Tag Archive: book review

From the Bookshelf

by Mike Denton

“If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.”

Make Your Bed by Admiral William H. McRaven

On May 17, 2014, Admiral William H. McRaven addressed the graduating class of the University of Texas at Austin on their Commencement day. Taking inspiration from the university’s slogan, “What starts here changes the world,” he shared the ten principles he learned during Navy Seal training that helped him overcome challenges not only in his training and long Naval career, but also throughout his life. He explained how anyone can use these basic lessons to change themselves-and the world-for the better.

A video of Admiral McRaven’s original speech went viral with over 10 million views. Building on the core tenets laid out in his speech, McRaven now recounts tales from his own life and from those of people he encountered during his military service who dealt with hardship and made tough decisions with determination, compassion, honor, and courage. Told with great humility and optimism, this timeless book provides simple wisdom, practical advice, and words of encouragement that will inspire readers to achieve more, even in life’s darkest moments.

 About the Author 

Admiral William H. McRaven (U.S. Navy Retired) served with great distinction in the Navy. In his thirty-seven years as a Navy SEAL, he commanded at every level. As a Four-Star Admiral, his final assignment was as Commander of all U.S. Special Operations Forces. He is now Chancellor of the University of Texas System.

 

From the Book Shelf

by Mike Denton

Sea Power
The History and Geopolitics of the World’s Oceans

by Admiral James Stavridis (USN Ret’d)

 

Sea Power The History and Geopolitics of the World’s Oceans by Admiral James Stavridis (USN Ret’d)The subtitle of the books tells us a great deal about it’s content, in that Admiral Stavridis examines in great but interesting detail the military/ naval history of every ocean on the planet and the influence of those large bodies of water on ecomomies and politics throughout human history.

Stavridis, the only Naval officer to ever serve as Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, spent much of his early career as a Surface Warfare Officer (What we non aviation types think of as the real Navy) in destroyers and cruisers and seems to have taken maximum advantage of the opportunity to cruise the oceans of the world, and acquire a broad sense of how the oceans impact our lives.

Stavridis examines the world ocean by ocean, from the Mediteranean to the Arctic and everything in between. Most of us, I think, know little about the history of the worlds coastal (or “Littoral, a word of which he seems inordinately fond) peoples prior to the voyages of Columbus and the early Portugese explorers, but the Admiral gives us a good look at the early sailors of all of the world’s major civilizations and some not so major.

Other reviewers comments: “…knows his maritime history, but equally important is his firsthand knowledge of the seas. He vividly relates what it felt like as a young naval officer taking a boat through the Panama Canal or the Torres Strait between Australia and New Guinea, and he adds personal authority to his more general points about the different bodies of water…A highly readable, instructive look at the role of the oceans in our civilization, past and present.” Kirkus Reviews (starred)

“Fellow Admiral Jim Stavridis spent nearly four decades as a US Navy Sailor, and is well known as an important geopolitical thinker. In Sea Power both of those attributes come together in creating a must read for anyone seriously thinking about the world’s challenges in the 21st century.” —Admiral Bill McRaven, USN (Ret.), Chancellor, The University of Texas System and former Commander, U.S. Special Operations Command

From the Bookshelf

by Mike Denton

Men in Green Faces by Gene WentzMen in Green Faces by Gene Wentz

“With just weeks remaining in his 180-day tour of Vietnam, Navy SEAL Gene Michaels hopes he will live to see his pregnant wife again, but he thrives on his dangerous missions. Michaels and his team are “inserted and extracted” literally every day, entering impenetrable jungles and engaging numerically superior forces.” (Publishers Weekly)

Wentz and Jurus are not the best writers I have read, with a penchant to distract us with repeated explanations of terminology. (How many times must the initials “PBR” be explained as Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer, which seems to be in endless supply at this SEAL base, and there are numerous other examples)

Never the less, the operations described are in themselves gripping, if repetitive and I found the book well worth reading.

GENE WENTZ served in Vietnam as a SEAL. His many decorations include the Silver Star, Bronze Star, three Presidential Unit Citations, three Navy Unit Citations, and two Vietnamese Crosses of Gallantry. Wentz, says he’s had the story of “Men in Green Faces” bottled up inside him since he returned from his second combat tour in Vietnam in 1971.

Jurus is a writer and a director of the San Diego-based Southern California Writers Conference.

Kirkus Reviews, allowed that Wentz and Jurus “successfully re-create the manic intensity that characterized SEAL operations at their height during the Vietnam War. . . . All war, no politics. Grim but well done.” Wentz makes no apologies for the no-politics approach: “The people serving in Vietnam had nothing to do with politics. They were just following orders, doing a job.” If that kind of thinking makes you uneasy, “Men in Green Faces” probably isn’t for you.

