November 2011

Military Book Club: Laura Hillenbrand's "Unbroken" is a True Story of Resilience

Inspirational and Heartbreaking


Laura Hillenbrand’s book, Unbroken, is the true story of an Olympic athlete who gets captures by the Japanese and lands in a POW camp. 


When we read Unbroken for our monthly book club meeting, the woman who recommended it couldn’t attend. She wanted everyone to know that the book was inspiring and heartbreaking at the same time. Another woman in the book club--an elementary school teacher--felt so passionate about the book that she called me to talk and rave for fifteen minutes about Unbroken when she missed the book club.

Military Book Look: Receding Tide: Vicksburg And Gettysburg The Campaigns That Changed The Civil War

Edwin C. Bearss' narrative take on two storied Civil War sagas

I first heard Edwin C. Bearss speak as a commentator on Ken Burn’s series The Civil War, then one-on-one with the viewer as he led the camera around the likes of Gettysburg on the series Great Battles of the Civil War.  So it was with great interest that I bought and read this book, attracted by Bearss’ “you are there” method of storytelling.

The book’s text is derived from transcripts of Bearss’ battlefield tours augmented by supplementary text in italics from collaborator J. Parker Hills.  It traces out a fresh-sounding path across two tales familiar to Civil War buffs: the campaign to take and resulting siege by U.S. Grant of Vicksburg, Mississippi and the storied battle of Gettysburg.  The former of which ended one day after the latter.

Military Book Look: Up Front

A look at the timeless classic by Bill Mauldin

Willie and Joe!  Sure there was a plethora of cartoon characters around during World War Two, but Bill Mauldin’s legendary duo are the only ones drawn by a GI, not a civilian. 

I would like to say right off that this book is a timeless classic without any flaws whatsoever.  Mauldin speaks free and easy about pet peeves of his without fear in point-blank passages such as this gem about officers: “Even after four long years in the army I still disagree with some of the officer-enlisted man traditions.  But I’m not rabid about it.  If the men who wrote the rules prefer their own exclusive bathrooms and latrines, that’s okay with me.  But if the officer is going to have a tent over his latrine in the field, how about one for me?  I might not be as important as he is, but I can get just as wet.  And keep him out of my latrine when the weather is bad, and his latrine is farther away than mine.  If he wishes to eat at his own table, and wants me to wash his dishes because he was weighty problems on his mind and no time for dishwashing, then I understand.  But let him keep his hand off my own kitchen’s canned orange juice.”

Military Book Look: The Man Who Flew the Memphis Belle

A look at Robert K. Morgan's memoirs

The Memphis Belle is one of the most famous B-17s in the world thanks to William Wyler’s wartime documentary The Memphis Belle.  (Later a subject of a heavily Hollywood-ized 1990 WWII flick starring Matthew Modine which can best be described as “The anti-‘Band of Brothers’ “ in my opinion it is so corny but purports to tell a "true story.")  In 2000, three years before his death, her pilot wrote his life story.