MILITARY BOOKSHELF - 14

By MAJ Glenn MacDonald
U.S. Army Reserve (Ret.)

Hello, gang. It's good to be back after my cancer surgery. Hope you don't mind this abbreviated edition of MB, but I am still fighting to get up to full steam. Please patronize the book publishers. We only present to you those books that we feel are worthy of your attention.

For this month, we have an excellent biography of an Army nurse who served on Bataan and Corregidor. She survived years of imprisonment by the Japanese. We're sure you will find Ann Zwicker's story - ANGEL OF BATAAN - to be an inspiration.

Our Marine Corps readers will find MELTDOWN IN HADITHA to be interesting as well as thought-provoking. The author is famed UPI war correspondent Ken Englade. He's written some excellent books in the past. Check out HOT BLOOD and MURDER IN BOSTON. They're available on Amazon.com.

We're reviewing one of the great British military writer's best works this month. NEVER SURRENDER, tales of dramatic escapes from Japanese prison camps in WWII, is featured, and we have nothing but praise for this important contribution to military history.

Finally, we finish up with something for our Navy readers. HELL FROM THE HEAVENS tells the incredible story of the USS Laffey, the indomitable destroyer who survived repeated Kamikaze attacks from the Japanese Air Force in the waning days of WWII in the Pacific.

Let us know if you're helped by our reviews. Thanks. God bless you all!


"ANGEL OF BATAAN
By Walter MacDougall
DownEast Books

Alice Zwicker was the only servicewoman from Maine to be a prisoner of the enemy in either of the two world wars. But there is more to this story.

Across the nation, wherever one of the seventy-seven angels of Bataan returned home, there was a hero's welcome. Those army and navy nurses showed what American women could do and be, even in times of defeat

This is Alice's story, her growing up in a small Maine town, her commitment to the profession of nursing, and her immersion in World War II. There was Manila, Bataan, Corregidor, and then three log, hungry years when she was held prisoner by the Japanese.

For Alice, the terrible legacy of war did not end with her liberation from internment camp, or even with her return home. When victory finally arrived for Zwicker, it was achieved in her own soul.

We rate this book three stars.


"MELTDOWN IN HADITHA"
By Kenneth Englade .
www.mcfarlandpub.com

In November 2005, Sunni insurgents attacked a U.S. Marine squad en route to Haditha with an improvised explosive device (IED). One Marine died and two others were wounded. Within minutes, squad members killed 24 Iraqi civilians, including an elderly couple, four women and six children. It was the worst incident of its kind in the Iraq War.

Thirteen months later, four officers and four enlisted men were accused of crimes ranging from dereliction of duty to murder. The legal proceedings dragged on for five years, longer than any in U.S, military history,. The only conviction was that of an NCO who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor.

Unlike other legal actions conducted during the 60-year history of the present military justice system, these proceedings were held mostly in secret. This book investigates the tactics adopted by Marine Corps commanders and the ineptness of the proceedings, which raise serous questions about the need for reform of the Code of Military Justice.

Ken Englade is a veteran journalist who covered the wars in Indochina and the struggle against white rule in southern Africa. He has written dozens of magazine articles, published nine nonfiction works and five historical novels. He lives in New Mexico.

This book deserves three stars.


"NEVER SURRENDER"
By Mark Felton
www.pen-and-sword.co.uk

While there have been many fine books covering the appalling experiences and great courage of the many thousands of POWs captured by the victorious Japanese during late 1941 and early 1942, escape accounts are much rarer.

This is due in large part to the fact that only a comparatively small number of brave souls attempted to escape to freedom rather than suffer brutality, starvation, and very possibly death as POWs.

However, as NEVER SURRENDER vividly describes, there were a significant number who took this desperate course. Escapers faced challenges far more daunting than those in German hands. They were Westerners in an alien, hostile environment; the terrain and climate were extreme; disease was rife; their physical condition was weak; there was every chance of starvation and betrayal and, if captured, they faced, at best, the harshest punishment and, at worst, execution. The author draws on escape attempts from Hong Kong, Thailand, the Philippines, Borneo and China by officers and men of the British, Commonwealth and U.S. armed forces.

As this superbly researched and uplifting book reveals, few escapers found freedom but all are inspiring examples of outstanding and, indeed, desperate courage. The stories told within these pages demonstrate the best and worst of human spirit.

Give this book four stars.


"HELL FROM THE HEAVENS"
By John Wukovits
dacapopress.com

On the morning of April 16, 1945, the USS Laffey was brutally attacked off Okinawa by twenty-two Japanese suicide aircraft. Thirty-two sailors died, over seventy were wounded, and the ship was gravely damaged. Despite the horrific eighty-minute attack, the Laffey survived, earning the nickname "The Ship That Refused to Die."

The assault on the USS Laffey was the largest single-ship kamikaze attack of World War II. Clusters of kamikaze planes dove toward the Laffey from multiple directions, sending a ferocious barrage of Japanese gunfire into the besieged ship. When some kamikaze planes found their mark, exploding fireballs and deadly shrapnel tore into the Laffey and crew. The crew shot down twenty-two kamikaze planes, but not before vital parts of their ship was destroyed and too many American seamen had died. Despite the damage, the eviscerated ship managed to return home where the surviving crew members were hailed as heroes.

The greatest hero of HELL FROM THE HEAVENS is the ship's commander, F. Julian Becton, who took an inexperienced crew - many were barely out of high school - and prepared them for battle through rigorous training drills. His confidence in his men, as well as their confidence in him, resulted in an organized, prepared fight with the enemy - one that serves as a lasting symbol of the Navy's tenacity during WWII.

This book deserves four stars.

 

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