This book is not for everyone. The etymology of words can be a little dry. This book is about dirty words. What used to be called "profanity", meaning an insult to god. When I was young, the bad words were "god", "Jesus", "hell", and "damn". The others, like "fuck" and "shit", were out there too, and it was understood without explanation that they were also really bad. Bad words were changing. Most of the profane curses of my youth are now in common usage.
I recall with some amusement when the networks changed the rules. They would routinely bleep the phrase "god damn it" to "god bleep it", but then one day it switched and they bleeped it thus "bleep damn it". To me, this just underscored the arbitrariness of it all.
I was an atheist from a very early age, and any swearing that was profane (an insult to god) kind of baffled me. I always wondered why, since god did not seem to care. My parents used to swear in Danish, so they got a free ride.
The point is, when I was very young, it was the profane that was at issue. The central theme of the book is the evolution of swear words. The profane then yielded to the "dirty", neatly summed up by George Carlin's "Seven Deadly Words You Can Never Say on Television", namely: shit, fuck, piss, cunt, motherfucker, cocksucker and tits. Basically, words related to bodily acts or bits, from sex to elimination.
But even these words, except for one, have become so ubiquitous that they have lost their edge. Now, you can hear every one of them on late night TV or on any streamed service. Back then (in the early 70s), if you wanted to hear uncensored material, LPs were your only choice.
Today, the new bad words are those that connote hate and single out a group of people. The big ones are "faggot" and, of course, "nigger".
The book is full of interesting evolutions of phrases and words. For example, "gadzooks" comes from "god's hooks", the nails used to pin up Jesus. "Odds bodkins" comes from "god's body", "Cor blimey" is from "god blind me", and so on.
I was amused by the grammatical rules for inserting "fucking" into another word (e.g. Fan-fucking-tastic). The rule is that "fucking" must appear between two accented units (it works with "incredible", but not with "interesting") . BTW: "Fuck" does not come from "Fornication Under the Consent of the King". "Cunt" may have come from "coney" meaning "rabbit". Very similar to "pussy", no? The actual origins of "cunt" are unknown, but it was in very common use not too long ago. Today, it stands out, with "nigger" as dangerous words to use. It is the queen of curse words. This is likely due to the fact that it is female-specific, and to our culture's growing awareness that women have been given the shit-end of the stick for, well…, ever. The last thing they really need is another burden.
There has been a lot of language evolution in my life time, and it is interesting to speculate on how it will change in the future. "Nigger" is discussed at length. The author is black, so he can do that. It is interesting to note that "nigga", when used appropriately, lacks the evil connotations of the hateful word "nigger". It may well become acceptable, in the future, for blacks and whites. I suspect that language is changing faster now than ever in the past due to the enormous access we all have to varying uses and users through the internet and uncensored entertainment.
The following are my thoughts: The euphemism "N-word" is one of the dumbest things I can recall. You hear "N-word", but you think "nigger". How has this helped? People have been fired for using the word just once, and in appropriate context. For example, in many US states, a teacher cannot say "One hundred and fifty years ago, in the Southern United States, the word 'nigger' was in common use." without risking termination. That is stupid. I do not have a problem with the current off-limits nature of the word, especially for whites. But it is just a word.
All of your favorites are discussed at some length. A few I have not mentioned are "ass", "dyke", "pussy", and "bitch". "Tits" did not make the list. I miss George.
The book lacks an index. This is annoying. With computers, you can index a book in a day. Two if you want a reasonably good one.
I learned a lot from this book, perhaps more than any other, at least about the human side of the fighting. I recommend it. Ambrose is a World War II historian. I recall seeing him interviewed in the excellent series The World at War, narrated by Laurence Olivier. He died young at the age of 66.
The book starts at D-Day, June 6, 1944, and ends May the 8th 1945 (VE Day).
Before I tuck into my summary, a note for my Danish relatives. Denmark was overrun very early in the war. The Danes were ultimately "liberated" by Montgomery. I used quotes around the word because the Germans marched out of Denmark on their own steam. Why was Monty diverted away from Berlin and the main action? Because at the Yalta Conference, the fate of most European states was decided… most, but not all. Excepted, among others, were Austria and Denmark. These countries were essentially up for grabs. Had the allies not entered Denmark, the Russians would have. Denmark would have been behind the iron curtain and the future for all the Danes, including my family, would have been much worse. I certainly would not be living the good life as a Canadian. Monty was a dick, but he was a useful dick.
