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Favorite Miltary History Reads - 7/12/2009 4:14:54 AM   
JRodda

 

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These are in no particular order. I'm always on the lookout for good military history reads, so please do share your own favorites.

JFC Fuller's 'Military History of the Western World' - This three book series is a history buff's dream. Not only does Fuller explain the significant battles and campaigns in great detail, but also speculates on why they were important. For example, he postulates how Clive's victories at Plassy and Pondichery enabled the Brits to use the wealth of India to fuel the industrial revolution. General Fuller was also very controversial at times. For instance, he seemed to have a near-hatred of the Protestant cause when discussing the Thirty Years War. Also, I'm sure it outraged many when he stated that not only was the Battle of Stalingrad a defeat for the Reich, but a defeat for the West as well. Still a fascinating read, no matter if you always agree with General Fuller or not.

David Chandler's 'The Campaigns of Napoleon' - I don't think I've ever read a history book that was such an exciting and a relatively easy read despite its great length. If you have only one book on Napoleon, this one is it.

Paul Carel's 'Hitler Moves East/Scorched Earth' - Carel does for the Eastern Front what Chander does for Napoleon. I think where Carel excels is in his ability to write equally well about the war from a high level, and then take the reader down into the trenches on the turn of a dime. There are so many great moments that it's hard to recount them all here: The Russian counterattack at Yelnya, the Kiev encirclement, the Moscow campaign, the long and bloody road to Stalingrad, Manstein's backhand blow, the apocalyptic Kursk battle, the attempted Korsun breakout. Although he tells the story mostly from the German perspective, I still consider these two books the definitive work on the Russo-German War, and possibly the best military history books ever written.

The Fall of Rome: The Military Explanation' by Arther Ferril - This one is a relatively short and sweet read, but still one of the better books I've read on the latter Empire. A couple of excerpts: "Emperor Julian's attempt to restore the old Roman gods and check the spread of Christianity where anachronistic and inconsequential. His loss of several provinces in the East (in the wake of his failed Persian campaign), however was another matter entirely." "In preparing for the Persian campaign, Julian's army had amassed an enormous mound of horse fodder. It was so big that when some soldiers attempted to remove some fodder from near the bottom, it collapsed and killed fifty men!" Such anecdotes speak volumes about the Roman supply issues.

Shelby Foote's 'Civil War Trilogy - The definitive work on the American Civil War. An easy read and a lot of great detail. Although Foote was more than a little sympathetic to the South, he managed to stay relatively unbiased, and did a great job breathing life in to all the prominent soldiers and politicians. Also, he eschewed political correctness in his praise of the military genius of Nathan Bedford Forrest.

Bernard Fall's 'Hell in a Very Small Place' - The definite work on the Siege of Dien Bien Phu. Like Carel mentioned above, Fall does a great job going back and forth between the high command and the men on the battlefield. The paradrops and action were described so vividly that I felt like I was witnessing them. Fall also writes about the many colorful personalities, including the 'Angel' of Dien Bien Phu, and the brothel that became nurses to the garrison. Also of note was his discussion of the controversial Operation Vulture (X-File ; which included the possibility of using Nukes against the Viet Minh to save the French garrison.

Barbara Tuchman's 'The Guns of August' - One of the most exciting history books I've ever read. Gripping, tense, and unforgettable. The only trouble is, she ends it right before the miracle of the Marne. Her description of the Battle of Tannenberg was fantastic.

Tolstoy's 'War and Peace' - Although an historical fiction, Tolstoy does a great job describing the 1805 and 1812 campaigns in much detail, and I still get shivers when I think of his narrative of Napoleon's retreat from Russia. Possibly the greatest historical novel ever written.

Herman Wouk's 'The Hope' and 'The Glory' - Covers the entire history of modern Israel from the '48 up to the invasion of Lebanon in the early 80's. Although these are of course works of historical fiction, Wouk's history is accurate and the books are a very entertaining read. Lots of memorable moments including the paradrop at Mitla Pass, the Battle of the Chinese Farm, and the Raid on Entebbe. Someone looking for a good overview of the Arab-Israeli Wars could do much worse than these two books.

