Thomas F. (hardtack) - , - Reviews

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10 Books That Screwed Up the World: And 5 Others That Didn't Help
10 Books That Screwed Up the World: And 5 Others That Didn't Help
Author: Benjamin Wiker
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 5
Review Date: 9/18/2016


There are just some books where you ask yourself, "Why am I reading this?" For me, this was one of those books.


100 Mistakes that Changed History: Backfires and Blunders That Collapsed Empires, Crashed Economies, and Altered the Course of Our World
Review Date: 2/12/2017


In many ways this was an interesting book, but a number of the "100 Mistakes" were poorly researched. This leads a reader to doubt the accuracy of entries he or she may not be familiar with. Here are just a few examples of mistakes I found, and despite desperately wanting to provide readers with a complete history lesson, I'll try to keep my examples short.

#55 - In January 1864, Confederate General Patrick Cleburne, a division commander in the Confederate Army of Tennessee, wrote to his commanding officer suggesting the use of black slaves as soldiers for the Confederacy. To say this didn't go over too well is putting it mildly. But the author has Cleburne sending the letter to General George Thomas. Apparently, the author didn't realize Thomas was the commander of the Army of the Ohio, which just happened to be a Union army. I suspect the author got the Confederate Army of Tennessee confused with the Union Army of THE Tennessee. The Confederacy named its armies after states, while the Union named its armies after rivers. Still, Thomas commanded the Union Army of the Ohio, not the Army of the Tennessee. This is comparable to German General Rommel writing to American General Bradley, suggesting the use of Jews as soldiers in the German army. This was such a spectacular blunder I had to chuckle.

#73 - The author lists 500,000 German soldiers being lost at the Battle of Stalingrad during World War II. He also does this in several other places. However, the long acknowledged figure is about 250,000. To make it worse, the author does list 250,000 in one case, indicating he does not even check his own work.

#76 - The author lists the surprise Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor as a failure of the two commanding officers (U.S. Navy and U.S. Army) to believe intelligence warnings issued by Washington. As a result, both officers were almost immediately relieved of their commands and blamed for the Pearl Harbor disaster. Unfortunately, the truth is that neither officer received the same intelligence messages sent to others, such as MacArthur in the Philippines. This was due to 'politics,' in that the admirals concerned with intelligence in Washington were jealous of the lower-ranked officers in Hawaii, who were making the significant progress in breaking Japanese code. And this was well known before the author wrote this book. The complete story is too long to discuss here.

Let me mention that MacArthur also failed to act on the message and the disaster to the American Air Forces in the western Pacific was far worse than that suffered at Hawaii. This actually drastically changed the situation in the Pacific and led to the disaster at Bataan. MacArthur should have been the one relieved of his command, but once again 'politics' intervened. MacArthur's mistake would have made a good entry in "100 Mistakes," if only the author had read World War II history a bit more deeply.

The author also states "five battleships . . . were sunk or so badly damaged that they couldn't be used for the rest of the war." Actually, six battleships were damaged, but only two, the Arizona and the Oklahoma, were totally lost. The other four were repaired and sent into action, two in 1942 and the other two in 1944. This was not a secret, so I'm not sure how the author missed it.

# 79 - The author lists the Allied Battle of the Atlantic against the German submarine threat as a great undertaking. And it is well that he should. However, he has the turning point occurring when the Germans lost 43 submarines in February 1943. While the numbers are right, the date is wrong, as it happened in May 1943. An excellent book, Black May by Michael Cannon, describes this.

# 85 - The author subscribes to the theory that the U.S. and British armies could have taken Berlin in April-May 1945. But when Eisenhower made the decision not to, the Soviet armies, totally more than one million men, were only 20 miles from Berlin, while the Western Allied armies were scattered across central and eastern Europe and were 200 hundred miles from Berlin. At best, maybe an American division or two could have reached Berlin to join in the Soviet attack on that city. Considering the Soviets took what can only be described as HUGE casualties taking the city, most historians credit Eisenhower with making the correct decision.

# 87 - Once again, the author made a mistake concerning the identity of military units in describing what happened after the North Korean Army collapsed and ran after the invasion at Inchon during the Korean War. In one paragraph, he has the U.N. Tenth Corps going up the south coast of Korea and the Eighth Corps landing on the north coast. Actually, it was the Tenth Corps landing on the north coast and the Eighth ARMY traveling up the south coast. Two paragraphs later he identifies the units correctly. This makes you wonder if anyone, including the author, reviewed the book before publishing. You don't have to know your history to realize there was an error there.