As the title of the book implies, it is about the experiences of the common (mostly American) soldier and their fight to win and to survive. The book also examines the experiences of the German soldier, as well as nurses, medics, pilots and other front line troops. I am awed by what these young men had to put up with. Weeks between hot meals or showers. Living in a foxhole dug out of frozen earth, cold and miserable, afraid of the slightest little escaping flash of light that might make the artillery rain down on then. Very few men made it from D-Day to VE day intact. Many units would suffer more 250% casualties! This can happen because replacements were constantly arriving from the States. By the time of the Battle of the Bulge, a rookie would arrive, dig in, and fight. If he was still alive in a week, he was a combat veteran who had to teach newer rookies how to not get killed. If you ever see anyone smoke a cigarette with the filter pointing out of the fingers, and the lit end near the palm of the hand, they were probably in combat at some time. Battle fatigue (also called "shell shock") was common and basically a new phenomenon. In prior conflicts, you would generally be dead before you fell victim to shell shock. We call it PTSD today.
By D-Day, the allies controlled the skies over Europe. The P47 Thunderbolt was a fighter/bomber that was to slow to act as a front line fighter. Instead, P47s did close ground support and pin point bombing. They typically carried a rack of missiles that could easily take out a Tiger tank. The Germans hated them. They referred to them as Jabos: taken from "Jager", which means hunter in German; and "Bomber". Piper Cubs (small, two seater, single engine airplanes) roamed the field of battle, giving accurate intel on the enemy's positions. Woe betide the German on the ground who shot at a Piper Cub. Within minutes of doing so, the area would be saturated with allied artillery. Unfortunately, the Piper Cubs did not see the build up prior to the Battle of the Bulge.
The French hedgerows were a major issue for the allies. Arial photos were taken from directly overhead, masking the issues created by the hedgerows. The Germans were well prepared for the allies. A common tactic was to let a tank rumble out into a hedgerow field. It would soak up small arms fire and retreat. And then mortars would rain down on the now revealed allied locations. It took many weeks for the allies to formulate new tactics and modify Sherman tanks to break through the hedgerows.
The Sherman was an excellent tank. Rugged, reliable and fixable in the field. This was not so for the more powerful German tanks. And the allies had many, many more tanks than the Germans. The (American designed!) T-34 Russian tank was perhaps the best tank of the war. German tanks and artillery fired far more dud rounds than did other armies, largely because the slave laborers who made them had mastered the art of sabotaging them without being detected.
The book then follows the order of battle from D-Day, through the Falaise pocket where many Germans were trapped, and towards the Siegfried Line. The Siegfried line ran the western border of Germany. Pill boxes, dragon's teeth (large concrete blocks used to block tanks), and pre-sited artillery made for tough going for the allies.
The Battle of the Bulge was the most costly battle ever fought by the Americans (I think Gettysburg was the second most costly). The winter was bitterly cold, and troops spent days in fox holes trying to stay warm and avoid trench foot. Famously, the Germans parachuted some 500 American-savvy spies lead by Otto Skorzeny in behind the US lines. The tactic paid off big time. They sewed confusion wherever the went, messing with signs and directing traffic in the wrong direction. Each GI carried an ID card in addition to his dog tags. The title on the card read "Not a Pass -- for Indentification (sic) Only". The ever perfectionist German forgers corrected the typo! One German spy was lined up against a wall and shot when a smart MP noticed the error (or rather, the lack of it). Another trick the Americans used was to ask a possible spy what his shirt size was. In America, shirt sizes were measured in inches, not centimeters. Many Germans either forgot the difference or were too slow trying to do the math in their heads. And again, they were lined up against a wall and shot.
The Battle of the Bulge finished as soon as the weather broke and the Jabos had clear targets. But it was still a long fight just to get to the German border. The Americans learned that captured US flier POWs were treat better if they were officers rather than enlisted men. As a result, the Air Force promoted all its enlisted fliers to sergeants.
Only one deserter, Pvt Eddie Slovick, went through the entire court martial process in the US Army. He was shot. Most deserters were just put back on the line. For comparison, the Nazis shot 50,000 deserters in the ETO (European Theater of Operations).
Black soldiers were treated very badly. For example, German POWs got better treatment than wounded black veterans, especially in the southern US. They could use the whites only fountain; sit in the whites only area of the local theaters; and enter whites only stores.
In January, 1945, Montgomery sent a letter to Eisenhower basically saying that Ike was doing a poor job, and that he should be given overall command of all ETO forces on the ground. Eisenhower wasted no time in putting Monty in his place. His reply had obvious implications: Shut up; the US is the driving force; and he was in charge. This was not the first time Monty tried a major power grab. The fact is, Monty was not good at his job. When things went well, it was all about him, and when they went south, it was someone else's fault. Operation Market Garden, his plan, was a straight up disaster. Monty decided to toe the line and follow orders.
