S. Martin Shelton

Retired U.S.Navy Captain, Novelist

Archive for the category “Military”

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.

Read more by S. Martin Shelton!

Book Review- Prof: Alan Turing Decoded

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Rating – Two Stars

I’m sorely disappointed with this biography of Alan Turing, one of the 20th century’s greatest mathematicians. He was the lead cryptographer at Bletchley Park and helped break the German’s Enigma codes, significantly hastening the end of the War in Europe. To this end, his intellect led to the development of the digital computer.

Within this manuscript is a plethora of eminent persons, important places, and critical events. The failure to include an index is unforgivable. Accordingly, this dereliction negates this work as a reference book.

The author jumps about chronically, fails to complete scenes—leaving us hanging, wanders off on tangents, and stuffs the text with copies of notes, scribblings, letters, memos, and telegrams, documents (official and other). Except for a few, he could have summarized those of major import and placed others of significance in Addenda.

So much of Turing’s life could have been brought forth with this biography to make it soar and do honor to this extraordinary man. Rather, the book is unremarkable in all measures and minimizes the memory of Alan Turning to a faretheewell. There is a surfeit of information available about Turning that the author should have explored.

To this day, we do not know definitively why Alan Turing committed suicide at the young age of forty-two in 1954. Some suggest that his felo-de-se resulted from his conviction in an English court of homosexual behavior. Others postured that he was murdered—for reasons unknown.

Unfortunately, the author bogged the text in incoherence and squandered far too much of the manuscript on irrelevance. For example, the first seventy pages discuss Turing’s early life in agonizing detail. Three pages would do. Alternately, he gives little mention of Turing’s accomplishments at Bletchley Park. Here was a golden opportunity to highlight the details of Alan’s endeavor and discoveries in this super-secret, code-breaking operation.

 Read more by S. Martin Shelton!

Book Review: The Decisive Campaigns of the Desert Air Force 1942 – 1945

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Rating  – Four Stars

Evans relates the large-scale accomplishments of the Royal Air Force in the Cyrenaica, Sicilian, and Italian campaigns in World War II. His matter-of-fact style, presents the Desert Air Force’s (DAF) campaigns in a chronological, military style order. I would suggest that this book is for the military aficionado—clearly not for the casual reader.  It’s a dry recitation, laced with a few personal tidbits. 

He offers several maps, however, not enough of them and not annotated in pertinent detail enough—making it nettlesome to follow his narrative. Such especially is the case in his narrative of the Eight Army’s campaign in southeastern Tunisia. For example, on page 73 he discusses the Army’s capture of the strategic Tebaga Gap in March 1943. Unfortunately, Tebaga Gap is not spotted on the relevant map.

The RAF’s command of the sky over Cyrenaica and its perfected close air support technique were the deciding factors in the Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery’s British Eight Army’s successful breakout at El’ Alamein in December in 1942. The key to victory was the DAF’s total quashing of supplies for Field Marshall Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps’ Panzeramee. In particular, it was the sinking of the two Italian supply ships in the harbor at Tobruk, Proserpina and the Tergestea that was the death knell for the retreating Afrika Korps. Allied air power had won the air war over El’ Alamein.

Following, it was the DAF’s supremacy of the air that enabled allied armies to crack the Nazi’s Gustav strategic defensive line at Monte Cassino in May 1943; and the Gothic Line in the Po Valley in April 1945.

Overall, I rate this book four stars and a fine addition to a military historian’s library.

Read more by S. Martin Shelton!

July 17, Anniversary of The Regicide

In the early hours of 17 July 1918, the Cheka firing squad (the Soviet secret police) fired volley after volley into Nicholas Romanov, Czar of all the Russias, and his family: Empress Alexandra, son Nikkei, and four daughters, Maria, Olga, Tatiana, and Anastasia.

In the March 1917 Revolution, the Bolsheviks successfully overthrew the Romanov’s régime of Russia. Vladimir Ilyich Lenin was the Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars of the Union of Socialist’s Republics. His clutch on power was tenuous—two White Armies were in revolt against his Communist dictatorial rule. Western armies had invaded Murmansk, the Caucasus, and the Japanese captured Vladivostok. And the large and well-armed Czech Legion had captured the Trans-Siberian Railroad and was fighting its way to the Pacific.