# 88 and 92 - You may not have known this before, but the accidental discoveries of Scotchgard and Post-it notes were two of the "100 Mistakes" which changed the history of the world. The author thought these were so important he actually devoted one whole paragraph to each of them. Unfortunately, while he describes how these two 'great' occurrences happened, he doesn't waste any time telling you why they were important to history. Obviously, you already know.

# 94 - While you are still reeling from the momentous effects of Scotchgard and Post-it notes on history, the author reveals how the introduction of New Coke also changed world history. As I'm not a soda drinker, I must have overlooked its importance before. As such, I am grateful to the author for devoting almost four full pages describing what I had so obviously missed.

Since the author demonstrates his difficulty with numbers in this book, I'd like to suggest a reason for the inclusion of the last three 'Mistakes' mentioned above. After he submitted his manuscript to the publishers, a proofreader who could actually count, discovered there were only 97 'Mistakes' listed. The author hurriedly scrambled to find three more 'Mistakes' and came up with Scotchgard, Post-it notes and New Coke.

This reminds me of one of my pet theories. When Audubon published his great portfolio on 100 American birds, it was received to great reviews and still has the admiration of artists and wildlife fans. Unfortunately, one of the paintings is of a now-extinct bird. In fact, the bird may have even been extinct when the portfolio was first published, as no one but Audubon had ever reported seeing it. My "conspiracy theory" is Audubon miscounted and only painted 99 birds. When his publisher asked him where the 100th bird was, Audubon quickly provided one . . . one which never existed. Hey, who knows?


13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened In Benghazi
Review Date: 7/31/2016


I give this book only 2 stars, and admit I only read the first two chapters. Frankly, I got tired reading about their egos. This is not to say these men didn't perform heroically, doing something most people would consider to be extremely foolish. Perhaps it was just the author, building these men up to be superheros. But, at the same time, it is my understanding these men reviewed the material to ensure its validity. And did we really need to be told about their tattoos?

As a former officer in the Marine Corps I knew men who had performed heroically, accomplishing deeds that seemed impossible. Almost all of them didn't write books about themselves. Or, if they did, also wrote about their mistakes, their weaknesses and their failures.

While certainly not a "great combat hero" myself, I learned early on not to tell people about things I did. Even my family and the friends I grew up with used to tell me, "Come'on, Tom, you're just making that up." So I stopped talking about my experiences.

Most people judge you by their own experiences. And if their experiences are going to school and then getting a safe, 9 to 5 job, they don't believe you, even when you are simply telling true stories about your basic Marine training.

For example, the hardest thing I did in my 33+ years at a university was to listen to university administrators tell me I had no idea how much responsibility they had, without laughing in their face. If I had told them what I did daily as a 24-year-old first lieutenant in Viet Nam, they would have accused me of lying to them. And, as I mention above, I wasn't a 'fightin' hero.

If you ask me, when the author began writing this book, he was writing it with a view to making a lot of money selling the movie rights to it. As far as I am concerned, this is just another example of one of those standard NYT "best sellers," short chapters, large print and lots of white space.


1634: The Bavarian Crisis (Assiti Shards, Bk 6)
1634: The Bavarian Crisis (Assiti Shards, Bk 6)
Author: Eric Flint, Virginia DeMarce
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 13
Review Date: 5/25/2014


Rather wordy. Overly long. No longer the interesting series it once was.

Question: Why is there a Confederate battle flag on the plane on the DJ? I thought Grantville was from West Virginia.


70,000 to 1: The Story of Lieutenant Gordon Manuel
70,000 to 1: The Story of Lieutenant Gordon Manuel
Author: Quentin Reynolds
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 4/13/2016


A good story to add to my shelf of books about Americans who fought the Japanese from behind the lines during World War II.

The description errs in that Master Sergeant Manuel, he was promoted to lieutenant later, was not really a "Robinson Crusoe." He very quickly fell in with friendly natives who provided him with food, shelter and their friendship. They also helped with his injuries and worked with him to scout Japanese positions. Only one or two natives were pro-Japanese and the friendly natives quickly dealt with them.

However, Manual gives full credit to the natives throughout the book. In fact, he was annoyed when Australian coast watchers treated the natives as untrustworthy.


'76: The World Turned Upside Down
'76: The World Turned Upside Down
Author: Sid Moody
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 3/23/2013


While the book mostly covers events of the American Revolutionary War that occurred in 1776, it also examines the background for those events. For example, what were the individuals who influenced those events really like. Or it relates interesting information about the culture as a whole.

A very interesting book about our American personality during the revolutionary period and that of some of our enemies---the British.

Just as an example, one out of every eight buildings in Boston was a drinking establishment.


