Friday, March 15, 2019

Review: A Special Breed of Warrior

A Special Breed of Warrior A Special Breed of Warrior by Joseph Mujwit
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

MWSA Review

Unexpected. Heartwarming. Brutal. These are only three of the many adjectives I would use to describe A Special Breed of Warrior. The author, Joseph Mujwit, has done a fantastic job at writing this fiction book, which stars an unexpected character, Zip, a Belgian Malinois-German Shepard mix military dog who is deployed to Afghanistan along with his trainer and best friend, Petty Officer Todd Mitchell. The story, which is masterfully told, presents many different layers and involves readers' senses from the very beginning, with the Prologue opening on the familiar notes of Irving Berlin's "White Christmas." However, as readers can't help themselves but start humming the melodic song, they are quickly shocked out of their comfort zone when the author brings in incessant noise of riots and the constant thundering of the helicopters, thus creating a sharp juxtaposition of sounds that trap readers into the story and only let them go when the end comes.

Although the brutality of war fights to take center stage, it is powerfully overcome by the heartwarming relationship between a dog with a silly name and his best friend, who soon find themselves fighting for their lives, with a beautiful image of Zip trying to protect Todd till the very end.

The story is so well told it is hard to believe it is a fictionalized tale. Unfortunately, there are noticeable editing errors, and the book would have profited from a stringent line edit.

So, to conclude, well done to the incredibly talented author. While he thanks military personnel and military working dogs for inspiring the story, we thank him for writing this beautiful tale and for reminding us that there are indeed many who belong to a special breed of warrior.

Review by Brunella Costagliola (March 2019)

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Review: Saving Lou: An Historic Novel

Saving Lou: An Historic Novel Saving Lou: An Historic Novel by Linda Loegel
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

MWSA Review

Linda Loegel’s Saving Lou is an interesting and absorbing story about a family coming together to survive the depression and the separation of World War II.

Lou Dyson is one half of a set of twins born in 1923. However, his brother Larry doesn’t survive to leave the hospital after birth, and Lou spends his whole life comparing himself to a brother he never knew. Struggling in school and life, Lou constantly feels that his brother Larry would have done it “better.” When the nation goes to war and Lou finds himself in the Navy, will combat at sea be enough to prove to himself that his life is worth living?

This book is a story of a family coming together to overcome challenges. It is filled with love, concern, and heartache as the Dyson family deals with the Great Depression and World War II on the home front. The author uses the events in history as a backdrop to illustrate the importance of family, hard work, and service to country. Fans of World War II historical fiction will find this read worthwhile.

Review by Rob Ballister (March 2019)

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Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Review: Winged Brothers: Naval Aviation as Lived by Ernest and Macon Snowden

Winged Brothers: Naval Aviation as Lived by Ernest and Macon Snowden Winged Brothers: Naval Aviation as Lived by Ernest and Macon Snowden by Ernest Snowden
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

MWSA Review

Winged Brothers: Naval Aviation as Lived by Ernest and Macon Snowden is American history of interest to a specialized audience. Much of this history is not new, but it is nicely packaged with the never-before-published biographies of two U.S. Naval Aviators whose careers overlapped from before World War II until the Vietnam War. Neither of the main characters rose to flag rank on active duty, but the story of why they did not get that promotion informs the readers about the inner workings of the U.S. Navy. In the case of Ernest Snowden, after an exemplary combat career, apparently he was selected but at the last minute, his name was removed from the flag list to make room for a returning Vietnam prisoner of war. However, he was permitted to voluntarily retire with the rank of rear admiral.

In Winged Brothers, we learn what traits mattered in these two brother’s careers. First, both brothers loved and were highly skilled in piloting aircraft. Second, they embraced and found their identity in the traditions and ceremonies of the naval service. Third, they had an aptitude for combat. All traits that made for a successful career that exemplifies those who rose to the rank of captain from the mid-1930s until the late 1970s.