Lenin, fearful that Romanovs could rally the proletariat to fully support the White armies, had the royal family imprisoned in the Ipatiev House in the Siberia city Ekaterinburg. Lenin and his Bolsheviks cohorts dubbed this place “The House of Special Purpose.”

Around 0200 hours, Cheka guards awoke the royal family and told them to dress, and led them to the basement. The guards told the family that this move was for their protection—elements of Admiral’s Kolchak’s White Army were close by as were the Czech’s trains. In the upcoming fire-fights, this house would be in danger.

Yakov Yurovsky, the Bolshevik commanding officer, insured that the family was positioned correctly and ordered, “Fire.”

 

To those who have an interest in this topic, please enjoy the following short story from my book, Aviators, Adventurers, and Assassins, a conglomeration of 20th Century novellas, short stories, and flash fiction quips. Some of the characters are real (usually disguised in a nom de plume), some are fiction, some of the stories are based on real incidents, and some are figments of my imagination. Nonetheless, take none seriously—even though your empathy may be intense. Also, at the end of the story a free book offer! 

The Regicide

 

Kremlin, Moscow

16 July 1918

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin is writing at his desk with an intense focus. He wears a grey suit with a scarlet tie over his off-white shirt. It is a dark afternoon that matches the dull grey of his suit and office. On the walls are photographs and posters extolling the virtues of collectivism.

Lenin, the leader of the Russian Revolution, is now the Chairman of the People’s Commissars of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. He is fifty-eight-years old, bald, with a full mustache and a Van Dyke beard. His deep brown eyes are alive with passionate fervor.Screen Shot 2016-07-17 at 9.53.57 AM

He writes with slow precision on a paper bearing the official seal of the Soviet government—the hammer and sickle in yellow on a red background—then he puts down the pen and leans back in his chair. As he reads the document, a faint smile spreads over his face.

Satisfied, he hands it to Felix Dzerzhinsky, the ruthless leader of Lenin’s secret police, the Cheka. He is exactly the kind of unbridled sociopath that Lenin wants as his lead henchman. Dzerzhinsky is a medium-sized man with a brown, stony face and a fixed expression. He wears a walrus mustache and a short, pointed Van Dyke beard. Lenin leans forward and dictates, “Read it, Felix. Read it out loud. I want to hear how it sounds. I want the world to hear it. Read it now!”

Dzerzhinsky looks mildly interested as he begins to read the short note. Now, seriously interested, he reads it again, then once again. He looks up from the document to Lenin and tentatively asks him, “You are positive that this is the correct action at this time?”

“Of course I’m sure.”

Dzerzhinsky, with a mild retort, suggests, “Comrade, my point is that I wonder if it would not be prudent to wait until we have consolidated more control over the country. Our political and military positions are still in flux.”

Lenin snaps, “Comrade Dzerzhinsky, you keep the Cheka working to eliminate the counter-revolutionaries and I will lead our socialist country.” Irritated, he shifts in his chair, then picks up a pen and taps it on his desk. He stares blankly out a window as the Kremlin glows scarlet in the dusk. Clearly, he is evaluating Dzerzhinsky’s comments because they have a ring of truth. The tap, tap, tap of the pen continues. Lenin puzzles over the scarlet sunset. Is it an omen—red for Red?

After a minute or so he shifts in his chair to face Grigory Zinoviev, the third man in the room. Lenin holds him in a thoughtful gaze for a few moments then says in a spirited voice, “Let us hear what Comrade Zinoviev has to say.”

Dzerzhinsky turns to Grigory Zinoviev, the Interior Minister, revolutionary, and close confidant to Lenin. Zinoviev is a big brute of a man with icy blue eyes and long midnight-black hair. His face is littered with smallpox scars, but he is clean shaven, almost proud of his disfigurement.

After a brief pause and in a gruff bass voice Zinoviev responds, “My respects, Comrade Lenin, but I ask you to reconsider. The majority of the proletariat still loves their Czar, who is also the spiritual leader of the Orthodox Church. Such an audacious action will cause many loyal people to question your motives. I do not recommend this precipitous order. Over the next few months, let us reflect on some of the alternatives.”

