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Books on the Military - Reviews 

The Art of War by Sun Tzu, James Clavell (Editor) 
The Art of War offers a clear look at the way that many Easterners--as well as an increasing number of Western power personalities--conduct both their lives and businesses. A classic contract written 2,500 years ago by a leading Chinese philosopher/general, The Art of War advances a perspective with which to negotiate daily conflicts and provides insightful tools with which to succeed in life. --This text refers to the hardcover edition of this title  -- Synopsis,

The Next World War: Computers Are the Weapons & the Front Line Is Everywhere by James Adams 
Has the computer chip changed the nature of warfare? Will it eventually change war beyond current recognition? Adams, the former defense correspondent and Washington bureau chief for the London Sunday Times, believes that information will become the ultimate weapon and that future battlegrounds will be everywhere we live and work. While the weapons and technology of war will improve beyond even technofiction's expectations, it's the "information warfare" that will be critical in foreign wars and in the war against domestic crime. 

We've already seen some of what is to come in the Gulf War's camera-equipped smart bombs.  Soldiers can now be equipped with hand-held computers that can send messages and information back to superiors. And among the weapons to come: microwave cannons; plasma guns; devices that can see, smell, and hear; and even robotic "ants" that can swarm and explode around the enemy. Soldiers will wear uniforms powered by body heat that automatically relay important information back to their base camp. Helmets will be able to locate incoming fire, help a soldier see under all kinds of conditions, and locate others in a patrol. 

The ability to attack an enemy's civilian infrastructure, such as communication networks, air traffic control, bridges and dams, and electric grids, will be part of the new era of war. With the advanced state of digital imaging, misinformation campaigns in enemy countries can take on a much more convincing role. All it takes is for one country to have a few skilled hackers, and suddenly the number of troops, the hardware, and the nuclear devices don't matter. Could there be an "electronic Pearl Harbor?" 

Adams's research and journalism experience has made him aware of how much information warfare is being planned for and how much is already in place. His concern, in part, is that there has been little public debate about this, even though it affects our future so dramatically. Adams says "As David proved against Goliath, strength can be beaten. America today looks uncomfortably like Goliath, arrogant in its power, armed to the teeth, ignorant of its weakness."  --Elizabeth Lewis,

Saving Private Ryan: A Film by Steven Spielberg (Movie Tie-In, over 130 Photos, Historical Maps, Charts and Letters Home from World War II Soldiers) 
by Linda Sunshine (Editor), David James (Photographer), Steven Spielberg 
The photos and snippets of dialog and celebrity quotes in this tie-in book to Steven Spielberg's D-day film Saving Private Ryan are a continuation of the movie by other means. (Be forewarned that the book reveals one major plot point concerning Matt Damon's Private Ryan character.) If the color pictures look a bit washed-out compared to, say, Disney's The Art of Mulan, that's the idea--Spielberg renounced his razzle-dazzle visual magic in order to convey a brute reality honestly. "I didn't want to shoot the picture as a Hollywood gung ho Rambo kind of extravaganza," Spielberg says in the book.  "Janusz [Kaminski, the cinematographer] stripped all the glossy filters and the filaments from the lenses so they were just like the kind of lenses they actually used in the Second World War. We shot a lot of the war sequences with the shutter speed used by those Bell and Howell cameras of the 1940s for making newsreels.... If we've done our jobs, [the audience] will think we were actually on the beach on D-day." Time magazine opined that the film boasts "quite possibly the greatest combat sequence ever made." 

The photos in this book give an inkling of that impact, and also evince the intense empathy for the GIs that won Spielberg the allegiance of the leading historian Stephen E. Ambrose, whose stunning book Citizen Soldiers was the director's prime influence. "I wanted to write about the lives of the GIs," Ambrose said in an interview. "Books are always written from the generals' point of view, but I'm sick of the generals and their point of view. It's more refreshing to be with the guys who did the fighting." After seeing the film or reading this book (or the novelization Saving Private Ryan), you may not feel refreshed, but you will be enlightened. And you will immediately want to read two other sagas of ordinary heroism by Ambrose, D-day and Undaunted Courage, his ode to Meriwether Lewis. 