Sea duty and combat flying were not the only traits that these brothers recognized as necessary for success. They were both leaders who had a genuine concern for the sailors, airmen, and junior officers under their supervision. They also were confident in their decision-making and were tough disciplinarians. Naval aviators at the time were known for “…an abundance of confidence, aggressiveness, and bravura…” – exemplified by an attitude of kick the tires, light the fires, brief on guard.

The book emphasizes the naval doctrine of offensive warfare from aircraft carriers, which served it well during the Pacific War. The reader is shown how the loss of American battleships at Pearl Harbor was overcome by the ingenuity of men like the Snowden brothers, who did what had to be done to win battles, operations, and the war. The author does an excellent job with the interplay of tactical level actions, the operational level, and the strategic levels of war. It was men like these that overcame Japanese naval aviators, the vast majority of which were enlisted men who followed inexperienced but senior commissioned officers to their death.

World War II was won by reservists. The regular forces could not field the army or the navy that was needed to defeat the Axis powers. Naval aviators, like the Snowden brothers, were less concerned with commissioning sources, pedigrees, and rank as they were with appreciating basic airmanship and aggressiveness as the most important factors required for success in aerial combat.

Winged Brothers is not a biography, but it is history with biography added in. These two officers’ stories are those of senior line officers who played important roles on staffs where they applied their combat lessons to briefings and presentations to more senior officer and congressional committee members. Both brothers were damaged by Washington politics where advocating concepts not unanimously endorsed within the Navy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, or in Congress did not always win the day.

These two men were not faultless – a refreshing change to the traditional military history or biography. It is only later in the story that the author admits that hard drinking, partying, and failed marriages may have also played a factor in the brothers’ plateauing careers. Many successful naval aviators partied hard, drank to excess, and had difficulty in balancing the skills needed for a successful marriage with those needed in combat. Finally, as time and society moved on but Macon did not grow out of his “Old Navy” attitudes, his senior’s notations on being “brusque and blunt” were found on a less-than-stellar fitness report. The damage was done. Mac was able to continue his service to the nation and naval aviation in capacities outside that of being a commissioned officer.

There are some rather lengthy sentences that may slow down the reader already confused by naval jargon. The average naval aviator will have no problems with these minor flaws in the beginning of the book.

Excellent workmanship by both the author and the Naval Institute Press. A well-researched book, there is ample documentation in notes, an extensive bibliography, an index, and an abbreviated author’s biography that does not do justice to the author’s own distinguished career. Highly recommended.

Review by Jim Tritten (March 2019)

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Monday, March 11, 2019

Review: I Grew Up in War Housing: The History of the Defense Housing Projects in East Alton, Illinois: 1941-1954

I Grew Up in War Housing: The History of the Defense Housing Projects in East Alton, Illinois: 1941-1954 I Grew Up in War Housing: The History of the Defense Housing Projects in East Alton, Illinois: 1941-1954 by Phillip David Walkington
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

MWSA Review

The vast needs of a nascent peace-time military, transformed overnight into a multi-million-man world power, provided the economic stimulus needed to propel the United States out of the Great Depression and into prosperity. Thanks to countless government contracts, millions of men who heretofore had no work were desperately needed by companies to fill jobs in factories located in towns throughout the nation. But the sudden wealth of jobs was accompanied by a dearth of housing for these workers and their families. The federal housing project that built homes for war industry is the subject of the book I Grew Up in War Housing: The History of the Defense Housing Projects in East Alton, Illinois 1941-1954 written by Philip David Walkington.

East Alton, Illinois, a suburb of St. Louis located along the banks of the Mississippi River, was one such town affected by the sudden war industry needs. Home to one of Western Cartridge Company’s factories, it suddenly found itself overflowing with workers attracted to the factory by the high-paying war industry jobs the company offered. Among the many workers hired was Emory Walkington, Philip’s father. And, like all the other out-of-town workers now in East Alton, he and his family needed a place to live. Responsibility for providing housing for him and other workers like him throughout the nation was the job of the Federal Works Agency, which did so through the Defense Housing and Community Facilities and Services Act of October 1940, popularly called the Lanham Act.

