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FIPS: LEGENDARY U-BOAT COMMANDER 1915 - 1918
by Werner Furbringer, hardcover, 146 pages, with photos. 1999, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD.

A gripping first-person account by one of Germany's greatest U-boat captains during the First World War. Must reading for all submarine enthusiasts. Believe it or not, Kaiser Wilhelm's U-boats sank more Allied shipping tonnage during 1914 - 1918 than did Hitler's during W.W.II! Furbringer's extremely frank memoir is fascinating, stirring, atmospheric, and frightening. I couldn't put it down.

GUNPOWDER: THE HISTORY OF THE EXPLOSIVE THAT CHANGED THE WORLD
by Jack Kelly, hardcover, 261 pages. 2004, Basic Books, New York, NY.

Everyone interested in military affairs and martial history will be fascinated by this detailed exploration of the development of gunpowder and its effects on humanity around the world. (More modern explosives are also covered.) Meticulously researched, Jack Kelley's beautiful prose is enthralling, and the book is chock full of fascinating events and vignettes about everything from decorative fireworks to deadly warfare. Nor does Kelly neglect the sometimes ironic, sometimes tragic impact of ever-more-powerful destructive power on mankind over the centuries.

ABSOLUTELY AMERICAN: FOUR YEARS AT WEST POINT
by David Lipsky, trade paperback, 337 pages. 2004, Vintage Books, New York, NY.

Lipsky spent much of four years at West Point, living with and interviewing both cadets and faculty. This is a no-holds-barred yet sensitive depiction of what he saw and experienced. By following -- in an extremely personal way -- specific students and instructors, Lipsky gives you a tremedously strong feeling that "you are there." Everything from military field exercises to after-hours social life to the events of 9/11/01 as they unfolded will definitely keep you turning pages. I believe that the discussion of "corporate group think" on campus, and the conflicts this can cause, might provide some important insights into the somewhat mixed performance of U.S. Army troops at times in Iraq.

CAN DO!: THE STORY OF THE SEABEES
by William Bradford Huie, trade paperback, 250 pages, with photos. 1997 reprint, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD.

When William Bradford Huie, a reporter for H. L. Mencken's American Mercury, joined the U.S. Navy in 1943, he received a commission as a public relations officer in the little-known Civil Engineer Corps' Construction Battalions - the Seabees - and the following year published this account of their landing with the Marines at Guadalcanal and Wake Island, Sicily and Salerno. As readable and entertaining today as it was some fifty years ago, it tells the story of these civilian engineers, carpenters, steam-shovel operators, plumbers, truck drivers, surveyors, and the like, who landed with the first waves of American assault troops, not only in the Pacific but also in Europe and Africa, bringing heavy equipment ashore to build roads, bridges, and airfields and repairing whatever they could. Often working under enemy fire, they incurred many casualties and won the deep respect of everyone who came into contact with them.

and

FROM OMAHA TO OKINAWA: THE STORY OF THE SEABEES
by William Bradford Huie, trade paperback, 257 pages, with photos. 1999 reprint, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD.

Together these books provide the definitive popular history of Navy Seabees during World War Two. Huie was already an experienced journalist and bestselling author when he was "embedded" into Seabee battalions serving in the front lines as the U.S. Navy's combat engineering and construction force. (Seabees created everything from instant harbors to airfields.) Written with a lively and vivid news reporter's style, these books will give you a unique and invaluable perspective on both the island-hopping campaign against Japan in the Pacific, and the amphibious assaults (including D-Day) against Hitler's Fortress Europa. Lots of oral history, terrific photographs, plus Huie's pithy observations about the special breed who say "We Build, We Fight," make both volumes essential reading for anyone with a serious interest in modern-era battle. The indomitable spirit of the Seabees, most of them seasoned civilian construction workers who volunteered, literally old enough to be the fathers of the marines they worked beside and sometimes died next to, will really inspire you. War is always a terrible thing, but we could not have won W.W.II without the 500,000 (!) men who were the Seabees in that conflict.

JoeBuff.Com / Joe Buff Inc.
Joe Buff, President
Dutchess County, New York

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