Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Book Reviews in History

Book reviews

The Pity Of War by Niall Ferguson
I have loved everything I've read by Ferguson, so when I came across this older history of WWI, I grabbed it. At over 400 pages, it is not to be taken lightly, but for the history buff, it is well worth your time. Ferguson's grandfather served through the war w2ith a Highland regiment, and survived. Scotland had a higher casualty rate than every county except Serbia and Turkey. This book is not so much about the fighting as about the political, economic and morale factors that went into it. His excellent research turns most of the conventional wisdom of WWI on its head. He believes Germany went to war because they felt weak, not military strong, and thought the imbalance was growing.  His review of the differing economic and financial power of the central powers versus the allies suggests the Allies should have won much sooner. But Germany made better use of it's resources, and the Germans killed the allies at a much higher rate, meaning the French and British strategy of attrition worked against them. He suggests that Germans were not starved into defeat by the blockade and that it wasn't war reparations but economic mismanagement that led to the collapse of the Weimar Republic leading to the Nazis. You cannot but help learn a great deal from this well-written volume. As a bonus for me, I discovered the poems of Ewart Alan Mackintosh, an officer in a Scottish regiment who was killed in 1917. " So you were David’s father,/And he was your only son,/And the new-cut peats are rotting/And the work is left undone,/Because of an old man weeping,/Just an old man in pain,/For David, his son David,/That will not come again."

Indestructible: The Unforgettable Story of a Marine Hero at the Battle of Iwo Jima  by Jack Lucas and D. K. Drum 
Lucas' story couldn't happen today. He was a fighter as a boy. as 14 he enlisted in the Marines. Stationed on the east Coast, he stowed away on a train to get to California and the fighting. On Hawaii it was discovered he was only 15, so they side-tracked him from the fighting. So he started his own fights, hoping that would get him sent to combat. eventually he stowed away on a ship headed to Iwo Jima, which by chance his cousin was on. When he revealed himself it was too late to send him back, and he made the landing with his unit. There he smothered two grenades with his body, pushing them into the ash, and survived, though torn up. He was thus the youngest person in the 20th century to earn a Medal of Honor. Interestingly, his captain earned one as well. After the war he led an eventful life, becoming a captain in the Army and never losing his love of fighting. This is a book that all military buffs will love, but especially Marines.

Written Out of History: The Forgotten Founders Who Fought Big Government by Mike Lee 

This easy-to-read, well-researched book will introduce you to new founding "fathers" you haven't met, like Mum Betts, a slave who sued for freedom, and give you a different view of those you probably think you know about, like Arron Burr. It explores a lot of the controversies around the adoption of the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and will give you a new appreciation for Americans who championed our freedoms, federalism and checks and balances. Not to be missed by history buffs and students of our form of government.

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