S. Martin Shelton

Retired U.S.Navy Captain, Novelist

Book Review – Lindbergh

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Rating – Four Stars

Berg presents a comprehensive biography of Charles A. Lindbergh, the famous hero and the infamous blackguard. The pioneer aviator, world traveler, political activist, intrepid warrior, zealous environmentalist, and international celebrity. Accordingly, this tome is heavy in weight and content.

Berg’s writing style is refined and empathetic. In this meticulously detailed litany of Lindbergh’s accomplishments and foibles, we learn more about Charles Lindbergh than most of us need or want to know. Nonetheless, the author reveals the key points in this aviator’s life in engaging fashion.  I’ll not repeat all of them in this review. However, following are some that I found particularly interesting:

  • His solo flight from New York City to Paris in May 1927 in the Ryan M1 aircraft—dubbed “We”
  • His marriage to Anne Spencer Morrow in 1929
  • The kidnapping and murder of his firstborn son, twenty-month-old Charles Augustus, in March 1932, and the trial and execution of Bruno Richard Hauptmann, the convicted kidnapper and murderer
  • His and Anne’s exploratory flights in their custom-built Lockheed 8 Sirius for Pan American World Airways in the 1930s
  • His de facto mission as the global ambassador for aviation development

Of singular import were his visits to the Third Reich in the late 1930s, and his proclaimed admiration for Germany’s advanced military aircraft. At a dinner party on October 18, 1938 at the American Embassy in Berlin, the Nazi Air Minister, Field Marshal Hermann Göring, presented Lindbergh with the Verdienstkreuz der Deutschen Adler or “Service Cross of the Order of the German Eagle.” This swank medal was a Maltese cross surrounded by eagles and miniature swastikas. High-ranking German officials awarded this medal to foreigners who were considered sympathetic to the Third Reich.

Aside: In 1938 the Spanish Civil War raged—the Communist government v. General Francisco Franco and his fascist army. The Third Reich sent its Condor Legion, top of the line aircraft and experienced aviators, to support General Franco.

The Nazi medal would be Lindbergh’s shameful scarlet cross for the remainder of his life.

On his return to the USA, Lindbergh became an avid leader of and vocal advocate for the America First policy: no involvement in foreign wars, and Great Britain must stand alone against the Wehrmacht; if Britain should fall, so be it. Some of his rhetoric was tinged with anti-Semitic innuendos.

Now Lindbergh, the former hero of the world, became a pariah. He surrendered his colonel rank in the Army reserves and alienated President Roosevelt, all manner of politicians, the public, and some of his friends. Nonetheless, he continued his nonintervention policy until 7 December 1941—“a date which will live in infamy,” as President Roosevelt said in his declaration of war against the Empire of Japan in response to their surprise attack on our Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor.

The forty-two-year-old civilian Lindbergh went to the South Pacific to work with our aviators on methods to extend the range of their aircraft. General Douglas MacArthur gave him carte blanche to fly any aircraft within his command. He flew several dozen combat missions in the Vought F4U “Corsair” with the Marines against Japanese targets on New Ireland and New Britain. Following that, he went to Hollandia and flew the Lockheed P38 “Lightning” with Army aviators against multiple targets in the Bismarck Sea environ. On one mission, he shot down a Japanese Mitsubishi Ki-5 “Sonia.” On a mission over Palau Island, it is “rumored” that he downed a Mitsubishi A6M5 Reisen “Zero.”  He continued his combat flying from Biak, New Guinea, Kwajalein, and Roni Island.

In a private ceremony in the Pentagon on 7 April 1954, Air Force Secretary Harold Talbott swore Charles Lindbergh in as a Brigadier General (President Eisenhower and the Senate had approved this commissioning).

The rest of the story is for you to read. On 27 August 1974, the 72-year-old Charles Lindbergh died from complications of lymphoma. He is buried on Maui on a cliff overlooking the Pacific on the grounds of the isolated, small Kipahulu church. I’ve visited his grave and it is a humbling and an awe-inspiring experience. Highly recommended.

Read more by S. Martin Shelton!

 

 

 

 

 

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Film Review – Dunkirk

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Rating – Two stars

I enjoyed the first few minutes of Dunkirk. The narrative was presented in classic cinematic design—relevant, dynamic, kinetic action void of dialogue and supported by pertinent sound effects. “Here’s a winner,” I reckoned. Unfortunately, as the film continued, I became increasingly disappointed.

