The Battle of the River Plate

Graf Spee

The Battle of the River Plate was the first naval battle of World War II and the only battle of World War II to take place in South America or its waters.  The Graf Spee was one of three Deutschland Class “pocket battleships” built by the Germans in the interwar period to get around treaty restrictions imposed after World War I.  The three ships were the Deutschland, Admiral Scheer, and Admiral Graf Spee.  All three ships were to be destroyed during the course of the war. The ship was designate to act as a commerce raider and was at sea when the war began.  After getting new orders she began … Read more…

Book Review: SHOT DOWN: The true story of pilot Howard Snyder and the crew of the B-17 Susan Ruth by Steve Snyder

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[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the author and/or publisher. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own] SHOT DOWN: The true story of pilot Howard Snyder and the crew of the B-17 Susan Ruthis the story of the author’s Father in World War II as a B-17 bomber pilot and his ordeals after being shot down over the Franco-Belgian border in February 1944. The book itself is 335 pages of text with an extensive sources list and index.  The text is divided into 40, mostly short, topical chapters. The narrative describes the journey of the author’s father to … Read more…

The Battle of Berlin – 16 April – 2 May, 1945

Brandenburger Tor in einer Trümmerlandschaft am Ende des Zweiten Weltkrieges (Mai 1945).

Throughout 1944 the German armies on the Eastern Front had been pushed westward across Poland and into Germany proper.  During the winter of 1944-1945 the front had stabilized roughly along the river Oder and inside historically German territory.  In front of Berlin three Russian Fronts (1st & 2nd Byelorussian plus 21st Ukrainian) faced two greatly understrength German Army Groups (Army Group Vistula & Army Group Center).  A Russian Front and German Army Group are roughly synonymous units within the army structure although at this point in the war German Army Groups were pretty much army groups in name only often being the size of reinforced Corps or even divisions due … Read more…

Book Review: The Funny Thing About War by Al Campo

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[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the author and/or publisher. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own] The Funny Thing About War by Al Campo is part fictional War story and part autobiography. It is the story of a young, 22 year old man called to duty in the Navy and then sent to Southeast Asia as a crewman on a Destroyer conducting fire missions up and down the coast of North and South Vietnam. The book itself is 413 pages of text separated into eleven chapters. Because it is ostensibly a work of fiction there is … Read more…

Book Review: In The Company Of Heroes by Michael Durant

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I picked up In The Company Of Heroes by Michael Durant recently  because it was something I always wanted to read but never got around to. I am glad I did. For those in the military back in the early 1990’s we all know who Michael Durant is, for those who were not or were not alive, very few do. Michael Durant was the helicopter pilot shot down on October 3rd, 1993 during what has come to be called the Battle of Mogadishu. He was severely injured when his helicopter crashed and was pulled from the wreckage by two Delta Force operators Gary Gordon and Randy Shughart, (who lost their lives … Read more…

Book Review: The Revenge of Geography by Robert D. Kaplan

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In line with my current grad program pursuing an MA in International relations I have been reading a lot of books about current or semi current events. The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate by Robert Kaplan is one of these books.  The book is an examination of geopolitics.  That is, it takes a look at politics through the lens of geography.  The thesis being that while regimes may change the places people live and the terrain of those places generally does not and thus to a large extent geography has a somewhat deterministic effect on politics.  This is actually a … Read more…

Book Review: Death Dealer-The Memoirs of the SS Kommandant at Auschwitz by Rudolph Höss

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In my office at home I have one shelf on my bookshelf full of books with sticky tabs on the back indicating that I want to read them but have not yet found the time.  When I get the chance I take one down and read it.  Some are books I have had for years and some are new.  This is one of those books. I think like every aspiring historian, I went through a WWII phase in my youth where I read every book about WWII and all its aspects I could find.  Death Dealer: The Memoirs of the SS Kommandant at Auschwitz by Rudolph Höss has sat on my … Read more…