In one self serving press release, Monty tried to paint a picture of the British coming to the rescue of the Americans during the Battle of the Bulge, and his brilliant strategies that made it happen. In fact, the opposite was true, and the Americans were outraged. Monty was a glory seeker extraordinaire, and a political albatross.
The Germans were in a fighting retreat after the Rhine was crossed. In one hamlet, a burgher, who knew what American fire power was likely to do to his town, pleaded with a German officer to move his troops to a town that was already in ruins. He was so persistent that the officer asked where he lived. He pointed out his home. The officer ordered a mortar crew to set up next to his house, launch five fast rounds at the Americans, and scoot. Ten minutes later, the burgher's home was a smoking ruin.
After crossing the Rhine, the progress towards the heart of Germany escalated. The fate of European countries was settled at Yalta. Patton and others wanted to drive to Berlin, but that was left to the Russians who desperately wanted the glory. If the Russians had been smart, they would have surrounded the city with artillery and pounded it until everyone gave up. Instead, they charged in and suffered a terrible toll in soldier's lives. As previously noted, some countries were not marked for the East or the West at Yalta. Denmark was one of them. If the Russians had surrounded Berlin, they could have proceeded west and north and "liberated" Denmark.
After the war, some GIs were exchanging stories. An artillery crew recounted a funny story about how they had once been asked to target and destroy a haystack, which they did. Fifty three years later they met the man who had order the strike. He had seen the haystack move from a Piper Cub. He informed the artillery crew that they had, in fact, killed a disguised Panther tank.
Generally speaking, in Europe, and especially Germany , the Americans were well received. This cannot be said for the Soviet troops. The Americans showed up with smiles and chocolate bars. The Russians were more into rape and revenge.
This is one of the best books about man's greatest war to date. It is a well written and intimate look at the experiences of US soldiers. We owe the soldiers from all the powers that fought Germany a debt that cannot be repaid.
Unholy Trinity: The Vatican, the NAZIs and the Swiss Banks; Mark Aarons, John Loftus; 1991 (rev. 1998); St Martins Griffen; Biblio, notes, index
This is a hard book to read. So much so, I got about 1/2 through and then skipped to the conclusions at the end. It is hard to read because there are so many players and groups involved, from Nazis, war criminals, priests, and spies to shady countries and groups like Germany, Croatia, the OSS, the GKB, and so on. The peoples names are hard to follow as well, in part because there are a lot of them and most have Eastern European names.
The Ratlines got a lot of criminals out of Germany to various countries, especially Argentina, but including Australia, Canada, the US and Britain.
The whole of post-WWII Europe was a mess. Everyone, almost, wanted to see the bad guys get theirs. But who were the bad guys? The Vatican was cozy with the Nazis because they hated the commies and so did the Vatican. "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" seemed to rule many decisions. Take the Gallacian SS, for example. It was composed largely of Ukrainians who hated Stalin (see the book Bloodlands). They wanted to fight for Ukraine and fight against Stalin. Some ended up fighting the allies, and not Stalin. Ukraine was part of the USSR. If you sent these SS men home, they would be killed by the Russians. They were essentially freedom fighters from their point of view. But many were also war criminals. How to deal with them? War and religion breed strange bedfellows.
This happened all the time. The British played everyone, and like the Americans after the war, would cut deals with criminals if it served their national interests. The Brits new how to keep their secrets, and they still do. Much of their machinations are still under lock and key.
In the end, I skipped to the "conclusions" chapters. Everyone was bad, so who were the worst guys?
The Vatican: the worst of the worst. Up to their eyeballs in the slime and ooze. They got thousands of criminal refugees out of Europe for money. It was very much a for profit organization and the Nazis refugees had a lot of money. They hated the commies and would tolerate almost anything as long as it was against them. Ironically, the Soviets had moles throughout the Ratline operations. Father Dragonovic was the Pope's master smuggler, who eventually disappeared behind the Iron Curtain. By contrast, the god-loving Pope Pius XII with all his power, managed to save exactly zero Jewish refugees.
Austria: Pretty bad, and wading up to their hips. They gave us a known criminal who went on the head the UN: Kurt Waldheim.
Italy: They sanctioned the Ratlines and gave them political cover. Knee deep in the muck.
France and the US: Complicit in many ways. E.g.: Werner von Braun put a man on the moon. He was also a Nazi war criminal. Knee Deep.
Britain: Up to their armpits. Worst after the Vatican/Holy See. Britain had been playing at European politics so long, they had lost their moral compass. They are still sitting on secrets that would embarrass the hell out of them to this day.
