Military Book Reviews

Doorsteps of Hell by Tom Williams

Doorsteps of Hell by Tom Williams

As the son of a military officer who grew up in an always-moving military household, it makes total sense that Tom Williams would also grow up to be a military officer. His adoptive father was U.S. Air Force Maj. Carl Williams, but young Tom was destined for the Marine Corps and for the Vietnam War. "Doorsteps of Hell": Insight into Tom Williams' Vietnam Tour "Doorsteps of Hell" is the first book in Tom Williams' autobiographical "Heart of a Marine" series and covers his early years and his first tour in Vietnam. He pulls no punches in his thoughts or descriptions of events. The result is an honest narrative that covers not just Vietnam War combat but the trials and struggles of being an infantry Marine out in the jungle. It also details the camaraderie and leadership so central to being a Marine.  Growing up as a military child, Tom traveled the world, picking up a propensity for languages and a love for military life. When Carl retired, and the family settled down in Georgia, Tom...

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The Dark Side of Glory by Richard McMahon

The Dark Side of Glory by Richard McMahon

In this page-turning suspense novel, Richard McMahon expertly switches between two settings and time periods, the earlier being the Korean War and the current a who-done-it mystery in a world of surprises where nothing is as it seems. The book opens in the present time (the early 1970s) as Biographer Matthew Clark is asked by Miriam Coursen to write a biography of her deceased husband, U.S. Army Major General Philip Coursen, a highly decorated Army officer. When Clark agrees to write the biography of General Coursen, he has no idea the layers of deceit and deception he'll uncover, not to mention a brutal covered-up murder, a secret mistress, an abandoned illegitimate daughter, and a tragic love. Nor does he realize his own life will be forever changed in the process. The story is principally told through the lives of five characters: Philip Coursen, who appears at first to be the perfect Army officer, but who seems to have an increasingly mysterious dark side; Miriam Coursen, equally...

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A Pilot’s Story from Tennessee Eagle Scouts to General Montgomery’s Flying Fortress by Richard Eager

A Pilot’s Story from Tennessee Eagle Scouts to General Montgomery’s Flying Fortress by Richard Eager

Some say the decades between 1930 and 1970 were the golden age of aviation. For many pilots, this was certainly the case. Aviation technology took a great leap forward during and after World War II. Pilots began testing the limits of their craft, from altitude to the sound barrier. Most importantly, the years saw the creation of the U.S. Air Force as an independent military branch.  About the Author of A Pilot's Story from Tennessee Eagle Scouts Starting from a must-win air war like World War II, pilots like Col. Richard Ernest Evans could really make a name for themselves and thrive in the skies. Growing up in Knoxville, Tennessee, Evans was practically born to serve. He started his service life with the Eagle Scouts and became a B-17 Flying Fortress pilot in the Mediterranean theater of World War II.  He continued his service after the war as Deputy Director of Operations for the USAF Strategic Air Command. During the Cold War, he was promoted to colonel and was the...

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Night Mission to Mogadishu by Trent LaLand

Night Mission to Mogadishu by Trent LaLand

While the United States military and coalition forces prepared for the imminent battle with Iraq's military forces, Operation Desert Storm, January of 1991, a second international crisis unfolded in the famine-stricken country of Somalia, where a full-scale bloody civil war erupted. Warlord General Mohammad Farah Aideed rebel forces were attempting to overthrow the Somali government. The fighting threatened Americans and Foreign diplomatic missions based in Mogadishu, Somalia, as the Somali government was collapsing under the weight of the bloody civil war. This is an incredible story that has not been told of heroism in the face of chaos and uncertainty. The story was simply lost because it occurred in the immediate lead-up to Operation Desert Storm and hardly received any media attention.   On January 2, 1991, Italian officials in Mogadishu made a fruitless effort to arrange a cease-fire among the factions. When this effort failed, U.S. ambassador James K. Bishop realized...

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Operation Top Cover, a Year On The Dew Line By Arthur Wayland

Operation Top Cover, a Year On The Dew Line By Arthur Wayland

During the Cold War, the United States relied on three radar lines to detect incoming intercontinental ballistic missiles that might come from the Soviet Union. The most important and most capable of the three was the Distant Early Warning Line - affectionately known as the DEW Line.  About the Author of Operation Top Cover In Cape Lisburne, Alaska, Arthur Wayland was manning the 711 Aircraft Control and Warning station. It was a very remote radar station, the westernmost site of the DEW Line. His job was to warn the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) of any enemy aircraft that crossed into U.S. airspace.  Wayland spent a year on the DEW Line between 1969 and 1970. His book, "Operation Top Cover: A Year on the DEW Line," recounts his time spent there.  It was an eventful year for the Cold War. Richard Nixon was elected as President of the United States, the Apollo 11 astronauts won the Space Race by landing on the moon, and Nixon implemented the "Madman...

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Tales from My Sea Bag by Luis Sung

Tales from My Sea Bag by Luis Sung

There's a good chance that anyone in the Navy could fill a book of short stories with their own personal sea stories, no matter what their rating was. That's pretty much the greatest thing about joining the Navy: you get multiple lifetimes of experiences crammed into such a short amount of time. Of course, slots on aircraft carriers and submarines are limited, and sailors couldn't talk much about those experiences anyway. Author Luis Sung was stationed aboard the Amphibious Transport Dock USS Trenton (LPD 14) between 1980 and 1984. He chronicles his adventures of being deployed with his shipmates and their U.S. Marine Corps passengers and the challenges of being at sea. From Childhood in Hawaii to Naval Adventures Sung spent some of his early life in Florida but says his childhood really started when his family relocated to Honolulu, Hawaii, in the 1970s. It wouldn't last. The family eventually moved back to Florida, where Sung spent most of his life – when he wasn't in the Navy, of...

