Book Review

From the Bookshelf

Revolutionary Summer

by Mike Denton

Revolutionary Summer: The Birth of American Independence 

A distinctive portrait of the crescendo moment in American history from the Pulitzer-winning American historian, Joseph Ellis. 

The summer months of 1776 witnessed the most consequential events in the story of our country’s founding. While the thirteen colonies came together and agreed to secede from the British Empire, the British were dispatching the largest armada ever to cross the Atlantic to crush the rebellion in the cradle. The Continental Congress and the Continental Army were forced to make decisions on the run, improvising as history congealed around them. Ellis meticulously examines the most influential figures in this propitious moment, including George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Britain’s Admiral Lord Richard and General William Howe. He weaves together the political and military experiences as two sides of a single story, and shows how events on one front influenced outcomes on the other. 

From the Bookshelf 

by Fred Apgar 

A Higher Call By Adam Makos and Larry Alexander

A Higher Call 

By Adam Makos and Larry Alexander 

Set during World War II, the book, A Higher Call, tells the remarkable story of two highly skilled pilots, warriors from different worlds, one German, one American, who meet in the skies over Europe. 

Five days before Christmas 1943, 2nd Lt. Charles Brown and his ten-man crew encountered German fighter aircraft on their way to a bombing mission over Bremen, Germany. Despite sustaining damage to the their B-17 bomber, the crew of Ye Olde Pub successfully delivered its bomb load, after which Brown headed for home. Flying at an altitude of close to 30,000 feet, Lt. Brown’s aircraft was subjected to intense anti-aircraft artillery fire and then, attacked by more than 15 German fighters, sustaining serious damage. All alone, the crippled B-17 was flying deeper into enemy territory instead of heading to its home base in England. 

Having just landed to refuel his Me-109, German ACE Franz Stigler observed the crippled B-17 fly over the German airfield. He took off in pursuit, intent on adding to his number of kills. As Stigler approached the aircraft, he was stunned by what he saw. He observed the body of the dead tail gunner and the bewildered looks of the men as they tended to the wounds of the other crewmen. Despite having the ability to do so, Stigler could not bring himself to destroy a helpless adversary. For almost ten minutes, the German pilot flew in formation with the Flying Fortress, waving at Brown to change his heading 180 degrees, and escorting him over deadly coastal AAA batteries. 

It took 46 years, for Brown and Stigler to find one another. A bond immediately formed between the two pilots, and during their remaining years, they toured the country attending and speaking at Air Force reunions. 

From the Bookshelf

by Fred Apgar

Citizen Sailors 

By Nathan Perl-Rosenthal 

In his book, Citizen Sailors, Nathan Perl-Rosenthal discusses the creation of American citizenship among mariners in post-revolution America. 

Prior to the creation of the United States, the concept of citizenship was not a major issue among seafaring nations. It was merely assumed that a mariner’s birthplace, spoken language, and country to which they were a subject, determined their nationality. However, the emergence of America as a sea power changed that assumption, which created an entirely different view of sovereignty and citizenship. America defended the right of British seamen, as well as mariners from other nations, to become American citizens. However, it was England’s view that once an individual was a British subject, they would remain so for the rest of their lives. 

Following the French Revolution in the early 1790’s, France and Great Britain went to war. America declared its neutrality and continued to trade with both. However, because of the ambiguity of determining citizenship, American sailors fell victim to both the English and French navies. Claiming them to be the enemy, American ships, cargoes, and crews were seized by both England and France as well as the numerous privateers, of both countries. Thanks to Perl-Rosenthal’s exhaustive research, readers are provided with a marvelous insight and details into the work of the privateers, impressment of American mariners, and attempts of Admiralty Courts to render “fair” decisions. 

The final chapter of the book details America’s response to Great Britain’s violations against its sovereignty. The impressment of American mariners became a national issue, and congressional legislation authorized the production of certificates of citizenship and the registration of American mariners. Interestingly, among the more than 100,000 sailors whose citizenship was protected through the registration process were more than 1800 black sailors. Unfortunately, their equal status as American citizens would fall victim to rising racism after the War of 1812. While a cumbersome process at the outset, in time, such documentation became accepted and standardized among seafaring nations. 

From the Bookshelf

by Mike Denton 

Facing the Mountain: A True Story of Japanese American Heroes in World War II Kindle Edition by Daniel James Brown

Facing the Mountain: A True Story of Japanese American Heroes in World War II

Kindle Edition by Daniel James Brown

“They came from across the continent and Hawaii. Their parents taught them to embrace both their Japanese heritage and the ways of America. They faced bigotry, yet they believed in their bright futures as American citizens. But within days of Pearl Harbor, the FBI was ransacking their houses and locking up their fathers. And within months many would themselves be living behind barbed wire. 