The Swiss Banks: Hand in hand with the Vatican. So also up to their eyeballs in the muck.
The Holy See: There is not much separating the Holy See from the Vatican itself. They are guilty of: Crimes against Peace (cooperated with anyone who was against the commies, including the Nazis); Obstruction of Justice (hiding Nazis); Receiving Stolen Goods (theirs was a for profit business); and Abuse of Diplomatic Privileges (forging documents, etc). The Pope et al knew exactly what they were doing, and they knew it was wrong by any measure.
It is hard to understand why that piss-ant religious hole in the wall and haven for child molesters and Nazi war criminals, called the Vatican, is recognized as a country by anyone after all their crimes. Churches are generally not supposed to dabble in politics, but it is the Vatican's full time preoccupation.
This book tires to tell a story that is frighteningly complex and intertwined. It is hard to follow for those reasons. A good book to have on the book shelf, but a very hard read.
Grand Design, The; Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow; 2010; Bantam Books; 181 pgs, glossary, index
I do not know why I delayed in reading this book. I think it is Hawking's last popular book. He died in 2018.
I quite enjoyed this book. It is a bird's eye view of modern physics and cosmology and attempts to explain the meaning of life, the universe and everything. Loose leading, a lot of white space and quite a few high quality illustrations which add up to a quick read.
It starts with an historical perspective and ends with M-Theory… the only current possibility for a viable marriage of QM and Relativity. Because the book is a short summary of a huge topic (literally and figuratively), my summing up a summary would be a waste of time. Suffice to say that when you get to the end of the book, the "answer" is a lot closer to 42 than it is to god.
It has zero (or nearly zero) mathematics in it and is readable for anyone from a first timer asking these questions to someone like me, who reads a fair bit on the subject.
Recommended for religious friends with a open mind (that might be a oxymoron).
This book was interesting, but disappointing. It focuses entirely on the training of the First Special Services Force, aka The Devil's Brigade. That moniker comes from the movie starring a too-old-for-the-job William Holden as Fredrickson, the Force commander. The Germans actually referred them as the Black Devils, a name they acquired for missions after the famous taking of M. Le Difensa.
The movie got a few things right and a lot wrong. Actually, the Americans and the Canadians did not fight each other, but they did fight a lot… ditto drinking and whoring. They did not take an Italian village to prove their worth. And they did not climb a huge vertical face with ropes.
The FSSF was a combined American/Canadian unit. Part of the reason for the Canadians being there was their familiarity with cold conditions and winter sports. They trained a lot. Imagine walking 25 miles in a day. Now imagine doing it with 60-80 lbs of gear. They were undoubtedly the most fit unit in WWII. They were held back waiting for an opportunity to use their had-acquired winter skills, and their specially designed snow-cats. But that never happened.
The famous assault on M. La Difensa did not require any scaling of sheer walls with rope, although they were prepared to exactly that.
I was disappointed with the book because it did not discuss their other missions at all. Rather, the focus was on the human side of creating the FSSF and its first action. Technically, its first action was to take an island in the Aleutian Islands. But, as it turned out, the Japanese had abandoned the island a few days before.
I learned less than I would have liked.
Dinosaurs Rediscovered: The Scientific Revolution in Paleontology; Michael J. Benton; 2019; Thames and Hudson; 289 pgs; Illustrations, index, further reading
I liked this book. At times, I felt adrift in a sea of Latin names. Here is just one tiny example. The full classification of Deinonychus (the actual star dinosaur of Jurassic Park) is Sauraschia: Therpoda: Maniraptora: Dromaeosauridae. It takes a bit of getting used to.
The book opens with a brief discussion of what science actually is (i.e. scientific philosophy). This is important these days in that relatively few people understand what "science" actually is. It is not certainty. Certainty can only be found in mathematics and (falsely) religion. It troubles me when people say "science doesn't know everything" and then leap frog from that obviously true and trivial statement, to assert something stupid, like the Earth is only 6,000 years old.
Here is the shortest definition of the noun "science": It is what we know to be probably true. Some science is cast in stone (i.e.: the probability of it being true is near unity); and most science is in some degree of debate. No science can be said to be proven, but all science can be disproven. The verb "science" is harder to describe, and I will not even try here.
The book was written in 2019 and therefore is a very up-to-date picture of dinosaur paleontology. Our understanding of dinosaurs (now called "birds") has advanced by leaps and bounds during my life time. For example, we now know that most theropods (like Deinonychus and T-Rex) had feathers, and we even know what color those feathers were. That is remarkable.
