The Steel Wave by Jeff Shaara

Summary:

The Steel Wave by Jeff Shaara is the second novel in his Second World War historical fiction trilogy of the European and Mediterranean Theater. He has a fourth book dealing with the Pacific Thater of World War II.

The Steel Wave’s theme is the planning and execution of Operation Overlord. Operation Overlord is the name of the Allied invasion of Northern France.

Character-based Story:

Jeff Shaara uses his familiar character-based story technique of examining the time period from the perspective of the historical figures and adding some composite fictional characters. His method works splendidly.

The Steel Wave is an appealing read. The novel’s pacing is energetic.  I never lost interest.

The author did his research. His insights into the difficulties faced by General Eisenhower, the different leaders, and the soldiers are spot on. He gives the reader an appreciation of the hazards and difficulties that faced the planners and soldiers of Operation Overlord.

We are taken into the discord, hesitations, and ultimate perils with which the Allied generals had to contend. He spends about the first half of the book with these issues.

The Ordinary Soldier’s POV Shown:

A very good job of showing the invasion from the perspective of the ordinary soldiers is made.  He shows how courage along with the ability to improvise when plans broke down lead to success.

This is excellent historical fiction about a well-known subject. The story is well told through the characters. I strongly recommend the book.

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The Rising Tide by Jeff Shaara

Summary of Book:

The Rising Tide is military historical fiction and the first novel of a continuing series by Jeff Shaara based on certain theaters of World War II. It covers the North African Campaign from its position in late May to Rommel’s defeat. It also covers Operation Husky in Italy.

The main characters are two men from history, Erwin Rommel and Dwight D. Eisenhower, and two fictional young soldiers, Jack Logan and Sergeant Jesse Adams. Jack Logan was a tank gunner who was eventually taken as a prisoner of war by the Axis but then freed by Allied forces. Sergeant Jesse Adams was a paratrooper with the 505 PIR of the 82nd Airborne. He is selected by Colonel Jim Gavin when Gavin is promoted to Brigadier General to go with Gavin to go to England/Scotland to lead in the preparations for Operation Overlord (the D-day invasion).
 
This excellent book tells a well-known story in a new way. Jeff Shaara composes a very interest account of the battles in Sicily, Italy, and France forward from both an infantryman’s view and that of the leaders. 
 
My edition of the book is 576 pages long book. The book started slow. It went through the war planning and diplomatic issues showing the interactions of the military personnel from the many countries who make up the allies.

North Africa and Sicily

The action in North Africa showed the difficulties of the soldiers dealing with the weather, inexperienced leadership, and tanks that fired shells that simply bounced off the German tanks. 
 
As the reader, you get to jump into Sicily with the paratroopers. Jeff Shaara brings the reader into the battle. You experience many tense moments when things go wrong. The resourcefulness of the men in the field and how they learn to work together shines through in this part of the book. 

Italy

Operation Husky with the battle for Italy receives minimal coverage. This section felt rushed through and is adjunct to the rest of the book. 
 
I found the book an interesting read. It brought the events of the North African, and Mediterranean Campaign to life in a good and different way.

 

Four Stars of Valor: The Combat History of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment in World War II

505th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR)

Phil Nordyke’s “Four Stars of Valor: The Combat History of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) in World War II” is excellent. It is a must-read for any student of World War II.

Mr. Nordyke does a great job as he takes us with the 505th PIR from its beginnings and training in the United States, through its deployment to North Africa, and through its campaigns in Sicily, Italy, Normandy, Holland, the Bulge, and Germany before returning home.

Record Four Combat Jumps

The book takes its title from the 505 PIR’s record four combat jumps in Sicily, Salerno/Naples, Ste Mere Eglise/Normandy, and Nijmegen/Holland. Stars representing participation in combat jumps had been worn unofficially on parachute wings during and after World War II. FYI – this practice did not gain official sanction until after the 1983 invasion of Grenada, Operation Urgent Fury.

Sicily and The Secrets of Ultra

I found it a book that that demanded I read every word on every page. Be prepared for some very graphic descriptions of the training and combat. You’ll feel the heat of North Africa. I was disappointed as I read the Hermann Goring Fallschrim Panzer and 15th Panzer Grenadier Divisions were on Sicily, that General Bradley knew it, and because of secrecy of Ultra they did not pass this information on to the attacking forces! “This was a cruel deception of our own forces, but necessary in order to protect the secrets of Ultra.”

Excellent Job of Using Primary Sources

Mr. Nordyke does an excellent job of using primary sources. At first, I was a little confused when I encountered an incident that was described from multiple people’s points of view, but quickly saw the value in seeing the way more than one person viewed/remembered an incident. It helped paint a more complete picture. Pages 300 – 301 and the actions of Private Camille E. Gagne’s response to the killing of First Lieutenant John Dodd is one example. The coverage giving to the 505th’s role in Nijmegen Holland is very detailed and had me feeling I was there.

The Battle of the Bulge

The 505th PIR’s involvement didn’t stop after its fourth jump into Nijmegen/Holland. They played a key role being deployed by truck into Belgium’s Ardennes Forest as the 82 Airborne Divisions helped stop Hitler’s in The Battle of the Bulge in freezing December 1944 and January 1945.

The book has exception maps and an amazing index. This book should be required reading for active duty members wearing jump wings. It is a must addition to any military historian’s library and would be an excellent addition to all university and community libraries.

Barksdale’s Charge: The True High Tide of the Confederacy at Gettysburg, July 2, 1863, by Phillip Thomas Tucker

barksdale charge

Very Readable

Phillip Thomas Tucker’s has written a well researched, very readable book titled “Barksdale’s Charge: The True High Tide of the Confederacy at Gettysburg, July 2, 1863”.