The Aaron Burr Treason Trial: A Headline Court Case (Headline Court Cases)
Review Date: 4/26/2012
Helpful Score: 1


A very well written book for younger readers. The book covers a trial that set precedents for legal matters that the writers of the Constitution did not anticipate. These precedents would be used in cases at both the local and national level over the next two hundred years and even help change history.

I was most impressed that such a book was written for young readers as it discusses constitutional law, a subject not often covered in books for that age group. And especially because it painted a negative picture of Thomas Jefferson, often described as a great president in most books, but who was, in reality, a very poor president and a self-centered man who should never have been elected to that office. This view is supported in other books I have read.

As such, the book opens up a new view for young readers, who are all too often subjected to a white-washed history of our nation.


Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Author: Seth Grahame-Smith
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 109
Review Date: 3/20/2014


The first half of the book was an interesting read, the second half was filler and a let-down. I skimmed most of the second half.


Accidental Genius
Accidental Genius
Author: Richard Gaughan
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 2.5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 1/23/2015


This interesting book discusses how many of the achievements of science were literally stumbled upon. It also covers the development of science from the earliest days.

The worst part of the book was the different font types, some of them small, that were used throughout. These were often difficult to read. Many of the summations of the discoveries actually used a written script in a small font that you had to strain to read. The editors probably thought they were being clever, but they seemed to forget that many of us need glasses.


The Accused (Theodore Boone, Bk 3)
The Accused (Theodore Boone, Bk 3)
Author: John Grisham
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 10
Review Date: 5/4/2014
Helpful Score: 1


Another entertaining legal mystery for Young (and old) Adults. In this one Theodore is in trouble with the police and no one has any idea why he became their prime suspect. Fortunately, his friends and Uncle combine to help him out of the jam.

Sometimes, it helps to help the law a bit.


Across the Dark Islands: The War in the Pacific
Across the Dark Islands: The War in the Pacific
Author: Floyd W. Radike
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 4
Review Date: 6/24/2012


A very interesting tale from a National Guard officer whose regiment was assigned to a regular Army division. The author relates the class distinctions between regulars and the National Guard that existed throughout the war.

He also tells how officers and NCOs who served in the Guard outfit for years were discovered unsuitable for their positions as leaders in combat, and how they were eventually replaced, got sick or died.

I was fascinated, but not really surprised, by his constant telling of how the U.S. Army screwed up the replacement process and how senior officers treated the infantry as a necessary evil to ensure their promotions.

From my readings of veterans from both the Pacific and European theaters, the Army officers who were responsible for the Army's replacement policy should have been severely punished after WW II.

Considering that the author eventually became a one-star general himself in the post-war National Guard, I hope he remembered the lessons he learned at war.


An Act of Courage (Matthew Hervey, Bk 7)
An Act of Courage (Matthew Hervey, Bk 7)
Author: Allan Mallinson
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 1/17/2013


Not as good as the rest of Hervey's adventures. It is somewhat bogged down with politics, his love life (if you can call it that), and his imprisonment. This gives him time to recall his adventures in past Spanish campaigns but even that somewhat drags.

Fortunately for Hervey, a good deed done years ago helps him escape his present woes.


The Adventures of Robin Hood: An English Legend (World's Best Reading)
Review Date: 8/9/2012
Helpful Score: 1


Another exciting and well written version of the adventures of Robin Hood. This one follows many of the old tales associated with the famous 'outlaw,' but also includes tales of his childhood before he was driven in to the forest. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Spoiler: Those who desire a happy ending will want to skip the final chapter which takes place in Robin's later life when things do not turn out well for him.

Wonderful illustrations.


Affair of Honor Woodrow Wilson and the Occupation of Veracruz
Affair of Honor Woodrow Wilson and the Occupation of Veracruz
Author: R.E. Quirk
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.2/5 Stars.
 3
Review Date: 7/22/2012


Another interesting history book that shows President Woodrow Wilson wasn't quite the marvel that some of our school books would have us believe.

In this book. Wilson invades Mexico simply because he doesn't like the current leader who is no threat to anyone outside Mexico. Wilson shows how to take a stand despite being given facts that he won't listen to. In that, I guess he is no different than several other presidents we've had.

All that results is Central Americans liking us even less.

The only ones who come up smelling like roses are many of our military and numerous Mexican citizens.

For another book relating how Wilson overrules the rights of others, in this case citizens of the United States, read The Great Influenza.