Ladislas Farago's 'Patton: Ordeal and Triumph' - This was the book (along with Omar Bradley's autobiography) that Francis Ford Coppola used to write the screenplay for the film 'Patton'. 'nuff said.

Oh well, back to my 'Case Blue' drive on Stalingrad (John Tiller's WW2 Campaign series).
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RE: Favorite Miltary History Reads - 7/12/2009 5:53:40 PM   
ezzler

 

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Shelby Foote's 'Civil War Trilogy - agreed.
Barbara Tuchman's 'The Guns of August' - recently bought as everyone recommends but ... Will try again
Herman Wouk's 'The Hope' and 'The Glory - yep. Read a while back but good.

Add-
Dreadnought and Castles of steel as excellent works on the 1900-1914 naval arms race and the road to war and the naval war of WW1
At Dawn We Slept: Prange. The definitive answer to any qestion on Pearl harbour and the inquests and the participants on all sides.
{Amazingly the editorial on amazon says "Prange takes a long, hard look at President Roosevelt's relationship with Japan and implies that FDR all but goaded the empire into bombing the Hawaiian base".}
Amazing because after two volumes of 600 pages each, Prange says nothing of the kind.

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RE: Favorite Miltary History Reads - 7/12/2009 7:49:38 PM   
andym


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Personally i love Homer's(not simpson)Oddesy and illiad

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RE: Favorite Miltary History Reads - 7/13/2009 10:21:27 PM   
SlickWilhelm


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You guys picked a lot of my favorite already, but I'll add a couple more:

John Toland - The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire Winner of the 1970 Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction. WWII from the Japanese perspective.

Cornelius Ryan - The Last Battle Absorbing, fascinating account of the battle of Berlin in 1945.

Harrison E. Salibury - Black Night, White Snow Outstanding chronicle of the history of the Russian Revolutions of 1905 and 1917.




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RE: Favorite Miltary History Reads - 7/14/2009 9:18:16 PM   
jackx

 

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Duffy's "Frederick the Great, a military life" is something that I keep returning to, just one of the best books on Frederick II. IMHO. Not strictly military history, but not a biography either, but an interesting combination that is well-researched and well-written. The fact that Duffy manages to stay fairly neutral in his assessments also helps greatly, particularly when you're fed up with the ridiculous hero-worship or demonization that still infests so many works about Frederick II.  The German translation isn't half-bad either, though maybe it's not as entertaining as that of "Sieben Jahre Krieg. Die Armee Maria Theresias", which is actually Austrian not German, and thus adds a bit of authentic flavour. I'd not recommend the latter to anyone unless you really care for the subject though, it's fairly dry and technical.

Englund's "The battle that shook Europe" is an entertaining (insofar as the bloody slaughter that was the battle of Poltava can be graded as "entertaining"), and fairly short read, though as military history, it's mainly good if you know the subject quite well already beforehand. I read it after a series of lectures on early modern Sweden and particularly its imperial phase, and thus found it to offer an interesting and provocative bias within a powerful narrative, but without sufficient background knowledge, much of the book's impact will probably be lost.


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RE: Favorite Miltary History Reads - 7/14/2009 11:02:59 PM   
JudgeDredd


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Chickenhawk by Robert Mason and Stalingrad by Beevor

I'm not entirely sure they are classed strictly as "Military" "History" "Reads" - but they are about the military, and are historical

Both books I was unable to put down I was so enthralled by the read. Ask my wife - she reads probably 10-15 books to my one - I just read slow, trying to take everything in...but those books were read in a matter of days.

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RE: Favorite Miltary History Reads - 7/17/2009 2:02:52 AM   
JRodda

 

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Thanks for the recommendations guys.  Will try to put these in my job queue:

'At Dawn We Slept' - Yes, I've heard a lot about this controversial book over the years.  Guess I'm going to have to finally get around to reading it.  If I'm not mistaken, the PBS show 'Sacrifice at Pearl Harbor' was based on it, or at least looked at some of the same issues.