Saving Private Ryan is, in a sense, a companion volume to Tim O'Brien's masterpiece Going After Cacciato, about soldiers hunting down a deserter during the Vietnam War. Spielberg's story of GIs risking their lives hunting down an endangered dogface to save his life helps measure what it was that Americans lost between World War II and Vietnam. 
--Tim Appelo, 

Empire by Default : The Spanish-American War and the Dawn of the American Century by Ivan Musicant 
On the centennial of the Spanish-American War, the short and confusing conflict receives comprehensive treatment in a narrative of more than 600 pages. At the close of the 19th century, Americans were looking outward at the world. In a precursor to the foreign involvement of the next century the U.S. Navy found itself fighting in the Philippines, and the infantry (and Theodore Roosevelt's volunteer cavalrymen) entered combat (and battle illness) on the island of Cuba. The Spanish-American War has often been overlooked as an oddity, but those who want to understand its role in American history now have access to what may stand as the definitive history of the war that led to the United States being regarded as a world power. 
-- American History Editor's Recommended Book, 
Marine: A Guided Tour of a Marine Expeditionary Unit by Tom Clancy 
Since Clancy's fictional hero Jack Ryan began his career as a marine officer, few fans will be surprised that his creator now turns his attention to the corps and treats an aspect of it as effectively as he did the subjects of his three previous nonfiction military studies: Submarine (1993), Armored Cav (1994), and Fighter Wing (1995). After summarizing the marines' history, unique ethos, and weaponry--both specialized and borrowed, including the formidable ships of the amphibious navy--Clancy focuses on "the most `Marine' unit left in the Corps today," a Marine Expeditionary Unit--Special Operations Capable. Such a unit is one of the corps' and the country's seaborne emergency response teams, each with infantry, armor, air, and logistical components adding up to about 2,000 men and each able to carry out an astonishing variety of war-fighting and peacekeeping activities. Clancy amasses the information, writes clearly, provides an invaluable bibliography, and generally takes the lay reader where it would be very difficult to go without Clancy's guidance. Highly recommended. 
-- Roland Green,  Copyright© 1996, American Library Association. All rights reserved 
Fighter Wing: A Guided Tour of an Air Force Combat Wing by Tom Clancy 
Now, for the first time, an insider's look at an Air Force combat wing--the planes, the technology, and the people--with Tom Clancy as your guide. Tom Clancy's previous explorations of America's armed forces, Submarine and Armored Cav, revealed exclusive, never-before-seen information an the people and technology that protect our nation. Now, the acclaimed author of takes to the skies with the U.S. Air Force's elite: the Fighter Wing. 

With his compelling style and unerring eye for detail, Clancy captures the thrill of takeoff, the drama of the dogfight, and the relentless dangers our fighter pilots face every day of their lives, showing readers what it really means to be the best of the best. 

Fighter Wing includes: 

  • Detailed analyses of the Air Force's finest fighter planes, including the F-15 Eagle 
  • Exclusive photographs, illustrations, and diagrams 
  • An insider's look at the people behind the planes and weapons 
  • Combat strategies and training techniques used by the U.S. Air Force --  
  • The Long Walk by Slavomir Rawicz 
    Cavalry officer Slavomir Rawicz was captured by the Red Army in 1939 during the German-Soviet partition of Poland and was sent to the Siberian Gulag along with other captive Poles, Finns, Ukranians, Czechs, Greeks, and even a few English, French, and American unfortunates who had been caught up in the fighting. A year later, he and six comrades from various countries escaped from a labor camp in Yakutsk and made their way, on foot, thousands of miles south to British India, where Rawicz reenlisted in the Polish army and fought against the Germans. The Long Walk recounts that adventure, which is surely one of the most curious treks in history. 
    -- World History Editor's Recommended Book, 
    Spy Book: The Encyclopedia of Espionage by Norman Polmar 
    Norman Polmar and Thomas Allen describe espionage as the world's second-oldest profession, right behind prostitution. They say the two trades share much of the same allure: "Money, secrecy, sex, great public interest, and people's reputations--or lack thereof--are involved in both professions." Spies are probably the objects of greater curiosity, given their proximity to the corridors of power. And now Polmar and Allen have come up with a compendium that informs on the informers, from "A-2" (the intelligence staff of the U.S. Army Air Corps) to "Zelle, Margaretha" (Mata Hari's real name). More than 2,000 entries deliver the scoop on agencies, operations, jargon, technology, and even such fictional figures as James Bond.  --
    MASH:  An Army Surgeon in Korea by Otto F. Apel, Pat Apel 
    The 1951 doctors' draft took Otto Apel out of surgical residency and sent him to Korea. He felt obligated to serve but now deplores his lack of military training before being placed at the battlefront.  In contrast to his preparation was that of the other subject of his account, the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH), developed to meet the special needs of the Korean War. Aided by his son, Apel writes in particular about the formation and daily activities of the 8076th MASH, to which he was assigned. He began operating the moment he reached the unit, stationed near the 38th parallel, and learned military surgery from the muddy or dusty ground up. Improvisation was essential every day, as was teamwork among the surgeons, nurses, and support staff, who, Apel shows, provided exemplary care for the wounded soldiers. The great difference between the MASH on TV and the MASH at the battlefield, Apel and his colleagues later felt, was that the latter had casualties. 
    -- William Beatty, Booklist,  Copyright© 1998, American Library Association. All rights reserved 
    Jane's War at Sea 1897-1997 (Serial) by Bernard Ireland, Eric Grove, Ian Drury 
    First published in 1897, Jane's All the Worlds Fighting Ships (later shortened to Fighting Ships) established Jane's as the premier military publisher in the world. For 100 years, it has stood as the definitive guide to ship recognition and naval intelligence, and today this $300.00 publication is indispensable to more than 180,000 military and government readers. 