I do not know what to make of Dunkirk. Is it a historical fiction film based on the rescue of the British army from France, or an avant garde experiment? Nonetheless, as a straight narrative film it is seriously flawed. Notwithstanding the numerous technical errors, several egregious, I could not willingly suspend my disbelief while viewing this film.

Dunkirk does not engender empathy for its characters. One exception is actor Mark Rylance—the skipper of a small boat that putt-putts at an agonizingly plodding pace to the beach at Dunkirk. Other than him, I’ve no one to root for.

There is no antagonist, except some vague enemy who shoots from concealment, fires artillery shells from the ether (as it were), and flies Messerschmitt 109s and drops bombs from Hinkle 119s sans aviators. I’ve no one to fear or abhor. Who is the enemy that is causing the havoc at Dunkirk? I am bamboozled by why the producers did not identify the adversary—the German Wehrmacht, Luftwaffe, and Kriegsmarine. Am I to conclude that the filmmakers’ cultural-correctness negates history so as not to offend—anyone? Gadzooks! Without a defined antagonist, the narrative is palpably defective.

Compounding my disappointment is the negative ambiance that pervades Dunkirk. The mise en scène focuses excessively on sinking ships, downed aircraft, and dying and dead “tommies”—dying in all manner of horrors. Bedlam is a more fitting title for this epic extant. Admittedly, war is Hell. But to linger on its savagery is ghoulish.

My most serious objection to Dunkirk is the film’s dereliction in failing to communicate the critical importance and far-reaching consequence of the “Miracle of Dunkirk”—the evacuation of 200,000 British “tommies” and 140,000 French poilus from the beaches of France. This British operation was one of Word War II’s most critical actions. The film ignores the great triumph that it was. Had this operation failed, Britain would have been without an army and probably would have had to ask for terms with the Third Reich.

Background. Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, Wehrmacht Commander of Army Group A during the Battle of France, said, “Dunkirk was one of the greatest turning points of the war.”

The filmmaker missed a beckoning opportunity to concoct a classic cinematic montage that would portray the frenetic activity of British naval personnel and subjects fueling and preparing private boats that could sail the forty miles from Ramsgate to France, and return with soldiers. En route was an armada of eight hundred self-propelled vessels—the “little ships of Dunkirk.” It was a mélange of trawlers, pleasure yachts, fishing boats, dinghies, Thames ferries, lifeboats, automobile ferries, and tugboats. Included also were Belgian fishing boats, Irish motor torpedo boats, and Dutch coasters.

The last scene in Dunkirk shows a rescued British soldier riding in a train, looking at a newspaper. He spots a transcript of Winston Churchill’s famous “Miracle of deliverance” speech to the House of Commons on 4 June 1940—”We shall fight on the beaches…we shall never surrender.” This was the most famous speech of the war. It boosted British subjects’ sagging morale and encouraged them to carry on. To my serious disappointment, the soldier read aloud this hallmark speech. How pedestrian.

Nolan missed another golden opportunity to salvage a smidgen of this flawed film’s ambiance. After the surfeit of death and destruction that suffused through this epic, it ought to have ended on a high point, a capstone. Consider a scene that would show the “little ships” flotilla closing on the English coast. On the sound track is Winston Churchill delivering his “Miracle of deliverance” oration. Didn’t happen.

The special effects in Dunkirk are spectacular. I wonder, however, if less technology and more plot and cinematic design would have produced a more tolerable film.

FIN

Complete text of Winston Churchill’s “Miracle of deliverance” speech to the House of Commons on 4 June 1940—the last day of the Dunkirk evacuation.

”We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

FIN

Read more by S. Martin Shelton!

Ghost Towning

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I was hooked on ghost-town photography the instant I viewed my pal’s photographs of Belmont, Nevada—the crumbling old buildings, abandoned mining equipment, dilapidated fire truck, crumbling courthouse, and all manner of detritus scattered through the site. Images flashed through my mind of the town in 1905, when it was fully functional as the county seat of Nye County. That was almost thirty-five years ago. Since then, I’ve been an avid aficionado of the ghost-towning craft.

