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?
Whenever you pick up a book of "100 Most Famous..." , "100 Most Important..." , " or "100 something...", you know it is going to have problems, if not outright errors. I've read a number of these books and often remark out loud, "What! No Way!"
Despite this, I think the author of this book did a better job than most. However, I only gave it 3.5 stars due to the mistakes I found, and the ones I probably didn't.
For example, in the History and Politics section, he obviously got his 'facts' on the American Civil War from a Southern Lost Cause Mythology book. This is inexcusable. In some sections he made other mistakes or contradicted himself, sometimes in the same entry.
I didn't keep track of these contradictions, but on the last two pages he makes an interesting one. He states the Milky Way is 100,000 light years, or roughly 600 million miles, in diameter. Yet, on the facing page he states "A light year is the distance a beam of light travels in one year, or approximately 5,865,696,000,000 miles." Doing some simple math reveals the diameter of the Milky Way is about 9,776 times wider that he says on the other page. Obviously, he is off by more than a couple of decimal points. :-)
All in all, the book makes for interesting reading. But if you are ever in a position where you are betting money on a fact from this book, double-check it first.
I give this book only one star, 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?
In one early scene, one American arrives at the airport in Benghazi. As he enters the area where the luggage arrives, he sees another American leaning against the wall, who ignores him. Although knowing this guy is there to pick him up, he also ignores him. The author makes a big deal out of this, making the point the two guys don't want all the Libyans to know they are there to meet each other. Duh! Maybe that would work if it was a New York airport luggage area, but not in Benghazi! Seeing the only two Anglo-Saxon types in a Libyan airport ignoring each other would be proof they knew each other and were simply playing a "spy game." I immediately knew the author planned to continue to insult my intelligence with his "G.I. Joe Action Figure" stories.
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 'fighting' 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.
These stories are so different from Heinlein's other work that I find it difficult to believe they are his. I wonder at what period in his career he wrote them. For whatever reason, the reviews on amazon are much more positive than mine.
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.
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.
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.
Based on my reading of numerous books about Abraham Lincoln, I feel confident in recommending it to others. It is a relatively short book---187 pages--- which depicts the real Lincoln and dispels various myths about the man himself and others closely associated with him.
This is an outstanding account of the brave men who dropped as members of Jedburgh teams with Operation Market-Garden.
It follows many of them from their enlistment, through their initial army training, volunteering for Jedburgh teams, their experience in combat, with the Dutch resistance, and, for some of them, their capture and imprisonment by the Germans.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
U.S. Navy officer Peter Wake is back from his "punishment" helping to survey a route for the Panama Canal. Assigned to the West Indies again, he hopes to soon see his wife and children, but that is not to be. He is sent to the Mediterranean, where he not only gets into more trouble, but trouble also follows him from the West Indies.
His duty is made more difficult due to martial problems, and we wonder how that will turn out. Sorry, no spoilers here. This is the 5th book in a really good series. I only gave it 4.5 stars as a battle in the Sahara stretched my credibility a bit.
For whatever reason I love naval fiction. I don't know why as I spent three months on an LST in the South China Sea while in the Marines and, as a result, I absolutely refuse to go on cruises. Anytime I get a couple of hundred yards from shore I seriously think about jumping in the water and swimming back to dry land.