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CRY FROM THE DEEP: THE SUBMARINE DISASTER THAT RIVETED THE WORLD AND PUT THE NEW RUSSIA TO THE ULTIMATE TEST
by Ramsey Flynn, hardcover, 282 pages with photos, diagrams, and maps, 2004, HarperCollins, New York, NY.

Ramsey Flynn is a seasoned and award-winning journalist. This book is about the Kursk disaster. The author painstakingly sifted through declassfied records from Russia, the U.S., and elsewhere, and repeatedly interviewed a number of major participants in the catastrophe and its aftermath -- ranging from Russian Navy admirals to the families of the dead crew. Presents perhaps the most detailed and definitive timeline of events available, debunks several absurd "conspiracy theories," and gives a good picture of the fabric of Russian society at the time of Kursk's loss with all hands in summer 2000. Vividly written and yet done to the strictest scholarly standards, this book (including 40 pages of fascinating footnotes at the back) is absolutely must reading for anyone interested in submarines and in the evolving status of Russia's Navy. Discussion of the final hours of the few temporary survivors of the sinking will send chills up your spine! (And no, they weren't all at the very back of the ship.)

COMMAND FAILURE IN WAR
by Robert Pois and Philip Langer, hardcover, 282 pages, 2004, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, IN.

A historian and a psychologist team up to do a series of case studies of failures by famous military commanders who usually succeeded. In this way, they provide a unique collection of insights into how things can (and do) go badly wrong at the top in any war. Rather than espousing some particular theory of psycho-history and then trying to force every case study to fit it, the authors very objectively examine each command disaster and find that the causes of failure are too varied to be encompassed by any one particular approach to psychology. The reader thus gains some amazing insights into the minds and personalities of Napoleon, Lee, Hitler, Churchill, and others, in the context of specific battles or campaigns. It seems that good commanders go astray -- sometimes permanently, sometimes only temporarily -- when they become too impressed by their own prior successes, and then a) fail to realize how much current circumstances have changed, b) refuse to listen to battlefield intelligence that goes against their preconceived notions, and c) in general become too dogmatic and inflexible. Though the book stops with studies of World War Two, the conclusions obviously apply more recently as well!

HOW WARS ARE WON: THE 13 RULES OF WAR
by Bevin Alexander, trade paperback, 400 pages, 2002, Three Rivers Press, New York, NY.

This book also uses a series of compelling case studies to make its key points, by drawing lessons from a variety of major battles throughout history. An experienced military historian with several other non-fiction books to his credit, Bevin Alexander provides what amounts to a modern update to the teachings of Sun Tzu in that classic manual for military leaders, "On War." Even if you're an avid military "buff" like I am, and have read tons of stuff on the subject, you'll gain some surprisingly fresh insights from this book. Some of the author's conclusions will challenge your ideas in a thought-provoking way. Drafted and/or edited after the events of 9/11/01, the influence of the early months of the Global War on Terror will be evident as you read, making this piece of military history itself a living lesson in military history. Compare some of what the author says to what has and hasn't happened in Iraq since 2002, and what might or might not happen in Iran, North Korea, and China, and your mind will be expanded in unexpected and important ways!

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