurred in mosrt of the author's analysis, I was somewhat disheartened at his exposition of the US Army's Third Division and the race to Paderborn in March 1945. The Division Commander (Maurice Rose) heard from his Corps Commander ("Lightning Joe" Collins) that another formation had recently established a new record for an armored advance in a 24-hour period. Although the war was winding down, Rose accepted the implicit challenge, and divided his force into three elements and was off to the races. Citino characterizes "the ride of Task Force Richardson was an epic in miniature" (p. 442). In reality, it was an epic more akin to the Little Big Horn. Rose had split his command into three elements, none of which could mutually support the others. In his haste to establish a "record", his forward task force was cut to ribbons and the general himself killed in combat. Citino makes it appear to be simply bad liuck rather than a "glory ride"; this analysis made me wonder what other situatioins had been incorrectly reported/analyzed.

However, overall, the trilogy appears to be well-written and with excellent analyses. A has been removed for the inadequacy of the maps.

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Bob Zurunkel
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evanbrooks wrote:



Rating:

The third volume in Robert Citino's analysis of the German Army in World War II.

Volume I: Death of the Wehrmacht: German Campaigns of 1942

Volume II: The Wehrmacht Retreats: Fighting a Lost War, 1943

Volume III: The Wehrmacht's Last Stand: The German Campaigns of 1944-1945

More of an analysis than a narrative, the author attempts to explain how the German Army lost its war despite its tactical supremacy. This does not mean that narrative is lacking; it is present, but the author succeeds in presenting more than a simple narrative.

The most obvious flaw is the lack of adequate maps. Professor Citino presents an excellent rendition of what units were where and what they did or tried to do. However, the maps are substandard; I recommend using a World War II atlas or a wargame map to allow the reader to fully understand the narration (for the Eastern Front in the third volume, I would recommend Victory Roads).

While I concurred in mosrt of the author's analysis, I was somewhat disheartened at his exposition of the US Army's Third Division and the race to Paderborn in March 1945. The Division Commander (Maurice Rose) heard from his Corps Commander ("Lightning Joe" Collins) that another formation had recently established a new record for an armored advance in a 24-hour period. Although the war was winding down, Rose accepted the implicit challenge, and divided his force into three elements and was off to the races. Citino characterizes "the ride of Task Force Richardson was an epic in miniature" (p. 442). In reality, it was an epic more akin to the Little Big Horn. Rose had split his command into three elements, none of which could mutually support the others. In his haste to establish a "record", his forward task force was cut to ribbons and the general himself killed in combat. Citino makes it appear to be simply bad liuck rather than a "glory ride"; this analysis made me wonder what other situatioins had been incorrectly reported/analyzed.

However, overall, the trilogy appears to be well-written and with excellent analyses. A has been removed for the inadequacy of the maps.



I've read in reviews that this book barely mentions the late war German attacks on the Eastern Front (Konrad, etc.). True?
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John D.
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I'm just tucking into this one. I haven't heard anything about it, but I enjoy Bowden's other work. He tends to write simply, but his books are always gripping, and tend to put a human face on conflict.
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M Evan Brooks
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Westie wrote:
evanbrooks wrote:





I've read in reviews that this book barely mentions the late war German attacks on the Eastern Front (Konrad, etc.). True?


Generally true; he does address the Battle of Seelowe Heights, which is often neglected. On the other hand, the three Konrad operations of 4th Panzer are in fact omitted. But this may be attributed to the fact that they did little to offset the Russian Offensives, which are covered in a higher (i.e., Army/Front) perspective.
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