The First Battle of the Marne & the End of the Schlieffen Plan

Combatants at 1st Marne-2

The first Battle of the Marne was fought from 5-12 September, 1914.  It was the turning point of the opening campaign in what would be known as the Western Front during World War I.  First Marne represented the death of German hopes for a repeat of 1870 and ensured that Germany would have to face every German planner’s nightmare for over a century, a two front war. The Schlieffen Plan was supposed to allow Germany to defeat her two great enemies, France and Russia, one after the other in sequence.  The greatest flaw in the Schlieffen Plan was actually the plan itself.  It was an attempt to move huge masses … Read more…

Book Review: Ring of Steel by Alexander Watson

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[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the author and/or publisher. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own] Ring of Steel: Germany and Austria-Hungary in World War I does for the Germany and Austria-Hungary what Niall Ferguson’s The Pity Of War did for the Allies in WWI.  It explains the war through the lens of the people that participated both at home and at the front and explores the ways in which the experience of war shaped the perception of the war and led to the dissolution of both empires. The book itself is a hefty tome at first … Read more…

Gallipoli, 1915: Analysis of a Glorious Failure

Anzac Cove shortly after the Start of the Dardanelles Operation

The Allied invasion of Gallipoli and its subsequent failure represented perhaps the greatest lost opportunity of the First World War.  There is every reason to expect that if the invasion of Turkey had been successful then much the same results would have accrued to the Allies then as were to accrue twenty-eight years later when the Allies successfully invaded Italy in the Second World War.  The tangible results of the Allied invasion of Italy in 1943 was the capitulation of the government of Mussolini, and the diversion of up to sixteen German divisions in Italy that could have been more profitably used in France.  Additionally, one of Germany’s most capable … Read more…

Book Review: The Month That Changed the World: July 1914 by Gordon Martel

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[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the author. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own] Given that 2014 is the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I, there has been a virtual flood of new books and scholarship on the war in the past few years. A flood that I sincerely hope does not stop anytime soon as the renewed emphasis on the war is starting to change the traditional view of the war. One area that has gotten particular emphasis this year is the Origins Controversy, as in, what really caused the war and … Read more…

Slideshow of pictures from WWI

If you have 6 minutes to kill this is an excellent slideshow of some of the mos profound pictures from WWI.  There is n context given just a running slideshow of images from soldiers standing around doing what they do most often in war,waiting, to a mass grave for horses, to battlefield scenes in No Man’s Land.

Book Review: House of War by James Carroll

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House of War: The Pentagon and the Disastrous Rise of American Power is one of those books that when you are done reading it you cannot quite decide if it was worth reading or not. If you want to know what history looks like, particularly American history, from the perspective of someone who sees evil and nefarious dealings in just about every single action taken by the United States then this is the book for you. I never thought I would see the day when the Marshall Plan would be described as economic warfare but it is in this book and that is just one example. I found it difficult to … Read more…

Book Review: Breakout: Pioneers of the Future, Prison Guards of the Past, and the Epic Battle That Will Decide America’s Fate by Newt Gingrich

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Breakout: Pioneers of the Future, Prison Guards of the Past, and the Epic Battle That Will Decide America’s Fate by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich would probably have been a more interesting book if it had introduced some new ideas.  Sadly, it does not.  The book is nothing more than a rehashing of the tired ideas that have been floating around in conservative circles for years. One would think that in 209 pages of text at least one original idea would appear.  The book is separated into 13 topical chapters with an introduction and a conclusion.  There is an extensive notes section and a surprisingly good index. The topics cover everything … Read more…

The Battle of Messines Ridge – 1917

Messines 5

From the opening months of the World War I, Flanders was the decisive sector for the British Army.  It was in an around the medieval Belgian town of Ypres that the original BEF had decimated themselves fending off German attacks from October to December, 1914.  Ypres and the salient surrounding it was where the British would see the hardest and most prolonged fighting of all the places where the British would fight in World War I. The Battle of Messines Ridge fought from 7-14 June, 1914 was not really a separate battle at all but rather the opening phase of what would come to be known variously as the Third … Read more…