During the Triassic, there were four groups struggling for dominance: Synapsids, Rhynchosaurs, Archosaurs, and Dinosaurs. The oldest dinosaurs date from 245 mya. Most dinosaurs disappeared about 65 mya.
Dating techniques have improved dramatically from the 1970s, going from +/- 5% to +/- .05%. Computer power is being used to classify dinosaurs and separate them from other animals and from themselves. Gobs of computer power, in fact. This has created the "cladistic revolution" which has produced a much more accurate family tree for the dinosaurs (and other creatures). Computing has also advanced our understanding of how dinosaurs moved and ate. Gate and stride analysis (for movement) and stress analysis (for bite strength). The latter uses something borrowed from engineering: Finite Element Analysis (FEA) which is used to model stresses in structures like buildings and bridges. CT scans have allowed researchers to look inside fossilized eggs and to peel apart the internal structure of dinosaur bones.
Aside: Bones are made from collagen. Collagen alone makes cartilage. Add needles of apatite (calcium phosphate) to the collagen, and you get bone.
I mentioned that recent research has been able to tell us what color dinosaurs were by looking at melanosomes: sacs which contain melanin, the protein in skin that gives it color. Different color melanosomes have different shapes. So we can say they such and such dinosaur had a two long tail feathers and they were orange.
Chapters are devoted to topics like: what they ate; how they moved or ran; can we recreate them a la Jurassic Park (no, we can't); sexing dinosaurs, how they died off, and so on.
Bite strength determines a lot about how dinosaur fed. The Great White Shark has the highest bite force in the world today: about 18,000 newtons (about 2 tonnes). T-Rex' s bite was between 37,000 and 57,000 newtons (3.6 to 5.8 tonnes) .
Around the turn of the century (i.e. 1850 to 1910), dinosaurs were badly misunderstood. Iguanodon, one of the first full skeletons ever found, was portrayed as a 61 meter (200 feet!) long lizard that flopped about on its belly. If you went to the Crystal Cathedral at the time, you could have dinner inside a model of Iguanodon (in the belly of the beast). Later versions of dinosaurs had them dragging their tales behind them on the ground, or walking about largely submerged. The modern vision is quite different.
One of the most remarkable of science crossovers was the solution to the question of the fate of the dinosaurs. A physicist named Luis Alvarez, and his son Walter, proposed and ultimately proved the asteroid impact theory at Chicxulub (pronounced Chick-zu-loob) in the Yucatan peninsula. This impact tossed millions of tons of dust into the air, creating a kind of nuclear winter around the world. Almost all life on Earth was impacted (no pun intended).
This theory was not well received. Charles Lyell's "gradualism" was in, and catastrophism (which had Biblical overtones) was out. Bob Bakker is a well known, brilliant paleontologist. I have seen him defend his many ideas with great energy several times over the years. I was always a bit turned off by him, in that he lacked humility. On the impact theory, he said:
"The arrogance of those people is simply unbelievable. They know next to nothing about how real animals evolve, live, and become extinct. But despite their ignorance, these geochemists feel that all you have to do is crank up some fancy machine and you have revolutionized science."
The arrogance of Bob Bakker is practically oozing out of this statement, which was, of course, spectacularly wrong. The asteroid impact idea did change things. It raised abandoned theories about Nemesis (a postulated nearby star) and a Planet X (X for ten). But today, we are actively looking for, and deciding what to do about it, objects that might impact Earth and wipe us all out.
Feathers are now an accepted part of many dinosaur's make up. The evolution of flight is discussed in the book. A most interesting topic. And as I suggested, if you want to see a real live dinosaur, you need look no further than out your window. Birds are the living descendants of the dinosaur era.
If you are really interested in the biological history of the planet, then I recommend this book. It is very up-to-date on current thinking, which is rare in the genre. It has a lengthy "Further Reading" section.
Twilight of the Gods, War in the Western Pacific 1944-45; Ian W. Toll; 2020; W. W. Norton and Company; 792 pgs, notes, index, bibliography
Admiral Kimmel and General Short, to whom this book is dedicated, were dealt a lousy hand. They were the top brass when Pearl Harbor was hit, and they paid the price. Kimmel ultimately committed suicide. MacArthur, on the other hand, had a nine hour heads up on the de facto state of war between the US and Japan, and he did nothing. Zip. Nada. Rather, he cloistered himself and read the bible. MacArthur, was a "pompous and ignorant ass", the Montgomery of the Pacific, and went on to become king of Japan. As a direct result of his sloth, half of the US air force in the Philippines was wiped out on the ground. He should have been court martialed and jailed, or even shot. But such is life and politics.