'Illiad' and 'Odyssey' - Tried to read these many years ago, but couldn't get in to Homer's prose style.  Maybe I should attempt them again.

'The Rising Sun' - Yes, read this, and remember it was excellent.  I think the part that stuck with me the best was the comments by some Japanese officers during the 1942 Philippines campaign that they were appalled by the treatment of American and Philippino prisoners, and how such treatment was totally contrary to the Bushido warrior code. 

'Black Night, White Snow' - Yes, hard to go wrong with Harrison Salisbury.  I'd forgotten what a powerful book his '900 Days: The Siege of Lenningrad' was.  I'm sure this one is equally good. 

'Frederick the Great: A Military Life' - Yes, I would definitely be interested in this.  Frederich and the Seven Years War were fascinating.  Anyone remember the excellent Seven Years War sequence from Stanley Kubrick's 'Barry Lyndon'?

'Stalingrad' - Yes, I need to read this too, even though Paul Carel covered the battle very well in 'Hitler Moves East'.  I've never met a Russian Front book I didn't like.

Speaking of Stalingrad, my own drive on Stalingrad in John Tiller's WW2 Campaign series awaits.    





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RE: Favorite Miltary History Reads - 7/17/2009 3:13:07 AM   
panzers

 

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As far as Herman Wouk goes, my two favorite all time book s are his Winds Of War, and War and Rememberance books

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RE: Favorite Miltary History Reads - 7/17/2009 4:49:12 AM   
KG Erwin


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An all-time fave is Gene Sledge's "With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa", but I'd also recommend John Keegan's classic "The Face of Battle". These books deal with fighting at the sharp end.

For strategic studies, "Eagle Against the Sun", by Ronald Spector, is a good overview of WWII in the Pacific.

Jeez, there are so many classics, but I can only mention the ones I've read cover to cover. I have hundreds of military history books, but most of them are used as reference sources.

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RE: Favorite Miltary History Reads - 7/17/2009 11:52:33 AM   
Ironclad

 

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Of those listed, Chandler's on Napoleon's campaigns and Duffy's on Frederick the Great are great favourites.

Some other excellent WW2 ones, with fine coverage of strategic and tactical decisions and the campaigns concerned, are:

Joel S.A. Hayward's outstanding account "Stopped at Stalingrad: The Luftwaffe and Hitler's defeat in the East 1942-43" which highlights the critical importance of air power to German success.

H.P. Willmott's companion volumes on the opening stages of the Pacific war:

"Empires in the Balance: Japanese and Allied Pacific Strategies to April 1942". Includes the factors leading to war and Japan's successful opening campaigns.

"The Barrier and the Javelin: Japanese and Allied Strategies February to June 1942". Continues with Japan's dilemma about a follow up and the eventual carrier battles.


< Message edited by Ironclad -- 7/20/2009 1:34:57 PM >

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RE: Favorite Miltary History Reads - 7/19/2009 8:33:42 PM   
Lurker101

 

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An outstanding list!

My additions:

-Breakout: The Chosin Reservoir Campaign, Korea 1950 by Martin Russ.  A great description of the USMC’s very complicated escape, it keeps track of the many disparate units and engagements (down to squad level) quite well, and adds plenty of anecdotes to keep the reader engaged at a personal level.  (The most compelling anecdotes are the final ones, where the last elements and rear guard are approaching the repaired bridge at Funchilin Pass as the Chinese close in on the column’s tail, and individual Marines make decisions about whether or not to cross that bridge.)

Although Russ does a great job organizing the action, since he goes on for several days at one location before he switches to another, keeping brief notes in the book listing what the day/night is when Russ switches locations enhances the narrative quite a bit.  Another minor quibble is maps of the positions of the units at each location the night the Chinese attack started would add alot.