Caution. Ghost towning can be serious business that requires a detailed operating scheme and sober execution. Consistently, I have found that it takes me one day of planning for every day in the field. I block out our routes on several scaled typographic maps and make a proposed schedule for each day.

Note. I always travel with a trusted partner—one who can take charge of the operation. We carry extra water, communication gear, and survival equipment. Please see my monograph Ghost Towning for Fun, Adventure, and Discovery for details.

Background. Over the years, I’ve made approximately fifty trips into Western states to document ghost towns and mining camps.  At first, I focused my activities in Nevada, with its wealth of interesting sites. Often, the sites with the most attractive remains are buried deep in the mountains. Traveling to such sites requires a four-wheel drive vehicle and an experienced driver. I recall our trip to Gold Park in Nevada—it was a serious four-wheel drive up a steep, rocky trail in the Shoshone Mountains. At times, very carefully we just inched along. Frequently, I had to clear rocks from the trail. Finally, after several hours, we spotted the top of the head frame. Great site. We spent a couple of hours photographing—a  material reward for the strenuous trip.

Sometimes, after an arduous trip to a site, we have been disappointed. All that remained of the site was a hole in the ground and a couple of tin cans.  Occasionally, there was nothing remaining—absolutely nothing.

There are a few great ghost towns on paved highways—for example, Orla in Reeves County, Texas, where many ruins sit alongside the highway. Another is Moapa, Clark County, Nevada, about forty miles northeast of Las Vegas. In its heyday, Moapa was a Union Pacific town. When I visited Moapa, twenty-two years ago, the site was well preserved: four or five wood buildings, some concrete structures, and the usual detritus.

Exhibition. In the summer of 2004, fifty-three of my Nevada ghost-town photographs were displayed in the Nevada State Library, Carson City, Nevada.

Preservation. It’s imperative that we understand that ghost towns are precious remnants of our past—fragile and nonrenewable resources. They are vulnerable to a harsh environment, artifact collectors, and lawless vandals, all of which have done incredible damage to these sites. Enjoy your visits and be an assiduous conservator in protecting them—take out everything you brought to the site and leave everything that you did not bring to it.

There are strict federal and state laws protecting our ghost towns. Yet, some folks ignore those laws to satisfy their illegal and untoward activities: serious looting, senseless damage, and infantile graffiti. I’ve seen it all, and then some. Once a ghost town is sacked, it’s lost forever. 

Read more about ghost towning from S. Martin Shelton. Ghost Towning for Fun, Adventure, and Discovery, is available on Amazon now!

 

Book Review – Flyboys: A True Story of Courage

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Rating – Three Stars

As usual, my simple mind is confused. I do not know what to make of this book. It’s not a history of naval aviation in World War II, and it’s not a personal memorial to all the lost fliers “that did not return” to their aircraft carriers. It is a salmagundi of stories of naval aviators mostly dying. It’s a compendium of personal insights into naval aviators—officers and enlisted men that did not return—mostly.

Aside: Bradley’s use of “boys” throughout the text is an abomination and insult to the men of naval aviation who fought the good fight in the Pacific Campaign—many of whom did not return. I was in naval aviation for my entire career in the United States Navy. Prejudice against such disrespect is entrenched in me.

Also, to my amazement, Bradley fashioned the Japanese soldiers as “boys.” They were men.

Bradley rants pointedly about the USA’s eeevil colonialism in the Philippines and the diabolical war we waged on the populace—the slaughter of innocent civilians, internment camps, and the scorched-earth policy. I wonder what this screed contributed to Flyboys—perhaps only that war is Hell.

His detailed account of the Doolittle Raiders’ bombing of Japan on 18 April 1942 is compelling.

Bradley gets credit for his excellent research. His exposition of the Japanese army’s  training, discipline, and inexorable top-down chain of command is keenly informative and explains, in large measure, the inability of the on-scene commanders and their subordinates to make any decision of import without approval from the senior military clique in Tokyo—the “Spirit Warriors.” Of particular note is his explanation of their total disregard for the lives of their men. They sent soldiers to isolated islands. Their orders were to kill the American devils and to die for the Emperor. Surrender or failure to die was dishonorable and brought shame to their families. It was the Bushido code updated for the Pacific War.

