Jules is the blogger we miss the most, and not just because he has a brother in SF. Or even that he was accused of war crimes. (If nobody accuses you of that, you’re ineffective. But Jules got accused of such as a war correspondent. No pedestal in the hemisphere is high enough for this Australian-American just plain good guy).
But we understand that his day job for a struggling newspaper, and his family, take priority. Work and family trump blogging around here, too.
Fortunately, while he seems to rule out a return to the blogmill, Jules has jumped back onto his reading-list page to update us on what he’s reading, and what some of his many combat-vet friends recommend. When he does this, we always learn stuff. Even though he describes it as just “some quick-and-dirty book lists and literary notes from several veterans of past wars plus one former combat correspondent,” it’s a veritable feast for the avid war reader. He began with his current reading matter:
Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, Doris Kearns Goodwin, ahead of the weekend’s planned viewing of Spielberg’s “Lincoln.” Great book, and an interesting approach to presidential history that is highly relevant, maybe even sets a benchmark, as we watch another cabinet shaping up in contentious times. Yeah, it’s a war read. Related, different: Lincoln’s Ladder to the Presidency: The Eighth Judicial Circuit by Guy C. Fraker. Sounds like good history on Lincoln, the young nation and the law, by someone intimate with the 8th Circuit.
Unfortunately, Goodwin is one of those celebrity historians who is known for her wordsmithing, not her research, so we’ll continue to give the book a pass. Moreover, she has a nasty habit of “research” that turns out to consist of copying large passages of other, less-celebrated, historians’ work. The other book sounds a bit lawyerly for us. Had John Wilkes Booth just gone around shooting lawyers, and not the President, there’d probably be an equestrian statue of him in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
The Finish: The Killing of Osama Bin Laden, Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War. Will be interesting to read in concert with former SEAL Kevin Maurer’s controversial No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden.
We don’t know where Jules gets, “SEAL Kevin Maurer.” As we understand it, Maurer was the writer who helped the SEAL with the book. Anyway, we’ve read both books, and found them both limited. No Easy Day is a shooter’s-eye view. The Finish is a work of Washington leakery and coming from Bowden, who made his bones with a series of incredible deep reportage in the Philidelphia Inquirer that became Black Hawk Down, it’s a disappointment. Jules’s next couple of recommendations were news to us, and we’ll be ordering them (through the links on Jules’s site, to give him the Amazon credit by way of thanks).
Black April: The Fall of South Vietnam, 1973-1975 , George J. Veith, who reports: “In April 2001, my friend and translator, Merle Pribbenow, and I visited MG Le Minh Dao, the last commander of the ARVN 18th Division. We interviewed him about the battle of Xuan Loc, which took place in April 1975. His unit stood their ground in some very heavy combat, and our article on the battle was published in January 2004 in the ‘Journal of Military History.’ Dao was so pleased with our efforts that he begged me turn the paper into a book on the final two years of the war. He emphatically told me that the RVNAF had fought well, and they were not the corrupt cowards so often portrayed in the American media. Thus began a ten-year journey of research and writing that finally culminated in ‘Black April.’”
Possibly the greatest historical shame of our time, the abandonment of Indochina, though it’s never too late to rack up another one.
God save us from that, but we’ll definitely need Him to pull that off, given the sort of bozos we send to DC. And here’s a subject that is seldom enough treated in books:
Pacific Time on Target: Memoirs of a Marine Artillery Officer, 1943-1945 , a private memoir by Christopher S. Donner, written immediately post-war on his time as a Marine artillery officer and forward observer in the Solomons, Guam and Okinawa. Rediscovered, edited and presented by Knoxville, Tenn., lawyer Jack H. McCall Jr., whose father served in the same unit, 9th Marine Defense Battalion. A Stanford grad student, teacher and married father, Donner signed up after Pearl Harbor. An unsparing look by an educated, sophisticated observer at unspeakably brutal combat against a dug-in, determined enemy. A good companion to Sledge’s With the Old Breed. (Update: Larry Gwin … 7th Cav Ia Drang vet/author, see his book list below … gives this one two thumbs up.)
We could go on and on — the next one on Jules’s list is also one we’re ordering — but there’s no justification for pilfering all of his post. We’ve already decapitated the poor thing, so flock to his site and RTWT.