 

 

From the Bookshelf

by Mike Denton

Viet Man by D.S. Lliteras

As a blue water sailor, who never saw anything of Vietnam beyond a view of the Tonkin Gulf coast, your editor is not in a position to assess the accuracy of Lliteras’ descriptions, but his book is a gripping novel (if semi-biographical) that I found impossible to put down.

The Following review, found on Lliteras’ web site, is by Karen St. John:

“The simple explanation of why Viet Man, the new novel by D.S. Lliteras, should be read is best said by the author himself: “No combat veteran is able to convey to a civilian what it is all about – it’s impossible. We remember glimpses of war – punctuated by actual truth. Nobody should want to be more than the truth.”

Viet Man novel by D.S. LliterasA Vietnam veteran who served as a combat corpsman, Lliteras deftly snaps you to attention in the first paragraph: “You know, when you’re running away from a hornet’s nest to save yourself, there’s no time to ponder the meaning of life.” You know the hornet’s nest is in Vietnam. What you don’t know is that from that point on, Lliteras’s ability to paint a visual image, to put a thousand meanings into one succinct and profound turn of a phrase, has you walk alongside him, trying to survive, too. The Vietnam Lliteras effectively sketches for you to see, is not a pleasant one. It’s drug-filled, tense, raw, and aching. It’s all there to see, but you feel it in your soul.

The book is available online at Amazon.com, in print or Kindle editions and at book stores.

D.S. Lliteras served in Vietnam as a FMF Corpsman and later Combat Diver, a Deep Sea Diving & Salvage Officer in the U.S. Navy, and a professional Firefighter/EMT in the Norfolk (VA) Fire Department. He is a member of the International Association of Fire Fighters, VietNow, Vietnam Veterans of America, The American Legion, The 1st Recon Battalion Association, The Marine Corps League, and The Veterans of Foreign Wars.

 

 

From the Book Shelf

Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion, and Redemption Of Stonewall Jackson By S. C. GwynneRebel Yell: The Violence, Passion, and Redemption Of Stonewall Jackson
By S. C. Gwynne

This is a wonderful biography, exhaustively researched, that provides an intimate look at one of our nation’s most celebrated warriors, General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.

For anyone with an interest in the history of the Civil War, this is a must read.

From the Bookshelf” is a recurring series of book reviews that will appear in the VFW Post #8870 newsletter from time to time. This review was written by Fred Apgar. 

From the Book Shelf

Helmet For My Pillow: From Parris Island to the Pacific By Robert LeckieHelmet For My Pillow: From Parris Island to the Pacific
By Robert Leckie

This is a compelling first-person account of the life of an enlisted Marine participating in the island-hopping campaign in the Pacific during WW II. In intimate detail, the author recounts his experiences in training on Parris Island, as only those who have experienced basic training can appreciate.

After training Lackie was assigned to the Second Battalion, First Regiment, of the First Marine Division as a gunner on a two-man 30 caliber gun crew and on August 7, 1942, his unit landed at Red Beach on Guadalcanal, thus beginning his experience as a combat Marine, taking him on to New Britain, and Peleliu where his war ended after he was wounded by an exploding artillery shell. He spares no detail regarding the horrors of war that he experienced and writes eloquently about his many friends who were killed. The book provides an unvarnished view of the day-to-day life of the Marines who participated in combat operations in the Pacific.

Lackie’s experience in WWII was among those featured in the HBO miniseries Pacific, which is available on Netflix and DVD.

“From the Bookshelf”, a recurring series of book reviews written by Fred Apgar. 

From the Book Shelf

The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American LegendThe Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend By Bob Drury and Tom Clavin

 

While Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, and Geronimo are better-remembered Native Americans who fought the white man’s expansion into the old American West, Red Cloud was a great Sioux war chief and military genius who accomplished far more that his more well-known contemporaries. The title of the book comes from the name of the Sioux’s sacred homeland in the Badlands, Paha Sapa, or “The Heart of Everything That Is”.

Red Cloud was an orphan who took his first scalp at the age of 16. He accompanied his tribe’s war parties on raids of other Indian nations and proved the living embodiment of the maxim that “war is the best teacher of war”. He learned his lessons well and became the Chief of a band of Sioux called the Bad Faces.

The book chronicles the treatment of the plains Indians by the United States government. The inevitability of war between the Indians and whites was sealed when gold was discovered in what is now Montana, and the Bozeman Trail was opened to provide a shorter route to the gold fields. The 535 mile trail cut through the Powder River basin,which had previously been given to the Sioux by treaty.

The authors used contemporary journals and diaries, newspaper articles, eyewitness accounts, and meticulous firsthand sourcing to write a compelling account of life in the old American West, and the treatment of Native Americans in our nation’s pursuit of what was called our Manifest Destiny.

“From the Bookshelf” will be a recurring series of book reviews that will appear in the VFW Post #8870 newsletter from time to time. This review was written by Fred Apgar.