Lenin shouts, “Stop! Stop it, Zinoviev. Am I surrounded by naysayers? The Communist Party and the Third International Congress of Soviets made me Party Chairman and Head of State. I know what is best for our Soviet Union. The peasants will do as the State directs.”

Zinoviev, who has remained standing, straightens his shoulders and responds deferentially, yet with conviction, “If you insist on this course of action, our socialist government will be in extreme peril and may well fall to the Western imperialists. We are fighting them on five fronts. The White Armies of General Denikin and Admiral Kolchak defeat our Red Army in every engagement. Our desertion rates are excessively high. The Northern Russian Expedition of fourteen battalions of British Commonwealth, American, and French colonial troops have occupied Murmansk and Archangel, and they are advancing into the interior.”

Lenin is clearly annoyed that his old friend should question his judgment. He rises from his chair, glares at Zinoviev, shakes his closed fist at him and snaps, “The Soviet Union will prevail over these Western interlopers. Our allies—the sharp winter and the vast steppes—ultimately will engulf and destroy them.”

Zinoviev, stunned by Lenin’s sharp rebuke, looks to Dzerzhinsky for support. Dzerzhinsky looks away and shakes his head from side to side. Then he says, “Comrade Lenin has made his decision. I manage the Cheka on his authority.”

Realizing that he is alone in this discussion, Zinoviev counters, “Comrade Lenin, we have been together for years. Please do not dismiss my report with such a cavalier comment, or underestimate the seriousness of these Westerners on our soil. Hear me out.”

Lenin, still irritated, returns to his chair, and says, “Speak your piece, Grigory.”

“There is more. American and Japanese troops have occupied Vladivostok, and the Japanese are moving up the peninsula and assembling at our border with Mongolia near Nomanhan. They have occupied all of Sakhalin Island. The Japanese are continuing the war of 1904 unopposed, in violation of the Treaty of Portsmouth. British and Indian troops have invaded the Southern Caucasus. And perhaps most important, the Czech Legion has control of the Trans-Siberian Railroad from Kazan to Novosibirsk.”

Lenin snaps, “Your point, Comrade? Make it. I have a country to run.”

Zinoviev responds forcefully, “Comrade Lenin, my point is critical. We cannot defeat them all. We are isolated from the rest of the world. If our socialist government is to survive we must have peace—peace at any cost. We do not need more armed hostility. We need Western recognition and wheat, lots of wheat, if we are to survive this winter. I implore you to reconsider.”

“Zinoviev, you were my loyal ally in our Bolshevik Revolution that overthrew the Czar and his imperialist lackeys. Remain loyal to me now. Read my telegram. Read it out loud.” demands Lenin.

With trepidation Zinoviev whispers, “Your telegram is headed Top Secret. It reads: ‘To: Comrade Major Vasili Yurovsky, Commanding Officer, Cheka, Ekaterinburg. No later than tomorrow evening, you are to execute the prisoners held in the Ipatiev House. Specifically, I name the Romanov royal family of Imperial Russia, the Czar Nicholas, Empress Alexandra, Czarevich Alexis, and the Grand Duchesses Marie, Olga, Tatiana, and Anastasia. Confirm results. Signed, Lenin.”

Lenin smirks and tells Zinoviev, “Give this telegram to Comrade Roman Malinovsky, our new Commissar of Posts and Telegraphs. Have him encrypt it in our Omega code for immediate transmission.”

Ipatiev House, Ekaterinburg, Siberia,

17 July 1918

The corner windows in the second story are lit in the Ipatiev House, an elegant two-story dacha on several hundred acres of well-tended gardens, fountains, ponds, and virgin birch forest. The Bolsheviks have dubbed this dacha “The House of Special Purpose.” It is shortly before midnight, but the house is astir with activity.

The imperial family has been prisoners of the Cheka in this house since April, closely confined and daily suffering the insults of their Red guards. Their only comfort is the fact that they are together. Rumors of impending rescue reach them periodically, but each time they wait in vain.

This evening the family calmly retired at the usual time. About an hour later, the sergeant of the guard aroused them and ordered them to dress and hurry downstairs to the cellar. He explains that the Czech Legion and a unit of the White Army are approaching Ekaterinburg, and the Regional Soviet has ordered that they be moved.