Facing the Mountain is an unforgettable chronicle of war-time America and the battlefields of Europe. Based on Daniel James Brown’s extensive interviews with the families of the protagonists as well as deep archival research, it portrays the kaleidoscopic journey of four Japanese-American families and their sons, who volunteered for 442nd Regimental Combat Team and were deployed to France, Germany, and Italy, where they were asked to do the near impossible.” 

At times, a difficult read, simply because of the profound bigotry demonstrated to these dedicated young Americans, who became some of the most decorated soldiers of WWII, but hang in there, it’s worth the 

From the Bookshelf

by Fred Apgar

Stalking The U-Boat: U.S. Naval Aviation in Europe During World War I  Geoffrey L. Rossano

Stalking The U-Boat: U.S. Naval Aviation in Europe During World War I 

Geoffrey L. Rossano 

Stalking The U-Boat provides a comprehensive view of the abrupt and rapid creation of Naval Aviation during World War I and fascinating insight into its day-to-day operations. The author, who died in July 2021, had been a history professor at the Salisbury School. 

Readers are taken on a discussion of wide-ranging topics that include the planning and construction of a series of Naval patrol bases in Europe, the aircraft used for anti-submarine missions, daily operations and life on the Naval bases, and the Navy’s attempt to establish a lighter than air (LTA) capability. Thanks to our military’s obsession with maintaining meticulous records, even about the most mundane of details, Rossano provides readers with a trove of information and details, which all make for a fascinating read. 

Once civilian and military leaders made the decision to establish a Naval Aviation presence in Europe, it fell upon a junior officer, Lt. Kenneth Whiting, to command the First Aeronautic Detachment. Whiting, with an expeditionary force of 7 officers and 122 enlisted men arrived in Europe in June 1917. Overcoming immense challenges, the expeditionary force eventually grew to more than 850 officers and 6,000 enlisted. Ultimately, the Navy conducted flight operations from 27 Naval Air Stations that had been constructed in the British Isles, France, and Italy. 

The network of Navy coastal patrol stations was designed to protect American war ships and convoys from attack by German submarines. Initial flights of Naval aircraft commenced in late September 1917, an incredible accomplishment since Lt. Whiting and his staff had arrived in Europe only three months previously. 

Rossano provides a discussion about each of the patrol stations and furnishes incredible detail regarding each station’s; construction, personnel, number and type of aircraft, training regimens, flight operations, number of sorties and distances flown, and injuries and deaths as a result of accidents and enemy action. Rossano concludes that, ultimately, the remarkable establishment of a Naval aviation presence in Europe did not shorten WW I, it did, however, succeed in creating the concept of Naval aviation as a military force that would reach full maturity during WW II. A group of heroes emerged from the war as did a powerful vision for the future of Naval Aviation.

From the Bookshelf: More on “They were Soldiers”

Book Review: They were Soldiers

Chapter 8: Mike Reagan 

In the last issue of this newsletter, we published a brief review of Joseph Galloway’s recent book, “They Were Soldiers”, a follow-on to his earlier “They Were Soldiers Once – and Young” in which Galloway tracks his earlier subject’s post war lives, including their careers and their challenges in dealing with leaving the war in Vietnam. It is a well written book, some of which may be difficult reading for combat veterans, for that matter it isn’t easy to read period, but it tells a great story of some great Americans and is well worth your time. 

The book is divided into four parts covering quasi related career paths of these veterans. Part One is called “Artists and Professionals” and the reason for this follow-on article is Chapter 8, titled Michael Reagan… yes, that Reagan, our very own Marine artist in residence. 

Most of us in Post 8870 have heard Mike tell the story of how Vincent Santaniello died in his arms in Vietnam in 1968, the event that lives in him every day and is the inspiration for his ongoing Fallen Heroes Project, which, last we heard, had produced in the neighborhood of 7,000 portraits of those heroes for their loved ones. Galloway describes Mike’s return home from the war, the path he took to his long career at the University of Washington, and on into “retirement” and this second career that is his daily life and that has proven his salvation. 

Mike Reagan

Read Mike’s story for yourself. (Oh, and the rest of them too) Makes us proud to call him friend and comrade. 

From the Book Shelf

They Were Soldiers by Joseph L. Galloway

by Mike Denton 

They Were Soldiers showcases the inspiring true stories of 49 Vietnam veterans who returned home from the “lost war” to enrich America’s present and future. 

In this groundbreaking new book, Joseph L. Galloway, distinguished war correspondent and New York Times bestselling author of We Were Soldiers Once . . . and Young, and Marvin J. Wolf, Vietnam veteran and awardwinning author, reveal the private lives of those who returned from Vietnam to make astonishing contributions in science, medicine, business, and other arenas, and change America for the better. 

For decades, the soldiers who served in Vietnam were shunned by the American public and ignored by their government. Many were vilified or had their struggles to reintegrate into society magnified by distorted depictions of veterans as dangerous or demented. Even today, Vietnam veterans have not received their due. Until now. These profiles are touching and courageous, and often startling. 