This is a long and detailed book. It begins, more or less, with the invasion of the Gilbert and Marshall Islands. The first really big action was the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the largest naval battle in history. I will not discuss this battle in any detail as I have already done so with another book. MacArthur spent most of his time trying to take supreme control of all forces in the Pacific. Halsey, known as "Bull" Halsey was about as smart as his name sake. Dogged and pig-headed. Other commanders such as Spruence were more cautious. After Leyte, the Japanese navy was no longer a threat. But there was still plenty of tough fights ahead.
The Marshalls, the Solomons, Tulagi, Guadalcanal, Wake, Ulithi, Peleliu, Kwajalien, Guam, Saipan, Iwo Jima, the Philippines, Okinawa… these are some of the better known islands that were taken during the island hopping part of the war. These island fights were bloody to say the least. Japanese suicide charges were fairly common near the start of this campaign, but too costly in terms of man power. Later, Japanese held islands were dug out labyrinths of caves and tunnels that had to be taken at a horrible cost. On Iwo Jima, for example, only a dozen or two Japanese soldiers were captured. Thousands died for their emperor. Japanese hawks basically lied their asses off to the emperor and the Japanese people. For example, they kept the loss of the four aircraft carriers at Midway a secret for many months after the fact, and even then downplayed the outcome.
Meanwhile, US subs were choking the life out of Japan. The fleet had a huge appetite for oil, and the silent service made sure very little reached Japanese shores. On the other side of the coin, Japanese kamikazes appeared for the first time in the struggle for the Philippines. They were basically unstoppable and a precursor of today's smart weapons. They were responsible for an extraordinary amount of damage. Young pilots were taught just enough to take off and that was it. And they begged for the opportunity to live forever by sacrificing themselves for the emperor.
The Japanese built the two largest battle ships in history: the Yamato (sunk off Okinawa) and the Musashi (sunk during the Battle of Leyte Gulf). They were huge (879 feet long; 72,000, tonnes battle loaded), and an anachronism. By now, battle ships were out and carriers were in.
Many missions by US subs were memorable, but one stood out for me. A sub skipper named Enright had captained the Dace (all US subs were named after fish, the most famous being the Tang) and returned to Pearl with zero tonnage sunk. He felt perhaps he was not cut out for skippering a boat. But 8 months later, he decided to try again as captain of the Archerfish. On 27 August, he found a target that looked to be a large carrier. It was the Shinano, built on the third, now repurposed, Yamato-class battleship hull. After a long chase, the Archerfish fired a spread of 6 torpedoes. Four hit, and the Shinano went down. Normally, four hits would not have sunk her, but she was running on a reduced crew and had yet to be fitted out for war. Enright's story was not believed until after the war when the existence of the Shinano was revealed . A sub patrol's success is based on tonnage sunk. A good patrol might sink eight ships with combined tonnage of 40-50 thousand tonnes. Enright sunk one ship, and at 65,000 tonnes , had scored the highest tonnage sunk on one patrol.
From the Philippines on, the main weapon of the Japanese was the kamikaze. The Japanese were happy to throw away their young men, and as mentioned, they really wanted to go. The Japanese had a number of kamikaze weapons (planes, subs, missiles and more), but the usual one was a young man in a crappy plane. As the war progressed, the Japanese had fewer and fewer planes, and more Kamikazes. This was due to the lack of oil, needed to smelt the steel, needed to make planes. On the American side, they had so many new planes coming in that the would simply retire, or bulldoze older or slightly damaged planes into the sand and replace them with newer, better planes. Such was their economic might.
The worst battle, IMHO, was Iwo Jima… almost literally hell on Earth. Sulfur fumes and hot gases came out of the ground. If you were climb into a fox hole, you would be forced out just to cool down. The deeper you dug, the hotter the dirt got. It is difficult to describe how awful the conditions were on both sides.
Iwo Jima gave damaged bombers, flying from Tinian to Japan and back, a place to land. This was a very big deal.
At this time, the Japanese air force was all but non-existent, with the noted exception of suicide pilots. The Battle of Okinawa was waged in the air primarily by these planes. Okinawa was only 300 miles from the Japanese mainland.
We all know how it ends. Due to politics, MacArthur, the general who should have been shot, became the new ruler of Japan, which quickly joined the ranks of civilized nations.
A word or two about religion is appropriate. Both sides demonized the other. But any measure of civilized behavior, animated by religious fervor, the Japanese were far more fanatical. In addition to kamikazes, there were instances of ritual cannibalism. And the entire Japanese population, deluded by years of propaganda, and driven by the belief that they were the chosen people, and that the emperor was their actual and true god, were prepared to die. This belief held sway until August 14, 1945, when their god told them to lay down their arms to surrender. Which they did! One speech from one guy ended the war. One wonders how many lives could have been saved if he had done so earlier (in fact, due to politics, it was never really an option).