A major issue is Russ (a former Marine) is very contemptuous of the Army’s role in the battle (Russ concedes Task Force Faith may have saved the Marine position at Hagaru-ri, but not through any will of its own).  This is the only major negative Amazon reviewers have, so I’m going to read East of Chosin by Roy Appleman, which details the ordeal of Task Force Faith.

-Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson.  A Pulitzer-Prize-winning history of the Civil War.

EDIT 7/23/09: To locate the repaired bridge correctly.

< Message edited by Lurker101 -- 7/23/2009 3:37:56 PM >

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CHosin Reservoir Campaign - 7/22/2009 1:35:14 AM   
JRodda

 

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Yes, I'm definitely putting this on my wish list.  I agree that it was a fascinating and desperate battle, and would make for a great read and a great game.  Surprised no one has done a game (at least to my knowledge).  It's interesting to note that if Inchon was MacArthur's greatest moment, Chosin was probably one of his weakest.  I would also mention that I never thought much of General Mac until reading the great biography 'American Caesar'.  I'm surprised I forgot about this one in my original list.  I especially liked the bit about how Orwellian the Korean War was.   

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RE: CHosin Reservoir Campaign - 7/22/2009 8:27:30 AM   
SS Hauptsturmfuhrer


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Street Without Joy is about the very underappreciated efforts of the French in Vietnam.  They did their best to wear down those tough jungle fighters of Giap before the Americans went in to continue the fight.  170,000 brave French troops were killed in the fighting. There's a lot of nice blow by blow action in this with both sides giving and taking good damage.

The Tragedy of the Faithful: 3rd SS Panzer Korps by Wilhelm Tieke

Grenadiers by Kurt Meyer

Battle for the Ruhr by Derek Zumbro shows the reality of WW2 totally from the German homeland's point of view.  It's free of the usual propaganda and bias which has kept people from learning what really happening during the western allies drive through Germany.

Slaughter at Halbe by Tony Le Tissier


< Message edited by SS Hauptsturmfuhrer -- 7/22/2009 8:28:00 AM >


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RE: Favorite Miltary History Reads - 7/22/2009 5:55:12 PM   
Nikademus


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So many to choose from..... If i were to list highlights based on being hard to put down due to excellent writing style coupled with interesting info....

Alan Clarke "Barbarossa"

Christer Bergmann "Black Cross/Red Star"

Robin Neillands "Eighth Army" and "The Bomber War"

David Masse "Castles of Steel" and "Dreadnought"

Dull "Battle History of the Imperial Japanese Navy"

Richard Frank "Guadalcanal"

Eric Bergerud "Fire in the Sky"

Just to name a few.


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RE: Favorite Miltary History Reads - 7/22/2009 6:02:46 PM   
Wirraway_Ace


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Have to add Parshall's Shattered Sword and Lundstrom's First Team

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RE: Favorite Miltary History Reads - 7/22/2009 6:04:08 PM   
Canoerebel


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The single best work of non-fiction I have ever read: We were Soldiers Once and Young by Hal Moore and Joe Galloway. This deals with the Battle of Ia Drang Valley, South Vietnam, 1965. I don't even enjoy Vietnam War history, so the fact that this is the best work of history I've ever read is the highest praise that I can give.

The second best work of non-fiction: This Terrible Sound by Peter Cozzens. This covers the Battle of Chickamauga in 1863.

Honorable Mention: Do or Die Men by ???. This covers the 1st Marine Raider Battalion at Tulagi and Guadalcanal.

What I love about all three books is that they rely almost entirely on letters, diaries, and/or interviews to provide first-hand perspectives of what was happening. These aren't the general's point-of-view of what was going on, but rather the private who found himself behind enemy lines after a night asault, scared to death and wondering if he would see the light of day.

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RE: Favorite Miltary History Reads - 7/22/2009 8:43:35 PM   
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One of my old favorite historical fiction reads is Northwest Passage by Kenneth Roberts.