They include veterans both known and unknown, including: 

  • Frederick Wallace (“Fred”) Smith, CEO and founder of FedEx 
  • Marshall Carter, chairman of the New York Stock Exchange Justice
  • Eileen Moore, appellate judge who also serves as a mentor in California’s Combat Veterans Court 
  • Richard Armitage, former deputy secretary of state under Colin Powell 
  • Guion “Guy” Bluford Jr., first African American in space 

Engrossing, moving, and eye-opening, They Were Soldiers is a magnificent tribute that gives long overdue honor and recognition to the soldiers of this “forgotten generation.” (With thanks to Jim Traner for bringing this book to my attention)er 

From The Bookshelf

by Mike Denton 

Dead Man Launch JOHN J. GOBBELL

As the Vietnam war rages in Southeast Asia, a US traitor sells top-secret codes to the Soviet Union. 

Then a Soviet submarine disappears in the North Pacific…and as the Russians mobilize to find it, a US nuclear submarine goes missing as well. 

Vice Admiral Todd Ingram is caught in the morass—and so is his son, Navy Lieutenant Jerry Ingram. 

Both men are thrust into a web of alliances and betrayal in search of answers…and a truth that could save the world from a major disaster. 

While a work of fiction, the novel is a histroically quite accurate portrayal of the United States’ position in world conflicts in the late 1960s. 

JOHN J. GOBBELL is a former Navy Lieutenant who saw duty as a destroyer weapons officer during the Vietnam War. 

From the Bookshelf

by Mike Denton 

Sea Stories by William H. McRaven

Admiral William H. McRaven is a part of American military history, having been involved in some of the most famous missions in recent memory, including the capture of Saddam Hussein, the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips, and the raid to kill Osama bin Laden. 

“Sea Stories” is an unforgettable look back on one man’s incredible life, from childhood days sneaking into high-security military sites to a day job of hunting terrorists and rescuing hostages. 

Action-packed, humorous, and full of valuable life lessons like those exemplified in McRaven’s bestselling Make Your Bed, Sea Stories is a remarkable memoir from one of America’s most accomplished leaders. 

From the Bookshelf

by Mike Denton

Book review by Mike Denton How it is like to go to war by Karl Marlantes

In 1968, at the age of twenty-three, Karl Marlantes was dropped into the highland jungle of Vietnam, an inexperienced lieutenant in command of forty Marines who would live or die by his decisions. In his thirteen-month tour he saw intense combat, killing the enemy and watching friends die. Marlantes survived, but like many of his brothers in arms, he has spent the last forty years dealing with his experiences. 

In “What It Is Like to Go to War”, Marlantes takes a candid look at these experiences and critically examines how we might better prepare young soldiers for war. In the past, warriors were prepared for battle by ritual, religion, and literature—which also helped bring them home. While contemplating ancient works from Homer to the Mahabharata, Marlantes writes of the daily contradictions modern warriors are subject to, of being haunted by the face of a young North Vietnamese soldier he killed at close quarters, and of how he finally found a way to make peace with his past. Through it all, he demonstrates just how poorly prepared our nineteen-year-old warriors are for the psychological and spiritual aspects of the journey. 

This reader found some of his discussions of ritual, religion and literature a bit overstated, but it is clear that these thought processes and his writing (Marlantes has also written novels about the war) have become Marlantes’ personal way of dealing with his PTSD, perhaps allowing us to overlook a few excesses here and there. Overall, Marlantes expresses his individual view of war and its impact on young warriors well. This is, for the most part a well written book that might be of value to those who have not served, in understanding the vet’s world view.  

From the Bookshelf

From the Bookshelf

Neptune’s Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal

by James D. Hornfischer 

The Battle of Guadalcanal has long been heralded as a Marine Corps victory and not without reason. Now, with his powerful portrait of the Navy’s sacrifice, James D. Hornfischer tells the full story of the men who fought in destroyers, cruisers, and battleships in the narrow, deadly waters of “Ironbottom Sound.” Here are the seven major naval actions that began in August 1942, a time when the war seemed unwinnable and America fought on a shoestring, with the outcome always in doubt. Hornfischer paints a vivid picture of the officers and enlisted men who opposed the Japanese in America’s hour of need. It is worth noting that despite long a standing Marine view that the Navy abandoned the Marines to their own devices at Guadalcanal, (and one can understand that view) in the end USN KIA (5041) vastly exceeded those of the USMC ashore (1,592). 

It is an honor to once again review a book which tells a story lived by one of our Post 8870 comrades, in this case 101 year old Edgar Shepherd, member of the ship’s company of USS Helena, a key participant in the actions described in this book and lost the year following the Guadalcanal campaign at the battle of Kula Gulf. From the Bookshelf It is an honor to once again review a book which tells a story lived by one of our Post 8870 comrades, in this case 101 year old Edgar Shepherd, member of the ship’s company of USS Helena, a key participant in the actions described in this book and lost the year following the Guadalcanal campaign at the battle of Kula Gulf.