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review 2017-03-26 02:50
Home to Our Valleys!
Home to Our Valleys! : True Story of the Incredible Glorious Return of the Waldenses to Their Native Land - Walter C. Utt

The Vaudois were a little Christian group that throughout the Middle Ages were not considered “orthodox” by The Church resulting in persecution and attempts to wipe them out, however after the Protestant Reformation they were considered important to many prominent Protestant leaders throughout Europe especially after Louis XIV influenced the Duke of Savoy to attack them.  Home to Our Valleys! is the retelling of the Vaudois’ return from exile during the onset of the War of the Grand Alliance by author Walter Utt using the official account of Vaudois leader Henri Arnaud as well as numerous primary sources from around Europe.

 

The Vaudois home valleys were in the Piedmont region of Italy, then known as the Duchy of Savoy, right next to the border with Louis XIV’s France.  Their exile as the result of French influence on the Duke of Savoy just after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, made them refugees in Switzerland and German lands alongside the Huguenots.  It was these combined refuges that came together in a 1000 man strong force that left Swiss territory into Savoy marching for home, a journey that included a sliver of France jutting into Savoy territory.  Although this force avoided major battles, it continued to win minor skirmishes before reaching their home at which point their campaign turned into a guerrilla action against French forces operating in Savoy territory.

 

The overall subject of the book was very interesting, but was undermined by Utt’s decision of how to tell this story.  At times the book read like nonfiction then as historical fiction, going back and forth throughout.  This inconsistency is what really drove my rating of this book so low because while after thinking long and hard that for the most part this was a nonfictional account of the Vaudois with apparently reconstructed conversations between individuals as best guessed by Utt.

 

The fact that I had to debate what type of book this was while reading it and a while afterwards, took considerable attention away from content Utt was writing about.  The subject matter in Home to Our Valleys! is very interesting, but was lost in the style of writing that Utt chose to write in making the overall book underwhelming.

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review 2017-03-22 20:37
Review: Battlefield Angels by Scott McGaugh
Battlefield Angels: Saving Lives Under Enemy Fire From Valley Forge to Afghanistan (General Military) - Scott McGaugh

Scott McGaugh wrote a decent book about the military medicine corps and how they changed the battlefield throughout America's history. McGaugh is not a historian, which is clear from his choices to profile and how he structured the book; he is a communications director for a museum and so his writing reflects a public relations-type of delivering information. 

 

The Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and World War I each get one chapter that was very much an overview of the wars and where military medicine stood. Each of these chapters felt very similar, as the military was never really mindful of the medics, equipment, or processes that were advancing in the civilian world...until fighting broke out and men were dying. There was a lot of improvisation and development came from the Army branch. The highlight of this section was the mobile ambulance trains; I got to see and explore one on my trip to York's National Railway Museum.

 

This was followed by six chapters on World War II, five of which were devoted to the Marines fighting in the Pacific Ocean. And this is where the book fails a little for me - the one chapter on Europe dealt with the Army's advancement in medicine, but it was a total love fest between the author and the Marines. There was one chapter devoted to medical corpsmen who were POWs under the Japanese which was the most interesting chapter World War II section had.

 

And the Marine love-in continued in the one chapter on the Korean Conflict, even though the highlight of this era's medical advancement was the concept and execution of M.A.S.H. - Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (emphasis mine). Vietnam got two chapters, both dealing with Marines yet again. Ditto for the one chapter on Iraq (combination of Desert Shield/Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom, which was another fail for me as each operation was very different other than location), although for the first time a female medic was profiled. The lone POC profiled came in the chapter on Afghanistan, but you also get another group of Marines as well.  

 

Did I mention that my branch of service, the USAF, received 0, nada, nothing, Not. One. Damn. Word. about our medical corps? Yeah, this still annoys me a week after reading the book.

 

At the end of each chapter, there was a paragraph or two that just spewed stats about the number of troops involved in that battle/war, the number dying, the number injured - but no real analysis. It was interesting to read, but really only recommend this to military history buffs or medical history readers.

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review 2017-03-14 21:56
Scars of the Independence
Scars of Independence: America's Violent Birth - Holger Hoock

I received this book via LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers in exchange for an honest review.

 

The quaint, romanticized version of the American Revolution that many have grown up with through popular history and school curriculum is not the real life story that those living during those years experienced.  In Scars of Independence, Holger Hoock looks past the good versus bad and underdog narratives so prevalent today to reveal the multifaceted struggle and very violent history of the American Revolutionary War from all its participants.