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The Earth Is Weeping by Peter Cozzens

The Earth Is Weeping by Peter Cozzens

After the Civil War, the Indian Wars would last more than three decades, permanently altering the physical and political landscape of America. Peter Cozzens gives us both sides in comprehensive and singularly intimate detail.  Overview of The Earth Cries He covers lots of ground, much of it bloody, thus he skips lightly over certain events, but in doing so he doesn’t gloss over anything. Even when he treads familiar ground - Red Cloud’s War, the Battle of the Little Bighorn, the Nez Perce flight and fight, the epic pursuit of Geronimo, Wounded Knee, and so forth - he relates all in surprisingly fresh and insightful fashion.  One of his major points is that Western Indians never united to oppose the white "invaders" but continued to make war on one another, as they had done for centuries. Indian tribes such as the Shoshones, Crows, and Pawnees - all of whom had been victimized by stronger tribes - cast their lot with the American soldiers, while Apaches scouted for the Army...

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Backtracking in Brown Water by Rolland E. Kidder

Backtracking in Brown Water by Rolland E. Kidder

The market is flooded with books written about Vietnam. Many follow the same path in their storytelling, beginning with their youth, entry into the military, their war experiences, returning home, and how they feel today about that journey. This book does some of that, but it is different in more ways. The author takes us on a voyage spanning his wartime service as a U.S. Navy patrol boat officer in Vietnam's Mekong Delta to his recent return trip to Vietnam and finally, to the most poignant and memorable part of his story, visiting the families and graves of three friends and fellow combatants. The nexus of the book came from an article written by the author for Naval History magazine and published in 2010. But through that process of research and pouring over a journal he kept during his Vietnam tour of duty, the memories of those three men, James Rost and Eldon Tozer, both Navy patrol boat officers and Robert Olson, an Army advisor working with Vietnamese soldiers, kept popping...

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Joining the Braves by Winique Payen

Joining the Braves by Winique Payen

"Joining the Braves" is a must-read for anyone considering joining the military, especially young Americans and immigrants who want to give back to the United States, as author Winique Payen comes from both backgrounds.  About the Author of Joining the Braves Today, he is a non-commissioned officer in the United States Army who has served multiple deployments overseas and is currently stationed in Tennessee. But Payen started his life in Haiti, where he was born and raised. He came to the U.S. in 2009, but his enlistment was not his first encounter with the U.S. military.  In 1994, the United States invaded Haiti to overthrow the military regime that unseated Haiti's ​​President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was elected in 1991.  "I saw those guys walk in with pride," Paten recalls in his book. "Everything from their discipline to their honor to their integrity all influenced me greatly… I wanted to see myself standing among those troops." From the day he first saw them, his...

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Rockets, Sand and Amalgam by Robert Engelmeier

Rockets, Sand and Amalgam by Robert Engelmeier

Webster's Dictionary defines amalgam as "a mixture or blend", making it the perfect word to describe Vietnam veteran Robert Engelmeier's experience in country, as well as his 2023 memoir of it.  The author has written countless academic articles about his chosen career in dentistry and prosthetics as a retired professor who directed the graduate program at the University of Texas Houston Dental Branch for 14 years and served as Prosthodontic Department chair at the University of Pittsburgh and is still a visiting Professor at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Simply put, he knows dentistry well.  What he didn't know when he arrived in Vietnam was life in the U.S. military. As a result, the recollections in his memoirs are filled with stories and incidents from his time there, where his ignorance of military protocol occasionally got him into a bit of trouble. Engelmeier was a young dentist when he deployed to South Vietnam's Cam Ranh Bay. He was a fresh graduate of the University...

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Unforgotten in the Gulf of Tonkin by Eileen A. Bjorkman

Unforgotten in the Gulf of Tonkin by Eileen A. Bjorkman

When Air Force Maj. Alan Saunders arrived in Vietnam in June 1963; true combat search and rescue (CSAR) as we know it today was just beginning to form. Saunders was bringing his experience fighting World War II in the jungles of Burma to Det. 3, Pacific Air Rescue Center in Tan Son Nhut. Maj. Alan Saunders and His Experience Fighting World War II Saunders knew that the jungle didn't burn and create smoke around the wreckage of a downed aircraft. Nor did it easily cough up a surviving pilot, soldier, or Marines separated from their units or anyone else unlucky enough to be in the jungle alone and among the enemy. Instead, the dense jungles of Southeast Asia swallowed aircraft whole. When it went in, the trees opened up, and the canopy quickly closed around it. Finding a downed aircraft, even a flaming one, was difficult if not impossible, Sanders said. It was the beginning of a sea change in how the United States military treated its missing in action. Before Vietnam, the U.S. was...

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Secret Soldiers by Philip Gerard

Secret Soldiers by Philip Gerard

They were masters of the craft of illusion and deception, and their greatest disappearing act was to vanish from history. The men of the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops were recruited to become phantom warriors in a ghost army to help win the Battle of Europe. A thousand strong, they fought in more campaigns, from D Day to the Rhine River, with more Allied armies, than any other unit in the European Theater of Operations - yet, not even their fellow American soldiers were aware of their presence. After Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., USNR, completed a tour of England and its special forces installations, the Hollywood star convinced the Navy brass to train an elite unit that eventually evolved into the only Army force of its kind. These elite soldiers counted among their number designer Bill Blass and painter Ellsworth Kelly. The Special Troops' mission was two-fold: to deceive the German Army into believing that the Allies possessed more troops and material than they actually did and, even...

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