The family rushes to dress and pack a few personal belongings. “Put on your blue dress,” Alexandra whispers to Anastasia as they pass in the upstairs hallway. When the family arrives in the cellar, the sergeant tells them that their transportation will arrive shortly. A Cheka guard brings a chair for the Empress. For a moment, Alexandra’s heart fills with hope. If the Czech and White Army are so near, rescue might be imminent. Soon they might all be free, on their way to England. She was right, she thinks, not to send Anastasia away on her own. Now the family will be together. She puts an arm around her youngest daughter’s waist. Thanks be to God.

Suddenly a squad of Cheka soldiers with their rifles at port arms marches single file and at double time into the cellar. After the last soldier is in position, the first sergeant commands, “Squad, halt! Right face.” The soldiers turn to face the Romanovs. After a moment, the sergeant shouts, “Squad, ah-ten-hut!” The sound of rifle butts hitting the concrete floor reverberates throughout the cellar.

Several minutes later, Major Vasili Yurovsky enters. He is the senior Cheka office in the area. He wears the summer grey short-sleeved tunic uniform with red piping and his major’s pips on the shoulder boards.

“Present. Arms!” commands the first sergeant.

The soldiers bring their rifles to the present-arms position to salute their commanding officer.

In return, Major Yurovsky returns a snappy hand salute.

The Czarevich giggles in delight at the military prompt.

However, fear and concern race through the rest of the Romanov family. Alexandra knows exactly what is happening. The Czar, Anastasia, and her three sisters wonder what this military demonstration has to do with their rescue by the Whites or the Czech Legion.

“Order arms!” commands the sergeant. The soldiers return their rifles to their right side. The pounding of the rifle butts hitting the concrete floor sends chills through the Romanovs, causing them to wonder what is happening.

Yurovsky orders Alexandra to stand. The indignity of this crass Bolshevik officer ordering the Empress of All the Russias to comply with his command is unthinkable. She stares with smoldering hostility at Yurovsky. But, no longer enjoying the resources of royal status, she complies. After a moment or two she slowly moves a few paces to her left, next to Anastasia.

With his arms akimbo, Yurovsky walks down the line of the imperial family. He stops in front of each person and looks intently into their eyes. All but the Empress turn away from him. Summoning all her courage, she returns her most imperious glower of disdain. He smiles faintly at her feeble attempt at bravado.

The Czarevich is dressed in his sailor uniform. Maintaining proper military protocol, he salutes Yurovsky. The major stares at him contemptuously and does not return the salute.

This military display does not look like a rescue to the four daughters. Extreme apprehension engulfs Maria and Tatiana. Unsure of what is happening and fearing the worst, they cannot control their fear and sob softly.

Major Yurovsky turns to the first sergeant and snaps, “On my orders!”

“As you say. Sir!”

Yurovsky moves to the cement steps and climbs three. “Port arms!” he shouts. He surveys the scene to ensure that the Romanovs are positioned correctly and that his soldiers are ready.

Satisfied that the staging is correct, Yurovsky commands, “Fix bayonets!”

There is a loud clanging of metal as the soldiers snap their bayonets onto their rifles.

Anastasia now understands with crystal clarity the task that her mother assigned to her so long ago. They are not going to be rescued, and she and her family are going to be murdered by the Bolsheviks. An overwhelming fear of death engulfs her. Her family is in this cellar for an execution. She fights to be brave and to hold back her tears. Her mother cannot help her.

“Load!” The soldiers pull back the bolts of their rifles, then jam the bolts forward, loading a round into the rifles’ chambers. The metal-on-metal clicking sends a vibration of horror through the cellar.

The other three daughters begin to sob and make the sign of the cross as they realize their fate is death. Alexandra commands, “Be brave. You are Romanovs. St. Nicholas will guide you.”

The Czar has been standing silently, as if he were in a dream. Aroused by the loud clicking of metal, he exclaims, “What!”

“Aim!” The riflemen select the nearest target.

The Romanovs see the loaded rifles with bayonets pointed at them. Their fate is all too clear. Cries. Screams.

The deafening thunder of the first volley reverberates through the cellar. Agonized screams! Another volley. Another. And another. Silence.

