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review 2018-04-11 20:18
Offers sympathetic reevaluations of the “butchers and bunglers”
Haig's Generals - Ian F. W. Beckett

For decades the generals who commanded the armies of the British Expeditionary Force in the First World War have been subjected to considerable criticism in both the popular and scholarly media.  Long derided as “butchers and bunglers”, they were typically viewed as unimaginative fools who callously presided over the slaughter of a generation.  In recent years, however, these much maligned figures have enjoyed something of a rehabilitation, as a number of historians have argued that the British military leadership was far more innovative in their application of new tactics and technologies to break the stalemate on the Western Front than they have been often credited, and that the army was just beginning to profit from the benefits of this when the war came to an end.

 

Ian Beckett and Steven Corvi’s book can be categorized as part of this rehabilitative effort.  A collection of short biographies written by different historians, it offers a reexamination of the nine generals who commanded armies during Haig’s tenure as the commander of the BEF.  As a collaborative work it bears the idiosyncracies typical of a project, but all of the chapters share a sympathetic attitude towards their subject, with each focusing on a particular action that serves as a case study for their interpretation.  For the most part the treatment manages to be both sympathetic yet even-handed, as only occasionally (as in the case of John Lee’s chapter on William Birdwood) do they come across as excessively partisan.

 

Yet despite his presence on nearly every page, one person seems curiously absent – Haig himself.  While the focus is properly on the generals under his command, the analysis of their roles and performance invariably touches on their relationship with Haig.  Given the reevaluation being undertaken by the authors, the work might have been stronger had there been a separate entry on Haig, or at least a chapter assessing his overall role within the BEF.  Without it, the chapters are nine useful threads that need to be tied together in order to properly support the case that the overall assessment of these men has been unfair.  It is the major limitation in what is otherwise a useful reassessment of men who have at times been judged unfairly for their efforts to grapple with the changing demands of the new ways of warfare on the Western Front.

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review 2018-04-07 15:48
As entertaining as its predecessors
Alternate Generals III - Harry Turtledove

The dustjacket cover is a piece of irrelevant silliness; there are no stories in this volume involving Lee and Grant as Roman commanders.  What it does contain is thirteen original short stories premised in a variety of different histories.  The stories are:

 

“A Key to the Illuminated Heretic” by A. M. Dellamonica – Joan of Arc fails to recant, and instead survives to lead a sect of Christian dissidents fighting for their survival.

 

“The Road to Endless Sleep” by Jim Fiscus – A Roman centurion loyal to Marc Antony finds himself the commander of Cleopatra’s bodyguard after their triumph over Octavian.

 

“Not Fade Away” by William Sanders – General Douglas MacArthur does not escape from the Philippines in 1942 but instead ends up a prisoner of the Japanese.

 

“I Shall Return” by John Mina – Having been assigned to the Philippines, Dwight Eisenhower and his subordinates George Patton and Jimmy Doolittle mount a much more successful defense of the islands from Japanese invasion.

 

“Shock and Awe” by Harry Turtledove – Instead of a religious following, Jesus inspires a military uprising against the Romans.

 

“A Good Bag” by Brad Linaweaver – During a 1910 seance, General Francis Younghusband receives a message from the past that warns of the necessity of war between Britain and Germany.

 

“The Burning Spear at Twilight” by Mike Resnick – Jomo Kenyatta devises a very modern campaign to drive the British from Kenya.

 

“‘It Isn’t Every Day of the Week’” by Roland J. Green – A daring naval decision by Captain Stephen Decatur leads to a very different War of 1812.

 

“Measureless to Man” by Judith Tarr – Genghis Khan’s conversion to Judaism creates a much different Mongol Empire – and spawns a doctrinal conflict with their counterparts in Europe.

 

“Over the Sea from the Skye” by Lillian Stewart Carl – The Duke of Cumberland’s defeat at the hands of Bonnie Prince Charlie creates a difficult situation for a young woman.

 

“First, Catch Your Elephant” by Esther M. Friesner – Hannibal’s pachyderm-equipped invasion of Italy faces difficulty when his men run out of food in the Alps.

 

“East of Appomattox” by Lee Allred – Robert E. Lee is sent on a diplomatic mission to London for a victorious Confederacy facing difficulties.

 

“Murdering Uncle Ho” by Chris Bunch” – In a North Vietnam occupied by invading American forces, an American commando mission is sent on a mission to eliminate the surviving Communist leadership.

 

Like any short story collection, individual readers will have their own favorites from among the offerings, but the range of tales offers something for just about any fan of alternate history.  Overall, this is a good entry to a solid series, one that offers intriguing tales into worlds that might have been.

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review 2018-04-07 15:42
An enjoyable collection of alternate history short stories
Alternate Generals II - Harry Turtledove

While Harry Turtledove’s name is featured prominently on the cover, he authors just one of the thirteen short stories in this collection of alternate history tales.  Though the settings range from ancient Egypt (in Noreen Doyle’s “Horizon”) to twentieth-century Istanbul (the setting of James Fiscus’s “American Mandate”), the theme uniting them all is the different paths events might have taken should the people, choices, and settings have been any different.  Like most collections, the stories are a mixed bag in terms of quality, with some working better than others.  Readers will undoubtedly differ as to which stories these are, but just about any fan of the alternate history genre will find something to enjoy within the pages of this book.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2015-01-09 00:40
Tunnels of Blood by Darren Shan || Cirque Du Freak #3
Tunnels of Blood - Darren Shan

4/5 stars

 

SUMMARY:

When Darren hit the city with Mr.Crepsley and Evra, the fun quickly disperses when bodies are discovered in the city. Is Mr.Crepsley to blame? Can Evra and Darren stop these horrid things from happening or will they lose their lives saving the innocent?