Here’s one example. Japanese high command sent 130,000 troops to the island of New Guinea. After our navy’s victory in the battle of the Bismarck Sea, the Japanese soldiers were trapped. No supplies could reach them and there was no escape. The high command lacked concern—it was the vagaries of war and these men would die an honorable death. Nonetheless, the soldiers fought the Australian and American forces until almost all of the Japanese were dead—either killed or dead of disease and starvation. It’s in this story that Bradley tells us how the starving Japanese soldiers killed their own to keep from starving to death.

Bradley’s writing style is easy, fluid, and empathetic. And, that’s part of the problem with his book—it’s too empathetic, too vivid. We become immersed in his stories—we are at the location witnessing the details of the hideous torture, barbaric assassination, and gruesome cannibalism of our naval aviators. We attend the Japanese officers’ dining table to share the thigh of an enlisted gunner’s mate. Naturally, the reigning general has first pick.

Flyboys is a book suffused with death, torture, and cannibalism. I reckon that these horrors happened, but Bradley doesn’t have to be so dammed graphic about the details. This is not a book for the squeamish, the prudish, or the honorable warrior—in fact, I feel it’s a book solely for the Judge Advocate Generals.

My heart is greatly troubled by Bradley’s narrative. I regret having read his book. I’ve not slept well these past few nights. His images are too powerful. Flyboys is too personal, too engaging. I don’t want to witness the ignominious fate of my shipmates.  

Note: Many of these Japanese criminals were convicted of crimes and hung from the gallows.

Read more by S. Martin Shelton!

Amelia Earhart Died on Saipan Scenario Fiction

The airways and television were abuzz about the “new” photograph that purports to show Earhart and Noonan on Jaluit Atoll in the Marshall Islands in Japanese custody. At 8:00 PM, Sunday, 9 July 2017, the History Channel broadcasted a two-hour show claiming that this photograph solves the mysterious disappearance of the famous aviatrix Amelia Earhart.

As a longtime aficionado of the Earhart mystery, I can categorically assert that Earhart and Noonan are not in this picture.Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 5.41.01 PM.png

The following comments are courtesy of TIGHAR.

  • If the flyers were in Japanese custody, where are the Japanese soldiers? Where are the weapons?
    • No one is guarding anyone.
  • Earhart’s hair was much shorter than the hair of the person sitting on the dock who is purportedly Earhart.
  • On the around-the-world flight, Earhart wore a dark, long-sleeved shirt.
    • The woman on the dock is wearing a white shirt.
  • Noonan wore dark trousers and a dark shirt.
    • The man purported to be Noonan wears a wears a white outfit.
  • The man purported to be Noonan has a receding hairline on the right side of his face.
    • Noonan’s receding hairline was on his left side.

***

There is no concrete evidence that Amelia Earhart landed in the Marshal Islands, was captured by the Japanese, taken to Saipan, and died there. NONE. The apocryphal evidence is not enough to make a convincing, provable argument.

The Japanese capture theory is that Earhart crash-landed on Mili Atoll in the Marshall Islands, some 767 nautical miles NNW of Howland Island—her destination. She and Noonan were picked up by natives. The Japanese found them, took them prisoner as spies found within their very tightly controlled “Bamboo Curtain,” a vast area in the central Pacific that included the Marianas, Marshalls, Carolines, and other islands (taken from the Germans in WWI). The Japanese took the flyers to Jaluit Island on a Japanese ship towing the Electra on a barge. A few days later, the flyers were on Saipan and imprisoned. Noonan was executed (he was a Navy Reserve lieutenant commander). Earhart died of some disease. It’s a great tale. Until some undisputable evidence is proffered, the Saipan scenario remains a fable.

There are no Japanese records. No USA records. No Marshall Island records. No documents. No photographs. No bones that would pass a DNA test. No verifiable parts of her Electra. No eyewitness testimony that’s credible (taken under oath and in the proper setting). Several islanders had averred that they saw Earhart and Noonan in the islands. The islanders tended to tell the questioners what they believed the questioners wanted to hear. Several American G.I.s told researchers about their experiences related to Earhart and Noonan on Saipan. However, not one produced concrete evidence. Accordingly, there is no irrefutable evidence that Earhart died on Saipan while in Japanese custody. None whatsoever. Not even a smidgen.