Major Yurovsky, obeying Lenin’s orders, has assassinated the Romanov imperial family. He cannot see clearly in the small, smoke-filled cellar. He checks the mutilated human forms askew on the concrete floor. There are no heartbeats. There is no light in any of the eyes. He grimaces at the bloody corpses. Even for a hardened Cheka officer it is a gruesome scene. In a few minutes, the basement window goes dark.Screen Shot 2016-07-17 at 9.55.51 AM

Satisfied that the regicide has been successfully executed, he orders his communications officer to send an encoded telegram to Lenin and Dzerzhinsky, in care of the Presidium of the Central Executive Council, Moscow: “The Romanovs are dead this night. Yurovsky.” In the upstairs lounge, he and his Cheka soldiers celebrate the foul deed well done, and toast frequently with shots of vodka.

 

Some believe that the youngest daughter, Anastasia escaped the assassins. My book, St. Catherine’s Crown tells the story of Anastasia making a perilous journey across Siberia via the Trans-Siberian Railroad. Starting today, the anniversary of the assassination of the royal family, my book, St. Catherine’s Crown will be available for free from Amazon. Enjoy this free download with my compliments from July 17-21.

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Book Review: Hell and Good Company by Richard Rhodes

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Rating – Three Stars

Rhodes writes an easy read, semi-informative book about the Spanish Civil War (1936 to 1939) that pitted the Fascists forces of General Francisco Franco against Spain’s “Republican” government. The Spanish government was far from a democracy—it was a pseudo-communist government that was suffused with Comintern agents of the Soviet Union. In May 1937, Spanish Communists took over the government.

Fighting with Franco were German and Italian air, artillery, and ground forces. Supporting the government were the military forces of the Union of Socialist Soviet Republic. About two million soldiers were involved in the war—200,000 killed and many thousands more wounded and missing.

Unfortunately, this book has no central theme—it has minimal coherence. Occasionally, Rhodes offers a snippet of the war about and who is doing what to whom, but mostly he focuses his narrative on the volunteer British medical personnel tending to wounded Republican soldiers: their heroism, dedication, and professionalism. Mostly, I reckon he discusses the Western expatriates that pontificated about the horrors of the war and the awful Fascists. Actually, this book is not about the Civil War in Spain, it’s about the expatriates in Spain during the Civil War. Here are a few of these people:

  • Ernest Hemingway. An American novelist. Whilst drinking, womanizing, and sending dispatches to the North American Alliance, he worked with Joris Ivens (Dutch artist and Communist) producing the agitprop film titled, The Spanish Earth.
  • Martha Gellhorn, Hemingway’s wife. American novelist, poet, political activist, and war correspondent. Worked trying to get Basque children evacuated to safety.
  • George Orwell, British leftist, novelist, and journalist. Volunteered to fight with the people’s militias “The Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification.” Wounded in the throat, he was medically discharged and returned to England. In the following years he wrote the satirical novels Animal Farm and 1984.
  • Muriel Rukeyser, American poet, war correspondent for the Daily Worker, and other far-left publications.
  • J.B.S. Haldane, British scientist and war correspondent.
  • Norman Bethune, thoracic surgeon and firebrand Communist, performed hundreds of operations, some in dire conditions. He was nonchalant about danger and would work in the front lines.
  • Man Ray, American Dada and surrealist artist, photographer, and filmmaker, documented the War.
  • Patience Darton, British nurse with keen initiative, gritty survival, and mental fortitude in tending to the wounded. Fell in love with an ardent Communist soldier—killed in action.
  • The International Brigades composed of Western volunteers.

Rhodes dedicates many pages to Pablo Picasso and his painting “Guernica.” Picasso was horrified by the German Condor Legion’s bombing and utter destruction of this Basque city on 26 April 1937. The commanding officer of the Condor Legion, Lieutenant Colonel Wolfram von Richthofen, said, “Guernica must be destroyed if we are to strike a blow against the enemy personnel and material.” Joan Mirό, the Catalan surrealist, painted a large mural titled “Catalan Peasant in Revolt.”

Rhodes does not include pictures of these artworks, and his only overall map of Spain is inadequate. Nonetheless, Hell and Good Company would have an appeal for the literati.

Read more by S. Martin Shelton!