 

Hoock frames the American Revolution as not just a colonial rebellion, but first and foremost a civil war in which the dividing line of loyalties split family.  The Patriot-Loyalist violence, either physical or political, began long before and lasted long after the military conflict.  Once the fighting actually began, both the Americans and the British debated amongst themselves on the appropriate use of the acceptable violence connected to 18th century warfare and on the treatment of prisoners.  While both sides thought about their conduct to those in Europe, the Native Americans were another matter and the violence they were encouraged to inflict or was inflicted upon them was some of the most brutal of the war.  But through all of these treads, Hoock emphasizes one point over and over, that the American Patriots continually won the “propaganda” war not only in the press on their side of the Atlantic but also in Europe and even Great Britain.

 

One of the first things a reader quickly realizes is that Hoock’s descriptions of some of the events of the American Revolution remind us of “modern-day” insurgencies and playbooks of modern terrorists, completely shattering the popular view of the nation’s birth.  Hoock’s writing is gripping for those interested in popular history and his research is thought-provoking for scholars.  Another point in Hoock’s favor is his birth outside the Anglo-American historical sphere in Germany, yet his background in British history and on-off research fellowships in the United States has given him a unique perspective to bring this piece of Anglo-American history out to be consumed, debated, and thought upon.

 

Scars of Independence: America’s Violent Birth is a fascinating, intriguing, thought-provoking book on the under-reported events of the American Revolutionary War in contrast to the view of the war from popular history.  Holger Hoock gives his readers an easy, yet detailed filled book that will help change their perspective on the founding of the United States by stripping the varnish away to reveal the whole picture.

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review 2017-03-01 16:01
How the Third Reich developed their advanced weaponry
German Secret Weapons Of The Second World War: The Missiles, Rockets, Weapons And New Technology Of The Third Reich - Ian V. Hogg

In January 1941 staff officers of the U.S., British, and Canadian militaries met in Washington D,C.. Though the United States was still a year from declaring war, planning was already underway in anticipation of that prospect, and the decisions they reached shaped much of the war that followed. Among the most important of these was that Germany was the primary opponent in any war involving the Axis powers. Though there were several excellent reasons for this, one of them was that the Germans possessed the greatest capacity for developing weapons which might radically transform the war, and thus needed to be defeated before they did.

 

Ian Hogg's book provides evidence of the wisdom of this decision. In it he provides an overview of the major weapons research bring undertaken by the Third Reich before and during the war. Diving his examination into categories, he summarizes the major projects to design new aircraft and air-launched weapons, air defense weapons, naval weapons, and the Wunderwaffen and nuclear and chemical weapons programs. His focus throughout is on their development, providing technical details and accounts of the decisions whether to undertake or abandon them and avoiding more than a brief mention of their deployment in the cases where the weapons were introduced. As befits a former artilleryman in the Royal Army, his section discussing the "big guns" is the best, but he provides interesting details throughout about the technical and bureaucratic challenges that slowed or stopped the development of weapons that might have changed the course of the war. The result is a work that is an excellent introduction to Germany's secret weapons programs, one best suited for the reader familiar with military technology but an informative read for anyone interested in an overview of the subject.

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review 2017-02-25 14:39
An encyclopedic description of British aircraft carriers
British Aircraft Carriers: Design, Development and Service Histories - David Hobbs

This is an encyclopedic book in the truest sense of the term. What David Hobbs, a former naval officer and curator of the Fleet Air Arm Museum, has done in it is provide a description of every ship conceived by the Royal Navy over the past century to launch and support aircraft as a primary part of its mission. This requires him to define some parameters for the sake of manageability -- vessels such as battleships, for example, which were equipped with a floatplane or two for scouting purposes, were left out. Nevertheless, his scope is vast, encompassing not just aircraft carriers but seaplane tenders, "merchant aircraft carriers," maintenance carriers, and LPHs. For each he provides a description of the development of the design followed by a breakdown of the service history of each vessel in its class, which he compliments with a generous selection of photographs from his own extensive collection. Nor does he stop there, as he devotes chapters to designs that were never built (including one about the amazingly off-the-wall Project Habakkuk) and to parallel developments in other navies, showing how these vessels and the ideas they embodied shaped British concepts about the design and role of carriers. All of this makes for a book that a worthy addition to the library of anyone interested in the history of the Royal Navy or of carrier aviation more generally, providing as it does a wealth of material that better understands the evolution of these vessels but their role in the Royal Navy and the broader challenges Britain faced as a naval power over the last century.

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