Actual facts about Amelia Earhart’s flight from Lae, New Guinea, en route to Howland Island:

  • On 2 July 1937, at 1000 hours, Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, departed Lae, New Guinea, with 1,100 standard US gallons of fuel on board.
    • Destination was Howland Island—2,223 nautical miles to the east.
    • Anchored off Howland Island was her guard ship, the USCG Itasca.
    • On average, the twin-engine Electra consumed about 38 US gallons per hour, including takeoff, the climb to altitude, descent, etc.
  • I’ve computed (all factors considered) that her ground speed was about 117 knots from Lae to near Howland.
  • 0720 hours, 2 July, Amelia Earhart transmitted, “We must be on you, but we cannot see you but gas is running low….” (She had crossed the International Date Line.)
    • Her radio transmitter had only 50 watts of power.
    • On board the USCG Itasca the signal strength of the 0720 message was #5, the highest level: loud and clear.
  • Chief Petty Officer Radioman Leo Bellart, USN, senior radio operator on board the Itasca, estimated that the Electra was about 100 nm to 150 nm from Howland.
  • Her flight time from Lae to near Howland was about 19.6 hours.
  • Earhart’s fuel reserve would have been about 88 gallons if she had arrived at Howland Island. That is about 2.3 hours flight time, or 264 nautical miles.

It was physically impossible for Amelia Earhart to fly to Mili Atoll in the Marshall Islands—767 nm distant.

The following is a simple Monte Carlo Simulation regarding the fuel needed for an Earhart flight from near Howland to Mili Atoll. All numbers are within 10% to 15% error.

  • Continuing with Earhart’s standard fuel consumption rate (38 gal/hr), it would take her 6.6 hours flight time to reach Mili Atoll. (767 nm ÷ 117 knots = 6.6 hours)
  • Such a flight requires 250 gallons of fuel. (6.6 hours x 38 gal per hour)
  • Fuel remaining in the Electra when near Howland would be 88 gal

Amelia Earhart did not have enough fuel to reach Mili Atoll.

Also, I wonder if she were physically and mentally able to complete a flight of an additional 6.6 hours to Mili Atoll—a total of 25.6 continuous hours in flight. When close to Howland, she had been flying for about 19 hours. On this around-the-world flight, Earhart had been flying off and on for forty-four exhausting days, covering 21,000 nautical miles by the time she had arrived at Lae, New Guinea.

I’m working on an extensive, opinion-neutral monograph that explores the five most publicized scenarios that purport to explain Earhart’s mysterious disappearance, and that evaluates dispassionately their credibility.

For background, I’ve attached the Bamboo Curtain scenario that’s in my monograph.

The Japanese Mandated Islands

Background. To understand the keen interest in the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, it’s essential to set the world’s political stage, including the festering issues that would lead to World War II in the Pacific in December 1941.

World War I began 28 July 1914 in Europe, the Mideast, China, and the Pacific islands. Japan declared war on Germany and captured the German Treaty Ports in China: Tsingtao, Hankow, and Tientsin, for example. The Imperial Japanese Navy pursued the German East Asiatic Squadron into the German Pacific Island Colonies—the Marshall Islands, Carolines, Marianas, Solomon, New Britain, and many other island groups. The Japanese Admiralty chose not to pursue the German fleet further. Rather, the Japanese navy occupied these islands. These former German colonies are a sprawling chain of volcanic islands and coral atolls lying about two thousand miles astride the Central Pacific, from Saipan to Guadalcanal.

In 1920, the League of Nations mandated these former German Pacific Colonies to the Empire of Japan with the proviso that Japan would not annex or militarize them, would keep shipping lanes open for all maritime traffic, and would “administer these territories as a sacred trust to develop them for the benefit of the native peoples.”

In February 1933, Japan left the League of Nations and sealed this vast area of the Central and Southern Pacific within the “Bamboo Curtain,” protecting it from all intrusions. The Imperial Japanese Navy began construction of airfields, fortifications, ports, and other military projects in preparation for the upcoming war with the Occidentals.

The United States Navy knew to a near certainty that a Pacific war with the Empire of Japan was inevitable. Officials were seriously concerned by their lack of intelligence from inside the Bamboo Curtain.