 

 

REVIEW:

 

I love Darren Shan. This is only the third book I have read by him, but his writing is amazing. His writing is simple, fast paced, and well thought out.  While you can tell that this is more of a middle grade series, the gore is still there. Whether Darren is in a slaughter house or watching a murder happen, the simplistic details are still fairly graphic. 

 

 

I thought that this book was very well thought out. There were so many little plot twists. For example, the intro of this book almost gave me a heart-attack! I love Mr.Crepsley's character and the thought of him purposely killing humans? NOOO!  

 

I enjoy that Darren's character doesn't blindly accept everything. He understands that even the undead need to have morals, or even THEY can become disrespected and cast out. I like the realistic struggles he has. It's not been an entire year and of course, the pain of missing his life is still a huge hole. Meeting Debbie was good for Darren, and I'm a little heart broken that he had to leave her...like that. It was sweet for him to decorate the tree and leave her with this last reminder of him. To let her know he listened, he cared. 

 

DEBBIE:

Speaking of Debbie.... her character was very enjoyable. When we first met her I was sure that her character would be some kind of trick meant to distract Darren or possibly even kill him. They had an instantaneous friendship, which is completely realistic. You meet new people and sometimes you just....click.

 

Debbie helped Darren keep his cool. She accepted Evra and I feel that given time, (even immediately) she would have accepted him as well. She was a very down to earth character who helped to show Darren that compassion for others is something you shouldn't lose, It can make you weak, but it also makes you feel alive. Everybody deserves someone in their life that shows them that it's okay to hurt and that it's okay to care.

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review 2014-06-07 14:55
The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today
The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today - Thomas E. Ricks

I am in no way well-versed in military history. My curiosity about the generals involved in WWII was piqued by my recent reading of The War. So, when I came across this work by Thomas E. Ricks, I thought it just might fit the bill. While I was able to follow Ricks’ overall thesis (which I'll get to momentarily), in reading the sections on the Korean War and even Vietnam, I felt like I was in a class for which I had skipped the pre-requisite coursework. Though, as mentioned, I haven't exactly “studied” modern warfare, but my having been alive for the campaigns in the Gulf etc. felt sufficient for following the later sections. So, do with this information what you will. Onward!

 

Dismissals and Mistakes

The military of the United States is (as is perceived to be) a different creature today than it was in the era of World War II. That, unto itself, isn't much of a thesis statement, and there are a preponderance of factors, technological, geopolitical and sociological alike, that have contributed to this stark contrast. However, Ricks gives us a cohesive narrative by tracing the changing role of dismissals and its impact on the tactical and bureaucratic environment of the American military. 

 

General George C. Marshall set the bar pretty high when it came to the rate at which leading officers were relieved while he was in command starting in September of 1939.

 

Marshall center with staff 1941

 

Though some may have seen this as "cold blooded," Marshall knew that unity had to come first in the course of coalition warfare. It was with this in mind that Marshall accelerated the promotion of Dwight Eisenhower , a man seen by the British forces as being a "strategic lightweight," but whose strength lay in his ability to prioritize and implement tactics, and who took seriously his charge from Marshall that he was to maintain cohesion among the Allied forces.

 

Eisenhower and Company E England 1944

 

So where are all the pink slips? Well, there are certainly a bunch of names I didn't know prior to reading this that I could list who were ousted. Likewise, though not a "dismissal" per se, Marshall wasn't wed to formulaic promotion by seniority. If he had been, George S. Patton would have been in front of Ike in line for promotion.

 

Lt Gen George Patton Sicily 1943

 

Patton may have been good at a lot of things, but keeping a coalition together was not one of them. Furthermore, Marshall wasn't running a sort of run-and-gun, once you're out you're out, hang your head in shame firing environment. In order to give commanders the independence they were afforded in the field, they had to be in the right environment. Dismissals often gave way to reassignments, which, as it turned out, was a really good thing. The American army made many mistakes, but it was also adaptive, something that was noted by the British who had an experiential head start due to the United States' late entry into the war. 

 

Mr. MacArthur Goes to Washington

Ricks gives General Douglas MacArthur the ignominious award as the "most overrated" man in the U.S. military (also, in his blog post, The worst general in American history?, he gives MacArthur the no. 1 spot). In addition to his general insubordination to a trifecta of presidents, MacArthur also resurrected the politicization of "the General." 

 

General Douglas MacArthur Korea 1950

 

While having generals in political office, unto itself, is not problematic, MacArthur is portrayed as a symbol for the worst possible relationship between the POTUS and military leadership. 

 

What's to be done?

Yes, I'm skipping a whole bunch of wars, but there is a point to all of this. These days the dismissal (or whatever you want to call it) of a general is a big, CNN-covered deal—one filled with shame and often associated with human rights abuses and/or sex scandals. Ricks argues that relief from command should not terminate a career, and, furthermore, should be seen as a sign that the system is working. Ricks cites the responses of soldiers who have left the force in his closing arguments (the most common reason for leaving, as it turns out, has to do with frustration with bureaucracy). We have come to a place, Ricks argues, where we are institutionalizing mediocrity. Incompetence is tolerated, and excellence is insufficiently rewarded.

 

My take

I admit I sort of three-star enjoyed this book, but feel like much of that was due to my lack of background knowledge. Basically, I feel under-qualified to dock additional stars. 

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