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Reading Diary for 2022

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"Island Infernos"
by John C. McManus
Island InfernosThe second entry in his planned trilogy of volumes chronicling the U.S. Army in the Pacific Theater during World War II, this book looks at the year 1944. Neither revisionist nor loyalist, McManus is willing to cite strong criticisms of senior generals and admirals from those who served with them. Neither McArthur nor Chesty Puller is immune to such criticism - the former for his glory hounding, the latter for his willingness to send his men in costly frontal attacks rather than adapt to the situation on the ground..

"Fire and Fortitude"
by John C. McManus
Fire and FortitudeA remarkable telling of the role of the U.S. Army in the Pacific Theater, from Pearl Harbor thorugh 1943. McManus' seeming goal of this trilogy (this is the first; the third hasn’t yet been published, I don’t believe) is to counter the mythology that the Marines did all the heavy lifting in the Pacific. In fact, the Army conducted more amphibious landings, took more casualties, provided more of the manpower than the smaller Marine Corps. While never downplaying the Corps’ valor (he takes pains to point out that the Marines suffered proportionately higher casualties than the Army), he wants to ensure that the contributions the soldiers made are not forgotten.

"Double Strike"
by Edward Jablonski
Double StrikeA comapnion of sorts to Thomas M. Coffey's "Decision Over Schweinfurt," "Double Strike" is viewed from one step further back, taking in the raid against Luftwaffe fighter manufacturing in Regensburg as well as the ball-bearing plants at Schweinfurt. Together, these two heavy bombing raids represented the largest American strikes against Germany's war machine to date - and both become memorialized for the terrible losses sustained by the unprotected bomber crews. (U.S. and British fighter planes lacked the range early in the war to accompany the bombers all the way to German's interior, and back.) This is one of the best books on those raids - deeply researched and well-written.

"Target Ploesti"
by Leroy W. Newby
Target PloestiSelf-written by a combat bombardier, "Target Ploesti" is noteworthy more for the perspective of its author than for the vividness of his prose: Most World War II air war histories focus on pilots or generals. This is a mission-by-mission memoir of a man who didn't plot the missions or fly the planes - his job was to place his plane's bomb load accurately on target (in this case, the Ploesti oil fields in Romania, seized by the Nazis). It's a fascinating and unusual point of view, and worth the read for World War II buffs.

"The Sacred Bridge"
by Anne Hillerman
The Sacred BridgeAnne Hillerman’s 8th novel in her continuation of her father’s Navajo police mysteries is like a too-short visit with old friends, where you utterly enjoyed the time together but are already looking forward to the next visit. Chee is on vacation at Lake Powell, when he discovers a corpse in the lake – and of course agrees to stay and help. Bernie goes undercover at a large hemp factory on the Nation, and it goes sideways. (Read full review – scroll to bottom at the link.)

"Up Front"
by Bill Mauldin
Up FrontWritten and published in 1945, as the war in Europe was still raging (albeit obviously coming to an end), this brief, illustrated memoir by the artist behind the hugely popular Willie & Joe comics from Stars and Stripes is a quick overview of combat from the point of view of the enlisted infantryman. The sarcastic tone and lack of proper respect for authority mark this as the work of those Americans who served in uniform during World War II: civilian soldiers, there out of patriotism and duty, not any particular love of military life.

"Crusade in Europe"
by Dwight D. Eisenhower
Crusade in EuropePublished in 1949, after he was retired from the Army but before he declared his candidacy for the White House, Gen. Eisenhower's memoir tells the story of war in Europe from a very different perspect from Mauldin's. Eisenhower begins his story with his appointment to a stateside training command following lengthy service under Gen. MacArthur in the Philippines. Just 20 years' removed from the carnage of World War I, the American public had no appetite for another war — and Eisenhower and other generals struggled to even implement adequate training to prepare recruits for the horrors of combat. From his selection of field commanders to his discipline of Gen. Patton for slapping and verbally abusing a soldier suffering from battle fatigue (what we today refer to as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD), to overseeing the planning of D-Day, Eisenhower's memoirs are detailed, forthright and honest — particularly in owning what he saw as his own failures and shortcomings.
"Season of Blood"
by Jeri Westerson
Season of BloodThe Tracker, disgraced former knight Crispin Guest, finds his small abode suddenly home to both a holy relic and a dead monk. The 10th in Westerson's Crispin Guest Medieval noir series (there are 15 in total, as Westerson has wrapped up the series to move on to new projects), the story opens with Crispin realizing he is being followed as he walks home. When he confronts his stalker, he learns that she, too, is a refugee from the royal court, and she wants to hire him. But before he can learn the particulars, a knock on his door brings a dying monk into his living quarters – and his new client has disappeared along with the relic.

"The Deepest Grave"
by Jeri Westerson
The Deepest GraveThe first truly supernatural entry in Jeri Westerson's Medievel noir series featuring disgraced former knight Crispin Guest finds Guest and his newly married apprentice, Jack Tucker, investigating a seemingly haunted church in a small parish just outside London. Simultaneously, Crispin's former lover, Philippa, reaches out when her teenage son is charged with murder ... although the boy has a striking resemblance to someone familiar.