FIN

 

Screen Shot 2017-06-22 at 6.06.00 PMPlease visit my website to see information about my book titled Aviators, Adventurers, and AssassinsThe lead novella is Amelia. It is the log of a naval intelligence officer researching the mysterious disappearance of Amelia Earhart, Fred Noonan (navigator), and her Lockheed Electra model 10E aeroplane. His findings change the history of World War II.

The Disappearance of Amelia Earhart

 

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2 July 1937

At 0843 hours, local time, Amelia Earhart transmitted this in-flight message, “We must be on you but cannot see you…but gas is running low.”

Radio operators aboard the USGS Itasca—her guard ship anchored off Howland Island—recorded in the Log Book, “Her voice was loud and clear.” Accordingly, her aircraft, the Lockheed Electra model 10E, must be within 100 nautical miles of the ship. All following efforts to establish either radiotelegraphic or voice communications with Earhart failed.

A few minutes later she transmitted, “We are running on line north and south on the line 157/337. Will repeat this message on 6210.” These were the last words heard from the famous aviatrix.

***

In the mid-1930s, Amelia Earhart was an American icon personified. Her aviation exploits dominated the media. We heard radio broadcasts of her setting new records and heard her speeches, we read the headlines and stories that flooded our newspapers of her exploits, and we saw her in newsreels and her new Lockheed Electra—Purdue University’s flying laboratory to garner aviation’s unknown secrets. In 1937, she started her second attempt to fly around the world as near to the equator as possible. She vanished before reaching Howland Island in the Central Pacific. Where she disappeared and why are the two key questions that are unanswerable with the intelligence we have today.

Pundits and charlatans have proposed numerous scenarios to explain her disappearance. Some are ridiculously bizarre. For example, she became Japanese Emperor Hirohito’s sex slave, or she was the woman broadcaster, “Tokyo Rose.”

Following are five scenarios that prevail in the extant literature—some with no, or minimal credence—none are conclusive.

  1. Amelia Earhart crashed landed in the Japanese controlled Mandate Marshall Islands. She survived; the Japanese captured and interned her. She was repatriated after the war and returned sub-rosa to the USA using the nom de guerre Irene Craigmile Bolam.
  2. Earhart was a Trojan horse. She crashed on purpose in the Marshall Islands so the U.S. Navy could find her and collect intelligence on Japanese fortifications during their search.
  3. Earhart was lost, crash landed inside the Japanese-mandated islands. They captured her and Noonan and imprisoned them on Saipan where they died.
  4. Earhart landed her Electra on the reef at Gardner Atoll in the Phoenix Group. She and Noonan and survived for a while, and the pair died as castaways.
  5. Amelia Earhart missed Howland Island. Out of fuel, the Electra crashed into the ocean and the flyers drowned.

***

The Commander of Naval Intelligence tasked one of his officers, Commander Gregory Thompson, to ferret the facts of Amelia Earhart’s disappearance. His startling discovery is revealed in “Amelia,” printed in S. Martin Shelton’s book Aviators, Adventurers and Assassins.


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Aviators, Adventurers and Assassins will be available as a free eBook download July 2–5.

Read more by S. Martin Shelton!

Book Review- Steve Canyon Volume 7: 1959 to 1960 by Milton Caniff  

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Rating – Two Stars

Disappointed again. Perhaps I’m getting too old nowadays to appreciate Caniff’s story-telling art. I recall clearly my thrill as a nipper waiting for the morning paper to see and read new frames of Caniff’s classic “Terry and the Pirates” comic strip—superb in every dimension. I ordered this Steve Canyon book several months ago and was in keen anticipation of reading superior action-adventure tales set in exotic locations and with lustful dames as dangerous protagonists—for example, the ominous and strikingly beautiful Chinese pirate, the Dragon Lady.