< Message edited by Greybriar -- 7/22/2009 8:44:36 PM >


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RE: Favorite Miltary History Reads - 7/22/2009 10:36:16 PM   
TonyAAA


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If you're interested in the Napoleonic era, try reading Memoirs Of Sergeant Bourgogne 1812-1813.

It was written by a member of the Imperial Guard who took part in (among others,) the invasion of Russia and the disastrous retreat that followed.

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RE: Favorite Miltary History Reads - 7/22/2009 10:49:23 PM   
panzers

 

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surprised to not see rise and fall of the Third Reich on here by William Shirer. I happen to think for the time of the printing, it was easily, the best WWII book. We learned so much of what is now in our history books because of what he was able to accomplish that no one else could.

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RE: Favorite Miltary History Reads - 7/22/2009 11:29:35 PM   
captskillet


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Agree panzers........Rise and the Fall is a good read.

Another good Civil War read is "Lee's Lieutenants: A Study in Command" by Douglas Southall Freeman

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RE: Favorite Miltary History Reads - 7/23/2009 4:10:57 AM   
SS Hauptsturmfuhrer


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What is rise and fall?  I know it is a very big book, but is it about only about politics or about the military history?  Politics put me to sleep so I avoid that stuff.

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RE: Favorite Miltary History Reads - 7/23/2009 5:03:32 AM   
Greybriar


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quote:

ORIGINAL: SS Hauptsturmfuhrer

What is rise and fall?  I know it is a very big book, but is it about only about politics or about the military history?  Politics put me to sleep so I avoid that stuff.


You might find the article in Wikipedia enlightening.

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RE: Favorite Miltary History Reads - 7/23/2009 4:15:13 PM   
SS Hauptsturmfuhrer


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It is odd now that I think about it.  That Rise and Fall of the Third Reich book has been on my mother's bookshelf since my earliest memories as a kid.  I used to play soldiers on the bookshelf usually having German troops defending the bookshelf from American G.I.'s who were fighting to clear each level.  That big black and white swastika loomed behind the battle everytime so it is indelibly etched in my mind.  The book is still there on the shelf but I don't think I've ever once opened it.

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RE: Favorite Miltary History Reads - 7/23/2009 4:43:29 PM   
SuluSea


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quote:

ORIGINAL: SS Hauptsturmfuhrer

It is odd now that I think about it.  That Rise and Fall of the Third Reich book has been on my mother's bookshelf since my earliest memories as a kid.  I used to play soldiers on the bookshelf usually having German troops defending the bookshelf from American G.I.'s who were fighting to clear each level.  That big black and white swastika loomed behind the battle everytime so it is indelibly etched in my mind.  The book is still there on the shelf but I don't think I've ever once opened it.


Obviously, you're seeing just how much you can get away with on this site.

< Message edited by SuluSea -- 7/23/2009 4:50:57 PM >


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RE: Favorite Miltary History Reads - 7/23/2009 9:37:47 PM   
anarchyintheuk

 

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West Point Military Atlas for the Napoleonic Campaigns. A great introduction to Napoleon and his campaigns and easily the best maps.

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RE: Favorite Miltary History Reads - 7/23/2009 11:10:38 PM   
Endsieg

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: SuluSea

quote:

ORIGINAL: SS Hauptsturmfuhrer

It is odd now that I think about it.  That Rise and Fall of the Third Reich book has been on my mother's bookshelf since my earliest memories as a kid.  I used to play soldiers on the bookshelf usually having German troops defending the bookshelf from American G.I.'s who were fighting to clear each level.  That big black and white swastika loomed behind the battle everytime so it is indelibly etched in my mind.  The book is still there on the shelf but I don't think I've ever once opened it.


Obviously, you're seeing just how much you can get away with on this site.

Sulu, this guy is a false-flag troll par excellence, pretending to pretend to be a Wehrmacht fanboi, and hoping to get under your and sundry skin. Taking the piss out of wargamers, while pretending to be a wargamer. Bloody hilarious....reread the bookshelf anecdote above....brilliant stuff....definitely wants to enrage undiscerning readers, especially yanks. critique of Shirer's book is the giveaway to the real agenda.