Uncounted numbers of people died during the war to appease the gods. Christopher Hitchens said "Religion ruins everything", even war.
The Japanese were told that the Americans were a mongrel and bloodthirsty race. Most were shocked by the humanity the Americans displayed towards them after their surrender… no doubt in part because they knew they would not have been so kind. MacArthur may have been a douche bag, but he did understand the psyche of the Japanese and used it to good effect.
There are many arguments on both sides regarding the use of the A-Bomb. I will not go into them here, other than to say that using them probably saved many lives. One motivating fear was that Russia was rushing its forces to the East and they might try to take Japan's northern island, in which case Japan would have joined Germany as a divided country, one half behind the iron curtain. That would have been bad.
This is a long read, but very well researched and written.
The Making of Donald Trump; David Cay Johnston; 2016; Melville House Publishing; 217 pgs; notes, index
David Johnston is a regular on the news shows as an expert on Trump and how he got to where he is today. The book is four years old now. There is very little that is new, and much that is familiar.
If you have followed the coverage, you are probably aware of grandpa Trump, who fled Germany to avoid the draft, and built and ran brothels. Daddy Trump was ruthless and corrupt. The Trump family has been in close contact with the mob. And so on…
The only thing that stood out for me is how many times Trump et al have been sued, lost, and then settled, only to have the settlement sealed. I do not think Trump would be where he is today without that. By sealing his court losses, he gets to pretend he won.
I learned little from this book. It is for Trumpaholics only now. But if you are not aware of the sordid details of Trump's life, this is the best book documenting the family up until 2016.
Red Sun Setting, The Battle of the Philippine Sea; William Y'Blood; 1981; Bluejacket Books; 213 pgs, glossary, appendices, notes, index
in thThe Battle of Leyte Gulf (BLG, October, 1944), which took place several months after the Battle of the Philippine Sea (BPS, June, 1944), essentially ended the mighty Japanese Navy as a threat in the Pacific. Ray Spruence, who acquitted himself quite well at Midway some two years before, was overly cautious. He headed the American side of the BPS and had a good shot at the taking out the Japanese Navy. But that would have to wait.
Regardless, the BPS, AKA "The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot" was a great success. The Marianas were the target of the invasion that was designed to bring the Japanese out to face the Americans. The Marianas include Guam, Saipan (a sad story, where many Japanese, fearing the Americans, committed suicide), Tinian (the Enola Gay took off from there), and Iwo Jima (the bloodiest of the island hopping amphibious assaults).
The Japanese were desperate at this point. They were up against it, primarily in terms of fuel. American submarines had dramatically curtailed their oil supply. This shaped the battle in many ways. At one point, Japanese destroyers were getting fueled from battle ships, rather than oil tankers! Much of the oil burned by the Japanese in the BPS was pumped directly from the ground in Tarakan, Indonesia and into the tanks of combat ships. This oil was high in paraffin and could be burned without refining. Thus, the fleet went to the oil, rather than the other way around!
Spruence decided he would wait for the Japanese to come to him. This made sense because the Japanese Navy planes had longer range than the Americans, and the Americans wanted to draw the Japanese in close. This worked to a point. The Japanese found the Americans first and launched all they had. But the defeat at Midway had decimated their Naval fliers and crews. The battle hardened Americans fliers met a bunch of rookies and tore them apart. Like the Battle of the Coral Sea (BCS) and Midway, no ship ever sighted an enemy ship. American submarines played a large part in the BPS, sinking at least one carrier. No so, for the Japanese.
The Thatch Weave, introduced at Midway by flier Jimmy Thatch, was used to good effect. The Japanese Zero (AKA Zeke) was faster and more agile than the Hellcat. But it could not take a punch. The Hellcat could. The Weave worked like this. Two planes fly together… a lead plane and a bait plane to one side and behind. A Japanese flier will naturally want to attack the rear plane first. The moment that happens, the two American planes veer violently towards each other, crossing each others paths and moving apart; and then they quickly swing back towards each other. This brings the Japanese plane chasing the bait plane under the guns of the lead plane, and down it goes.
One or three stories stood out for me.
A flier named Henderson flamed 4 "Zekes" (Mitsubishi Zeros) on his first pass, and then was lost from sight by his mates. His last message was "I knocked down four, and I have thirty more of them cornered!"
Another flier named Vracia landed his plane on the Lexington after the first major air engagement. As he was climbing out of the cockpit, he saw Admiral Mitscher looking down at him from the ship's island. He flashed a huge grin and held up 6 fingers, one for each kill.