2. Dragon Lady with Pistol.

Unfortunately, this volume of Steve Canyon’s adventures falls short. Too many of the mise en scénes for Caniff’s stories are domestic and lack panache. His art is superior to almost all other comic strip artists. His perspective and detail give keen depth to the frames, but too many do not have the vivacity that I would expect from Caniff. From time to time, nonetheless, sparks of the past pervade this tome. The following are the scenarios:

  1. Canyon is in Latin America to rescue a refugee girl whose brother is an American intelligence agent, from eeevil Red agents. Impossible adventures result.
  2. Madam Lynx, a beautiful and skillful opponent, appears out of the past, this time as the headmistress of an exclusive girls’ school in a unnamed Central American country. Canyon discovers that the school is not what it seems. It is an academy to train “swallows”—seductive young women working for the Comintern. Lynx has her way with Canyon. Undeterred, he prevails by closing the school, having the Red no-goodnicks arrested, and rescuing a captive Air Force nurse.
  3. A desperate appeal, via a clandestine radio, sends Canyon to a mystical Mideastern country. It’s from his old annoyance, hip-talking Convoy, now grown into a comely woman who, as before, is determined to marry Canyon. Convoy leads a guerrilla cadre of widows, dubbed the Black Widows, determined to rid their country of the Reds. More follows.

Scenarios 4 and 5 are domestic soap opera starring Mrs. Olsen, Canyon’s impossible love, and the eeevil and glamorous Copper Canyon, a female industrialist—both embroiled in domestic scenarios of no import.

Following those are more domestic scenarios that feature his hot-tempered ward, Poteet Canyon, bent on marrying Steve, and the troubles she generates.

Lastly, Canyon saves Tokyo from an atomic bomb detonation by a feat of derring-do nonpareil.

Read more by S. Martin Shelton!

Book Review- The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936-1945

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Rating – Five Stars

Toland presents in this superb tome a view of the Pacific War (1941-1945) that most of us have never thought about or seen. He writes in a smooth, engaging style. We are engrossed in the narrative of this page-turner. We view the details of this horrendous campaign from the Japanese perspective—it’s an eye opener incarnate. I was a young teenager on 7 December 1941, and followed the war closely in the papers, radio, and in newsreels. Finally, after all those years, I have a new perspective of the wherewithal—and it’s engaging.

In essence, the Japanese government and military convinced themselves and their public that the United States of America caused this war. Their rationale is complicated, self-deluding, and ignores their long-term ambitions of conquest.

As early as the late nineteenth century, the Japanese military had devised a scheme, dubbed the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, designed to forcefully take the rich natural resources of Southeast Asia that the home islands were deficient in—needed to make Japan a great nation. Such resources include: oil, rubber, tin, manganese, iron, silver, and a host of other items.

Following, Japan waged aggressive wars with its neighbors to implement this conquest plan: Sino-Japanese War, 1894 to 1895; Russo-Japanese War, 1904 to 1905; World War I, 1914 to 1945, Changkufeng incident with the USSR in 1938, Khalkhin Gol conflict with the USSR in 1939.

Tensions grew between Japan and the USA during the 1930s after the Kwantung Army invaded and conquered the Chinese Province Manchuria. In 1936, Japan invaded China proper. Within a few days, the Kwantung Army captured Peking, Shanghai, and other coastal cities.

In 1941 Prime Minister General Hideki Tojo told the Japanese Diet, “The Greater East Asia war is founded on the exalted ideals of the founding of our empire and it will enable all the nations and peoples of Greater East Asia to enjoy life and to establish a new order of coexistence and co-prosperity on the basis of justice with Japan as the nucleus.”

In July 1941, the Japanese Army invaded French Indochina for its many resources including rubber—the essential commodity for war. A few days later, President Roosevelt ordered all Japanese assets frozen and a complete embargo of oil and other resources. Great Britain and the Netherlands followed. These actions denied Japan her rightful place as the leader of Asia and challenged her very existence. Every day the Japanese navy consumed twelve thousand tons of irreplaceable bunker oil. With only a small reserve, Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoye said, “…the armed forces would be a helpless as a whale thrown up on the beach.”

At the military’s urging, Tojo convinced the Diet and Emperor Michinomiya Hirohito, to authorize the military to implement Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’s plan to attack secretly the American fleet at anchor in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; and for the Army to launch the invasion of Hong Kong, Malaya, Singapore, Burma, Siam, the Philippines, Netherland East Indies, Guam, Wake Island, New Guinea, and Portuguese Timor.

From time to time, Toland personalizes the war, and we see the conflict from the perspective of the ordinary Japanese soldier. For example, we follow privates engaged in the Guadalcanal campaign, Tarawa, Iwo Jima, Leyte, Saipan, and Okinawa. Surprisingly, we begin to empathize with them—our pernicious enemy. Occasionally, he fails to follow through and we know not what happened to the soldier—killed, suicide, wounded, captured, survived?