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RE: Favorite Miltary History Reads - 7/24/2009 12:46:43 AM   
SS Hauptsturmfuhrer


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Endsieg


quote:

ORIGINAL: SuluSea

quote:

ORIGINAL: SS Hauptsturmfuhrer

It is odd now that I think about it.  That Rise and Fall of the Third Reich book has been on my mother's bookshelf since my earliest memories as a kid.  I used to play soldiers on the bookshelf usually having German troops defending the bookshelf from American G.I.'s who were fighting to clear each level.  That big black and white swastika loomed behind the battle everytime so it is indelibly etched in my mind.  The book is still there on the shelf but I don't think I've ever once opened it.


Obviously, you're seeing just how much you can get away with on this site.

Sulu, this guy is a false-flag troll par excellence, pretending to pretend to be a Wehrmacht fanboi, and hoping to get under your and sundry skin. Taking the piss out of wargamers, while pretending to be a wargamer. Bloody hilarious....reread the bookshelf anecdote above....brilliant stuff....definitely wants to enrage undiscerning readers, especially yanks. critique of Shirer's book is the giveaway to the real agenda.


It's funny how you haters gotta find imaginary insults in everything you read just because my name is a German army rank. If I made another 'Sarge' name then there would be no problem right? Well I'm not american and therefore I don't see a need to glorify america. Make sense? And that story about the book on the shelf is just what is says with no hidden hate messages like you are so desperate to create. The only hate here is in your mind Ensieg and ditto for that Sulu troll who posts hate after everything I post. Anyways, go back to your bitching if you must.


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RE: Favorite Miltary History Reads - 7/24/2009 1:13:13 AM   
KG Erwin


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Before Erik closes the thread, I'll mention that one of the first books I read as a young adult was Heinz Guderian's "Panzer Leader". Like many 1960s wargamers, I took an inordinate pleasure in seeing the Germans win.

40 years later, I've grown up and now have a better understanding of the consequences of an Axis victory in WWII. Yeah, we still game it and yeah, we still have German fans, but I moved beyond all that.

However, one should NOT be branded as a closet Nazi because of his or her interest in the German armed forces of WWII. It IS a legitimate field of historical study.

KG Erwin stands for "Kampfgruppe Erwin". Now, I'd prefer to be called Gunny Erwin, in honor of the US Marines of WWII, but some folks objected to that. The grounds for disapproval was that I never served in the Marines. No matter what, in this day and age SOMEONE is gonna get offended regardless of your opinions.

< Message edited by KG Erwin -- 7/24/2009 1:15:47 AM >

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RE: Favorite Miltary History Reads - 7/24/2009 2:29:22 PM   
jackx

 

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I just shrug off all the ww2 german military fandom (though I do try to avoid it in DoD:S), along with all the other fandom that's mostly just cheap attempts at self-glorification by identifying with people who might or might not have achieved something, and hoping it somehow rubs off. As someone who doesn't use a historic "we" at all because I have an aversion to imagined collectives, particularly of the national(istic) or ethno-cultural type, it's a behaviour that annoys me quite a bit, but I've come to accept that it's widespread, and that arguing about it, particularly on the internet, is mostly a waste of time.
Identity should be derived from within, not without, and credit only taken for one's own actions.

Here's hoping this thread isn't derailed any further, and can remain open.

Edit: Just removed parts of my post that could be seen as troll-feeding. I really don't want this to get locked over a stupid argument.


< Message edited by jackx -- 7/24/2009 4:37:27 PM >


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RE: Favorite Miltary History Reads - 7/25/2009 5:54:44 AM   
sabre1


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Joined: 8/15/2001
From: CA
Status: offline
While we are on the subject of "books".

I am about to start Wellington, The Years of the Sword, by Elizabeth Longford. My question is if this book is worth the effort?

Thanks for any info...

(in reply to jackx)
Post #: 30
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