    This centenary edition offers aficionados affordable access to Fighting Ships extensive archives of data and artwork. In its pages are photographs, descriptions, specifications, and schematics of the great warships that shaped history and captured people's imaginations, like the dreaded battleship Bismarck, the USS Ticonderoga, HMS Courageous, the Yamato, and the USS Enterprise. From the heyday of the ironclad to the era of the dreadnought battleships to the age of air power that made the carrier rule supreme, from the wolfpack U-boats to the ultra-stealthy nuclear boomers, this remarkable resource examines the evolution in warship design that occurred as a result of technological and tactical developments and reveals what the next generation of warships will look like. 

    Featuring numerous articles by a fleet of leading naval officers and historians, including Admiral of the Fleet Sir Henry Leach (ret.), Jane's Fighting Ships, Centenary Edition is the ultimate reference for all military buffs and anyone interested in naval affairs or maritime history. -- The Publisher 

    365 Days by Ronald J. Glassner 
    For the person who wants a true understanding of what the Vietnam War was like for medics, doctors, and the casualities they saw during the Vietnam War, this book is extremely accurate. From my first hand experience, this is the most descriptive book I have ever read on the subject. It is obvious that Dr.Glasser wrote this with true feelings and a painfully accurate memory. Everyone should read this book for an understanding of what war is really about. -- Reader Comment, (note:  this book was rated 5 stars by all commentators) 
    Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years at Lockheed 
    by Ben R. Rich, Leo Janos (Contributor) 
    A top-flight aerospace engineer's engrossing reminiscences of an eventful career in the service of the CIA and US military at the height of the Cold War. With a graceful assist from Janos (co-author of Chuck Yeager's best-selling 1985 autobiography, not reviewed), Rich offers an episodic (probably vetted) account of his nearly 40 years with Lockheed's Advanced Development Projects, an ultrasecret operation better known as the Skunk Works (a name borrowed from the Dogpatch still in Al Capp's ``L'il Abner'' comic strip). During his apprenticeship, the author (who headed ADP from 1975 until his retirement at 65 in 1990) helped design, build, test, and launch the U-2 and the SR-71 Blackbird, America's enviably successful spy planes. On his watch, the Skunk Works produced the first jet fighter-bomber to employ stealth technology, the oddly configured F-117A, which earned its wings in the unfriendly skies above the Persian Gulf. In addition to Rich's own recital, the text includes commentary from colleagues, intelligence agents, Pentagon brass, test pilots, and others, which puts the narrator's knack for advancing the state of the aerospace art into clearer perspective. While he accentuates the positive, the author does not shy from recalling certain of his unit's turkeys, including a remote- controlled reconnaissance drone that seldom returned from missions over enemy territory; an aircraft fueled by liquid hydrogen (whose explosive power could have blown its users to bits); and a stealth picket ship (eventually sunk by the Navy's missile frigate lobby). Nor does Rich fail to settle old scores with, among others, pols more concerned with their next election than national security. Not one to hold a grudge, however, he closes with some uncommonly sensible suggestions on how US taxpayers could get more bang for their procurement buck in the parlous times ahead. An insider's accessible, informative take on what's needed to get futuristic hardware to contemporary flight lines and launching pads. (8 pages b&w photos, not seen)  -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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