After D-Day: Operation Cobra and the Normandy Breakout (The Art of War)
Review Date: 9/29/2012


I wrote a nice three or four paragraph review of this book and then went to save it. Unfortunately for me, PBS was upgrading the site and the review wasn't saved. At least the book description I typed in seems to have been accepted. Of course, I have forgotten what I wrote. So let me try a different approach.

This was not an easy book to read as the author often lists all the units engaged in different actions. And, at the same time, this is not a 'men in combat' book listing the efforts of individual units and soldiers that so many of us enjoy.

What it is is an analysis of the planning, tactics, and actual happenings of Operation Cobra. I especially enjoyed one sentence where the author relates the overcomplicated plan developed by one division commander as the worst thing that he could have done and then states that, fortunately, nothing worked out that way.

The author both praises General Bradley for his concept for Operation Cobra and faults him for his fire control plan that resulted in the loss of so many Americans due to friendly fire. The author also shows how even the corps commanders did not deserve the praise for the operation that they later received. Instead, the author shows that Operation Cobra was not the walk through of bombed out German positions that is often suggested in the histories, but was a confused mess that the regimental and battalion commanders and the individual fighting soldiers, all who had learned their trade in the weeks since the Normandy landings, were able to rescue from an apparent disaster to an overwhelming victory from the confusion of the short bombings, traffic jams and 'fighting without fronts' that led to Operation Cobra's success.

In the end, this is another revisionist history of World War II, and destroyer of some myths, that all might not agree with, but which deserves the attention of all who are deeply interested in the history of World War II in Europe. Operation Cobra opened the floodgates for the rapid liberation of France and more than made up for the slow, slogging fight through the hedgerows of Normandy. And, what I particularly liked, it is yet more proof that the German soldier was not the greatest fighting man of World War II.


After the Fact: The Art of Historical Detection
Review Date: 8/24/2017


The 'detective' work on some subjects was done well, on others not so well. I felt that on some subjects the authors were simply stating their own views.


After the Reich: The Brutal History of the Allied Occupation
After the Reich: The Brutal History of the Allied Occupation
Author: Giles MacDonogh
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 1/30/2014
Helpful Score: 1


A sometimes unbelievable exposure of atrocities suffered by German-speaking peoples at the end of World War II. Two to three millions Germans perished by casual violence (often on a par with SS and Gestapo atrocities), from cold and hunger. Some of the victims were even those who fought the Nazis from within Germany, often ending up in German concentration camps themselves.

No nation, not even the United States, can claim innocence for these deaths.


Afternoon of the Rising Sun : The Battle of Leyte Gulf
Afternoon of the Rising Sun : The Battle of Leyte Gulf
Author: Kenneth Friedman
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 2.5/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 3/5/2013
Helpful Score: 2


The Battle of Leyte Gulf, one of the largest naval battles in the history of the world, stretched over such a vast area that it had several major sub-battles.

The complete destruction of the Japanese Southern force is almost anticlimatic to the other battles. The Americans did nothing wrong there. Hasley's 'failure' to defend the northern flank of the American task forces is still argued about today--over 60 years afterwards--as to whether he did the right thing.

However, the unbelievably heroic--even these words are an understatment--actions of the men manning the 'jeep' carriers and their destroyer escorts against Japanese battleships and cruisers are a testimony to the courage of "The Greatest Generation." While this book does cover this final battle in great detail, the best book on this action is found in "The Last Stand of the Tin-Can Sailors."

Overall the book is somewhat confusing, as the author jumps around and repeats information. The book is also not well referenced and you often wonder if the author reviewed information that supports his views or is just writing what he think happened. I also noticed some historical errors in the book that I included in my review on the Amazon site.

If you are only going to read one book on this battle, don't make it this one.


Agent to the Stars
Agent to the Stars
Author: John Scalzi
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 19
Review Date: 9/2/2016


A good sci-fi book that keeps you entertained. There are some loose ends, but overall the book is well worth the time spent reading it. Best of all, there were no vampires or zombies in it.

Another good recommendation for the author's work is that none of his books are posted here. Apparently, those who read his novels find them to be keepers.


The Alcoholic Republic: An American Tradition
The Alcoholic Republic: An American Tradition
Author: W. J. Rorabaugh
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 3/27/2016


I enjoyed reading this book. And it has helped make me a better person. Now I can proudly tell people, "I drink because I'm proud I'm an American!"

And the facts I learned made me proud of our national heritage. Oh, how I wish I lived in the early 19th century America, when whiskey cost a lot less than tea, coffee or even milk. Even better would have been to live in Boston during the Revolutionary period, when one out of every eight buildings was a drinking establishment.

Unfortunately, I've spilled so much alcohol on this book while reading it I can't post it here.


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