A third story starred a Japanese flier. Because the Japanese fliers were so green, they had to be individually instructed by their flight leaders, in the air, minutes before they were to go into battle, regarding what each should do, and when, when they attacked. The Americans had a fluent Japanese speaker on board who listened in, providing essential intelligence for the Americans fliers about to enter the battle. At the end of the fight, the Americans let him go (i.e.: did not give chase) because, as an admiral quipped, he had done so much for them during the battle.
Although there was much more to the battle, it ended with the Americans launching everything they had at the Japanese at extreme range. This meant many fliers were forced to ditch as they ran out of gas on the return leg. In the end , the Americans sank three carriers and did damage to a few other ships.
On the Japanese side were the two biggest battle ships in world history: the Yamato (sunk at Okinowa) and Musashi (sunk in the BLG).They had a dozen or so carriers and many support and screening vessels. The Americans had a similar complement, including the carriers Yorktown and Lexington. Savvy readers will note that the Yorktown went down at Midway and the "Lex" was sunk in the BCS. The mighty US industrial base had replaced them. At the end of the war, the Americans had more than 100 carriers of various sizes. I believe that the Enterprise and the Hornet (the Dolittle Raid carrier) survived the war. If you recall the movie Magnum Force, there was a motorcycle "duel" on the decks of the Hornet at anchor in San Francisco Bay.
The BPS finished the Japanese Navy's command of the air. Indeed, the now nearly useless aircraft carriers (due to lack of planes, pilots and crews) were used/sacrificed as a lure/feint during the BLG.
The book has many fine photos and anecdotes. I enjoyed it a lot. The writing was compelling and It really aided my thinking about the Pacific War.
It is frustrating to look at the shared sense of duty that the Americans had in 1944. Today, they can't agree on which way is "up".
his book is in fine company. It is a book primarily about skepticism. The author and I have a little in common, in that we were or are members of a Skeptics Group. Prothero, a PhD geologist, is with the Pasadena Skeptics. I note that he is a PhD because he warns of books written by people who flaunt their PhDs.
The book covers geology related subjects that are a decent sub-set of all the crazy ideas that are out there. Young Earthers are trashed, as are flat Earthers, hawkers of crystals, Atlantis, dowsers, and moon-landing deniers.
Aside: Andy Kaufman died because he rejected modern medicine and relied instead on crystal healing.
It was a quick read and a good addition to my library on subjects (like Ley lines) that I would otherwise have to research.
One thing that comes across very clearly is that scientific illiteracy in the US is driven largely by the cesspool of the internet. In fact, by my count, he called the internet a "cesspool" four times. Ironically, the internet was created to serve scientists and promote data exchange. He speaks highly of, and quotes often, Carl Sagan. As a long time skeptic myself, I am familiar with the arguments about wrt scientific literacy, basic logical arguments, human biases, and such.
I only know one person personally that is foolish enough to posit a 10,000 year old (or less) Earth. I have had several exchanges with him over the years. One argument that gets repeated a lot is that his belief in god is no different than my belief in Newton's gravity and other scientific ideas like evolution. I often reply to this attack by explaining that I use the word "believe" in a different way (based on probability) than he does. The book suggests a different language, the gist of which is below:
Science has only one "belief"… namely, that the world is understandable. I do not "believe" in Newton's law, but rather I accept it, based on, in this particular case, an overwhelming preponderance of the evidence (Newton's laws got us to the moon and back). I like this language better, as it is easier to justify.
I also enjoyed the obvious fact that the author likes movies. He mentions several, including the worst SF film ever made (as voted by geoscientists), The Core.
The Abruzzo, Italy earthquake resulted in many deaths, and six seismologists were convicted of manslaughter for not predicting the quake! After 5,000 seismologists wrote letters, the conviction was overturned. Its hard to be a scientist sometimes.
The book has a well researched chapter on The Flood. The details of how Gilgamesh and the various versions of the old testament are weaved together into a mish-mash of "god's word" is very interesting. No one who understands how the Bible came to be can believe that it is the actual word of god, because it comes from several different sources, and it contradicts itself and reality… a lot. The absolute most charitable one can be is to say that the bible might reflect god's wishes, as filtered and understood by man. But that is thin gruel at best.
This book has a lot of fine photos and illustrations. It discusses basic skeptical issues like reserving judgment and human bias. And many of its topics are historical in nature, so there is lot here for a newcomer to the skeptical world to absorb.
If you have any interest in geology and the basics of skepticism, this is a good book for you.
Lee Moller is a life-long skeptic and atheist and the author of The God Con.