Dr. Tucker’s book makes the premise that at the Battle of Gettysburg General Barksdale’s charge is more significant that General Picket’s charge. The author presents detail after detail.

Mississippi Brigade

The book gives a wonderful history of the Mississippi Brigade. He points out they are tall, straight shooters, and brave. I found the book redundant at points.

The author makes good arguments for Barksdale’s charge being more important than Pickett’s. If Barksdale had lived and expended the same energy that Pickett did in defending his actions, we think more highly of his Mississippi brigade’s contributions. Interestingly, the point of view presented was almost exclusively southern apologetic.

Pickett’s Charge vs Barksdale’s Charge

The book was an enjoyable read. The history of the Mississippi brigade and its contributions are worth the purchase price. I think the historians have already decided Pickett charge was more important than Barksdale’s, but it made me reevaluate.

I have read more than twenty-five books and memoirs on the subject of the Battle of Gettysburg. I have walked the paths of Barksdale’s Charge. Pickett’s Charge, and stood on Little Round Top. I am a trained historian by education who has studied a significant amount of military history. I am a former US Army infantry officer who has studied the battle in detail in my military science curriculum. I know how to examine the presented premise but respectfully disagree with it.

Hell’s Highway by George Koskimaki

George Koskimaki was 101st Airborne Division Commanding General, Major General Maxwell Taylor’s radio operator. He wrote the three-book history of the 101st Airborne during World War Two. Hell’s Highway: Chronicle of the 101st Airborne Division in the Holland Campaign, September – November 1944 is the second book in the series. The book focuses on Operation Market Garden which began on 17 September 1944 and concluded in the month of November 1944.

I had previously read Cornelius Ryan’s “A Bridge Too Far”, Stephen Ambrose’s “Band of Brothers” and “Citizen Soldiers”, Robert Kershaw’s “It Never Snows in September: The German View of Market-Garden and the Battle of Arnhem, September 1944”, Martin Middlebrooks’s “Arnhem 1944: The Airborne Battle” (focusing on the British specifically at the Arnhem sector), and the 82nd Airborne Commanding General, Major General James Gavin’s “On to Berlin.” All of the books gave good presentations and different points of view of Operation Market Garden. George Koskimaki’s book is based on interviews with more than six hundred paratroopers journals the soldiers’ intense personal accounts. It gives the vivid previously untold versions of the Screaming Eagles’ valiant struggle.

Hell’s Highway gives us something not covered in the other books. It tells of the Dutch people and members of the underground and their liberation after five years of oppression by the Nazis. It shares how they have never forgotten America’s airborne heroes and how the 101st endangered and even sacrificed their lives for the freedom of the Netherlands and Europe.

While some readers may find the book hard or even tedious to get through because of the detail, I did not. The personal accounts gave vitality to the story. It kept it flowing instead of reading like a military after action report. Mr. Koskimaki did a superb job of telling the history the 101st Airborne Division during Operation Market Garden.

The book is just right for beginners and experts of the 101st Airborne Division. The three books George Koskimaki wrote on the 101stAirborne Division are 1) D-Day with the Screaming Eagles, 2) Hell’s Highway: Chronicle of the 101st Airborne Division in the Holland Campaign, September – November 1944, and 3) Battered Bastards of Bastogne.

I highly recommend the book.

Company Commander: The Classic Infantry Memoir of World War II by Charles B. MacDonald

I highly recommend Company Commander: The Classic Infantry Memoir of World War II by Charles B. MacDonald. At just 21 years of age, Captain Charles B. MacDonald first commanded I Company, 3 Battalion 23rd Infantry, 2nd Infantry Division from October 1944 to January 1945 and later G Company, 2 Battalion 23rd Infantry, 2nd Infantry Division from March to May 1945. Written in 1947 when recollections were still sharp and fresh, the memoir resulted in a very detailed account of what it was like to take command of a line infantry company and lead it into battle. The book gives us the template for writing a personal military memoir.

It is by far the finest memoir of any junior officer in World War II. Charles MacDonald does a great job of keeping his focus on his own experiences. He does not speculate or wastes my time by giving conjecture on the big picture. We only have first-hand information from the events of his personal participation. He sticks to what life was like for a junior officer in command of an infantry company, sleepless, hungry, dirty, stressful, and very dangerous. He takes us from the Siegfried Line in the Ardennes, through the Battle of the Bulge, and to the end of the war in the Czechoslovakia.

This book is a must-read for all army officers who seek to command at company-level and it is informative for military historians as well. It is still required reading at West Point and on the company level officer (second lieutenant, first lieutenant, and captain) recommended reading list by the U.S. Army today. Upon this book’s publication in 1947, Charles B. MacDonald was invited to join the U.S. Army Center of Military History as a civilian historian, the start of a career during which he wrote three of the official histories of World War II in Europe and supervised the preparation of others. The book is simply the best.

7 Leadership Lessons of the American Revolution: The Founding Fathers, Liberty, and the Struggle for Independence by John Antal

Leadership Lessons Brought to Life

John Antal’s “7 Leadership Lessons of the American Revolution: The Founding Fathers, Liberty, and the Struggle for Independence”. The author uses seven case studies to bring the lessons to life. The case studies are in narrative story form.

Excellent Story-teller

He is an excellent story-teller who paints a clear picture that brings each story alive.The stories make for great illustrations for the lessons learned. The lessons learned are as applicable to the business enterprise as to military leadership. He does a wonderful job of demonstrating liberty as a motivator demonstrating the importance of the person.

Strongly Recommend the Book

While tempted to do to a chapter by chapter summary of the book, I won’t. If you love history if you love the USA if you have a sense of patriotism and if you enjoy the study of leadership you will like the book. I strongly recommend “7 Leadership Lessons of the American Revolution: The Founding Fathers, Liberty, and the Struggle for Independence”.