California Literary Review

Military

Book Review: The Second World War by Antony Beevor

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June 25th, 2012

Hitler’s Final Solution was not a separate campaign of mass murder, parallel to the fighting on the battlefronts. Instead, the Nazi assault on the Jews was characteristic of the depraved nature of the entire war. Daring commando raids and tank attacks were the stuff of movie newsreels. The “real” war was prosecuted with civilian-targeted aerial bombardments, starvation as a weapon, orgies of rape and torture and other government-sanctioned acts of mass homicide.

Book Review: Carthage Must Be Destroyed by Richard Miles

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August 19th, 2011

Carthage, however, was not merely conquered by Rome. As the title of Miles’ book asserts, Carthage was destroyed. In three brutal wars, Carthage’s military power was annihilated by the legions of the Roman Republic. The city was ransacked and burned, down to its foundations. The people of Carthage were massacred or enslaved. The literature of the city was put to the torch. Not a stone was left upon a stone.

Book Review: Dividing the Spoils: The War for Alexander the Great’s Empire by Robin Waterfield

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May 3rd, 2011

It did not take long before most of the Diadochi were gripped by a lust for power nearly as manic as had possessed Alexander. Ptolemy, however, showed a greater restraint. Though he launched several offensive campaigns, Ptolemy largely contented himself with ruling Egypt. Moreover, his policy decisions were marked by an astute blend of urban and economic development, along with encouraging the arts and sciences. Where Demetrius squandered vast sums on siege towers and Dreadnought-sized warships, Ptolemy built Alexandria into a cultural center whose brilliance eventually surpassed Athens.

A Watchful Eye On… Winston Churchill

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March 2nd, 2011

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, known best as the wartime Prime Minister, held in his distinguished career a number of other high positions, including Home Secretary and First Lord of the Admiralty. Renowned as an orator and statesman, he enjoys a permanent place in Western history. The adventure and controversy pervading his professional life seem ripe for an enterprising screenwriter to pick.

The Weekly Listicle: Ballad Of The Soldier

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January 21st, 2011

This weekend, Peter Weir graces us with The Way Back, a tale of daring escape by prisoners of war. In due fashion this week’s Listicle salutes the soldier in film. From comedy to adventure to stark, sobering drama, soldiers have faced a great deal on the movie screen.

Book Review: Winston’s War: Churchill, 1940-1945 by Max Hastings

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June 29th, 2010

The next two years of the war for Churchill were a harrowing march through what his wife, Clementine called the “valley of humiliation.” Defeats in Greece, in the Battle of Crete and in North Africa in 1941 were followed by the Japanese capture of Singapore in February 1942. That same month, the daring “Channel Dash” by German warships under siege in Cherbourg to their home naval bases stung British pride to its core. Great Britain, the nation of Marlborough, Churchill’s warrior ancestor, and Lord Nelson was losing the war on land and sea.

Book Review: Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War by Karl Marlantes

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May 6th, 2010

The story is set in the spring of 1969 in the northwest corner of the country then known as South Vietnam. It revolves around a mountain named Matterhorn, a 5,000 plus foot peak so steep in some areas that ropes are required to scale it. The Marines face other obstacles also. At night it is so cold and wet that hypothermia is a problem. Much of the terrain is carpeted with leech-infested triple canopy rain forest, its undergrowth so thick as to require slashing through with machetes.

Book Review: Kaboom by Matt Gallagher

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April 5th, 2010

Gallagher has a lot of conversations with his platoon’s interpreter (“tarp”), a man his men call “Sage Knight” and treat like a rock star when they find out he has two wives and often has sex six times a day. But Gallagher never develops the same relationship with “Suge” that New York Times reporter Sidney Schanberg did with his interpreter Dith Pran in The Killing Fields, and we can’t help but think the conversations were nothing more than a way for Gallagher to pass the time.

Book Review: Valley of Death: The Tragedy at Dien Bien Phu That Led America into the Vietnam War by Ted Morgan

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March 15th, 2010

Giap had lost several family members to the rigors of French colonial rule, including his wife who was arrested and died in a French prison. A model of cool, methodical persistence, Giap was not goaded or tricked into a rash counterattack on Dien Bien Phu. He patiently assembled his forces, digging gun positions in the forested slopes overlooking the French defenses and amassing a huge supply of ammunition carried by thousands of porters through the jungle. Then on March 13, 1954, Giap struck at Dien Bien Phu, capturing several key strong-points and pounding the air strip so that supply planes could no longer land. The base aero-terrestre had become a death trap.

Small Wars by Sadie Jones

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January 19th, 2010

The conflict becomes a war in which, “…there was no truth. It was a nothing, laughable Mickey Mouse conflict; it was a sinister time of terror and repression. The British were misguided and ignorant; the Cypriots were lethargic and foolish. The Cypriots loved the British; the Cypriots hated the British. The British were torturers; the British were decent and honourable. EOKA were terrorists; EOKA were heroes.”

The Thirty Years War: Europe’s Tragedy by Peter H. Wilson

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December 16th, 2009

In some respects, the Thirty Years War resembles the Great War of 1914-1918. Political friction in Central Europe sparked a rush to arms that dragged in nations and peoples whose best interests lay in peace not war. With the focus of Europe’s economic activity shifting toward the Atlantic Ocean and the East Indian trade zones, the small states of Central Europe needed to integrate their economies to stay competitive. The last thing that petty states like Bohemia, Saxony, Bavaria and the Rhineland needed to do was throw away lives and treasure in futile warfare. But fight they did – for thirty years.

Knife Song Korea by Richard Selzer

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August 11th, 2009

On arriving at his small and isolated army base in Korea, Sloane is met by Larry Olsen, the army physician he is replacing. Olsen speaks to him as follows; “There’s no roof that doesn’t leak. The rats are fearless. Flies rule the country. Everybody steals. Orphans, refugees everywhere. They’re coming down from the north. There’s no equipment to speak of. There’s no sterilizer. And the dirt, the vermin….It’s yours now.”

The Attack on the Liberty: The Untold Story of Israel’s Deadly 1967 Assault on a U.S. Spy Ship by James Scott

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July 22nd, 2009

The book reveals for the first time the extent of the outrage and widespread disbelief of many of President Johnson’s senior advisers over Israel’s claim that the attack was an accident. Even LBJ was convinced the attack was no accident and confided his disbelief in Israel’s story to a Newsweek reporter, stating that he believed Israel attacked the ship because it was spying on the war. The book also quotes many senior State Department, Navy, NSA and CIA officials talking of their disbelief in the story.

Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath by Michael Norman and Elizabeth M. Norman

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July 13th, 2009

This continued fighting retreat for allied forces persisted for the four bloody months from December 1941 to April of 1942. In an astounding oversight, General MacArthur, by then en route to Corregidor, disregarded the logistical requirements of his retreating army. He left behind, in one example, 450 million bushels of wheat in a single warehouse despite his junior offices protestations. His starving soldiers ended up eating carabou—until all carabou were gone—then snakes, lizards, crows, whatever. The allied forces, lacking resupply and experience, were pushed back repeatedly, finally making their last stand on the tip of Bataan at the town of Mariveles.

Agincourt by Bernard Cornwell

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February 24th, 2009

Much more serious, though, is the book’s take on the medieval world as a whole. Alongside the loud cynicism of its insistence that the battles are meaningless, the church is corrupt and the aristocracy live in a different world, Agincourt continually asserts a broadly positive, modern outlook.

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