 

Book Review: Air War Over Khalkhin Gol: The Nomonhan Incident

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Rating – Three Stars

From May to September, 1939, the Union of Socialists Soviet Republics and the Empire of Japan waged an undeclared war near the Khalkhin Gol (River) over the border between Soviet controlled Mongolia and the Japanese puppet state Manchukuo (formerly the Chinese Province Manchuria). In this little remembered war, casualties in men and equipment were exceedingly high in this vicarious conflict in the remotest and worthless real estate on the planet.

Kotelnikov presents a detailed account of the air war from the Soviet Union’s perspective.  In many ways, his account reminds one of the aerial “dog fights” over the Western Front in the Great War of 1914 to 1918. Unfortunately, his narrative fails to engender empathy in the audience. It’s a dry, statistical account, strung together in a continuous flow of text. The presentation would have been more comprehensible if he would have bulleted the data of the day-by-day air significant battles. His narrative has almost no personal details. We get some of the names of the Soviet and Japanese aviators but we do not get to know them—who they are, what they think, what they do in their off duty hours. The narrative is a dry telling of “just the facts.”

He fails to develop a broad perspective of this conflict. We do not understand very much about the war itself. He does not tell us what the war was really about (a continuation for control of the Pacific provinces—as in the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-1905?). We need some details about the ground war to understand the implications of the air war.  We need information about the belligerent’s political thoughts and implications. At the time, the Second Sino-Japanese war was in full force, and war clouds were building aplenty over Europe.

I fault Kotelnikov severely for not providing comprehensive maps of the conflict. The few maps he offers are miniscule and unreadable. On the positive side, he presents an array of black and white photographs of Soviet aircraft and airmen, beautiful color drawings of the aircraft involved, and a supplement that details the background of the aircraft, their specifications, and performance.

Read more by S. Martin Shelton

Book Review: The First World War in the Middle East by Kristian Coates Ulrichsen

The First

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rating – Two Stars

This is a heavy book. Not in its weight but in its syntax. It’s tedious. This text reads as if it were a doctorial dissertation modified for publication. Here’s one example from page 15:

“For their part, the localised backlashes against the closer imposition of colonial

control that emerged during the war and peaked between 1919 and 1922 were them-

selves interlinked through the cross-border exchange of ideas and inspiration.”

Egad! Say again? Over.

This book focuses on the political, economic, and logistics of the middle-east war. Ulrichsen

mentions campaigns with short shift. Fortunately, he discusses the Gallipoli Campaign in slightly more depth. Nonetheless, for the military historian, this book is unsatisfactory. We are left wanting more detail. In particular, I fault the author for not providing detailed maps of the campaigns he mentions and discusses ever so lightly. He does have one overall map of the Middle East and that’s it. Totally unsatisfactory.

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Armies of Warlord China 1911-1928 by Philip Jowett

Armies of Warlord ChinaRating-Four Stars

This is a large (11” x 9”), heavy book–in weight and content. Jowett tells us just about everything we’d want to know about the history of the warlords of China that ruled the Northern provinces (and a few in the south). He laces his narrative with relevant photographs.

Unfortunately, the organization of this book is askew, and the narrative may need more copy editing. In the Introduction he relates a short history of China from the early 20th century to the early 1930s. Following is an extensive chronology of this history outlined in a bullet-type format where he introduces the warlords. Some of these entries are lengthy and introduce significant duplication of the information contained in the Introduction. There is also massive duplication of information in the subsequent pictorial biography of the major warlords and the captioned photographs of military activities.

I did enjoy the illustrated section of the aviation activities in the relevant time frame. The color drawings of the airplanes are well done and add credence to the narrative. There is also a section detailing the uniforms and equipment in the Imperial and Warlord Armies. The photographs of the warlords festooned in all their habiliments and the detailed drawings of the soldiers of the various armies in their uniforms are particularly informative.

The color pictorial of the badges and medals relevant to the National and Warlord Armies was excellent, but the captions are far too meager for the reader to understand their significance and order of importance.

This book is heady reading and designed for the cognoscenti of China’s milieu in that time period. It could be used as an important reference book for those seeking details of this not-well-known history of the Celestial Kingdom and the warlord wars (1929 to 1930).

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