I do have a few “picks to nit.” The most serious is Tolan’s diminution of the Japanese barbarous atrocities: the Bataan death march, Rape of Nanking, Death Railway in Siam, Rape of Manila, and many thousand other mistreatments of military prisoners of war and civilian captives. His Spartan coverage of these Japanese transgressions is curious—it’s almost a passing reference.

For the aficionados of the Pacific War this book is an essential reference.

Read more by S. Martin Shelton!

Book Review- Killing the Rising Sun

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Rating – Five Stars

Bill O’Reilly hits a home run with his compendium of the 1940s Pacific War. He writes in an easy, sparse, and empathetic style. He paints the big pictures of the major land and sea battles and tells the stories of the “grunts” that did the fighting and dying. We know these grunts. We identify with them, we are appalled at the horrendous casualties, we share the agony with the wounded, and we attend their burials at sea, in unmarked graves, and at Arlington.

O’Reilly sets the stage for the war in the Pacific with the Empire of Japan. We learn of the building animosity in the 1930s between America and the Empire of Japan. The animus began when Japan invaded the Chinese province Manchuria in September 1931. Japan was eager to implement its Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere to conqueror East Asia for its natural resources. The animus increased when Japan invaded China in July 1937. The Kwantung Army captured Peking, Shanghai, and other coastal cities in a few days. French Indo-China fell to Japan in July 1941.

Responding, President Roosevelt (with Great Britain and the Netherlands) imposed an embargo on petroleum products, steel, and other natural resources for Japan. At the time, the Imperial Japanese Navy had only three months of bunker oil. General Hideki Tojo ordered the implementation of Command Fleet Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’s plan for a surprise attack on our fleet in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii—Tora! Tora! Tora!

In the early morning on Sunday December 7, 1941, Imperial Japanese aircraft, from three aircraft carriers, bombed and torpedoed our fleet in Pearl Harbor with devastating results: sunk were the battleships, USS Arizona, USS Utah, USS Oklahoma, USS West Virginia, and USS California. Five other battleships were heavily damaged. President Roosevelt declared war on the Empire of Japan with the phrase, “a date which will live in infamy.”

O’Reilly guides us our journey through the bloody campaigns throughout the South and Central Pacific, and to the Japan’s home island Okinawa—where Kamikaze pilots drove their aircraft directly into our ships—causing devastating casualties in sailors and ships.

He details the great sea battles with cogency, Java Sea, Bismarck Sea, Coral Sea, Midway, Espírito Santo (“The Slot”), Battle of the Philippine Sea, Battle of Leyte Gulf, and the Okinawa Campaign. We crawl through the islands with the grunts: Guadalcanal, Bougainville, Buna, New Georgia, Mankin, Tarawa, Leyte, Saipan, Iwo Jima, Peleliu, and Okinawa.

Almost seventy percent of this book discusses the atomic bomb. We follow President Roosevelt’s approval, General Groves management of this titanic project, Doctor Oppenheimer assembling his team at Los Alamos, work, innovation, breakthrough, and testing. The bomb on board the B-29 dubbed Enola Gay, Hiroshima in flames; another bomb on the B-29 dubbed Box Car, Nagasaki in flames. We see General MacArthur on board the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay signing the instrument of surrender. The greatest, most deadly, and costly war has concluded.

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Malaysia Flight 370

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Around midnight on 8 March 2014, Malaysia Flight 370 departed Kuala Lumpur for Beijing with 239 souls onboard. About three hours into the flight, it disappeared. Technical analysis of radio, radar, and satellite data indicated that the aircraft crashed into the Indian Ocean about 1,200 miles off Australia’s west coast.

In the almost three years of searching, investigators have not found any part of this aircraft. Nonetheless, three sheets of aircraft metal have washed up on the eastern shore of Africa. Expert aviation investigators have tentatively concluded that this flotsam is from Flight 370.

On 17 January last, the three nations, Malaysia, China, and Australia, involved in the search for this missing aircraft concluded further investigation of the sea floor of the Indian Ocean is fruitless. The search for Malaysia Flight 370 is officially over.

Read more by S. Martin Shelton.

 

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