Phillip has done an extraordinary job shedding light on a forgotten, yet vital, chapter in the home-front history of World War II. His research is excellent. In addition to highly-detailed accounts and descriptions of the design and construction of the housing units and sites chosen for them, his narrative includes contemporary newspaper accounts of the social impact of war housing communities like those in East Alton on host cities and their services. He includes stories from other communities, with attention paid to white cities suddenly finding themselves with a significant influx of African-American workers.

I Grew Up in War Housing includes illustrations of housing blueprints and photographs of families and their war housing homes, along with other contemporary documents. For history buffs interested in little-known facts about World War II, and for individuals interested in housing construction and the sociological impact on communities caused by the sudden influx of large groups, I Grew Up in War Housing is a must-have book in the library.

Review by Dwight Jon Zimmerman (March 2019)

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Review: Borderline

Borderline Borderline by Joseph Badal
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

MWSA Review

Sometimes an author you enjoy ventures into new territory. I’ve been a fan of every Joseph Badal thriller I’ve read. Now I’m a fan of his new mystery series featuring Detectives Barbara Lassiter and Susan Martinez.

In Borderline, the two detectives tackle a murder case involving a much-despised woman and the many people who wanted her dead. Badal knows how to develop believable characters. Both Barbara and Susan have plenty of moxie when it comes to their work, but on the home front problems plague them.

Badal lets us inside the heads of his characters as he spins a complex yarn. The story takes us to Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department. Beautiful Victoria Comstock left few mourners when her killer hacked her up with a spear. Lassiter and Martinez find it difficult to nail the perpetrator when everyone they question has strong feelings about the victim and, in most cases, a stronger motive.

Politics, police work, revenge, and sex. Borderline has it all. The plot works and you never know what is coming until you turn the page.

Review by Pat Avery (March 2019)

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Sunday, March 10, 2019

Review: Call Me No Hero: Two Ordinary Boys and a Tale of Honor and Valor

Call Me No Hero: Two Ordinary Boys and a Tale of Honor and Valor Call Me No Hero: Two Ordinary Boys and a Tale of Honor and Valor by R.A. Sheats
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

MWSA Review

I was beginning to think that everybody had forgotten me." Ernest Thomas, affectionately called Boots because of his love for the footwear, wrote to his beloved mother in a letter dated November 19, 1941.

Call Me No Hero shines a light on a very important part of American history: World War II and the unsung American heroes that are so easily forgotten, simply because they were born and raised in small-town America. The protagonists, Jim Sledge and Boots, were two young men whose friendship proved to overcome and defeat barriers and time, and who chose to be selfless and serve their country with pride and honor.

From rural Florida, all the way to raising a flag on the volcanic shores of Iwo Jima, Boots' dreams came to an abrupt and irreversible halt when he was killed in action. A heartbreaking telegram revealed the news to his mother, who had lovingly sent him countless letters (and candy!) to remind her darling son just how much he meant to her.

The book, filled with photos, letters, maps, and journal excerpts, does a very good job at bringing back to life a story that, had it not been for Boots' best friend Jim Sledge, as well as the author of the book, R. A. Sheats, would have probably been lost to history amnesia.

And so, to conclude, let's take our hats off, look up at the American flag, and with a smile on our faces, let's reassure Ernest "Boots" Thomas: No, darling son, we haven't forgotten about you!

Review by Brunella Costagliala (March 2019)

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Review: Fight

Fight Fight by Betsy Ross
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

MWSA Review

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Review: From Valor, Triumph

From Valor, Triumph by Ray Mayer My rating: 0 of 5 stars MWSA Review View all my reviews ...