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.
Advertisements

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”.

D-Day With The Screaming Eagles By George Koskimaki

Written by General Maxwell Taylor’s Radio Operator

George Koskimaki the noted historian of the 101st Airborne Division wrote “D-Day with the Screaming Eagles”.  Mr. Koskimaki was 101st Airborne Division Commanding General Maxwell Taylor’s radio operator. The book was written in 1970. Interviews with hundreds of paratroopers contributed to the book. Their stories are attention-grabbing and captivating. They cover the first hours of Normandy. The fact that the book covers only the first couple of days of the D-Day invasion allows fascinating details to be covered.

A You Are There Book

The book gives you the feel that you are there during the frenzied first hours of the invasion. Detailed accounts of the activities of the pathfinders were enthralling. You encounter stories where paratroopers are sleepily drugged by the motion sickness medication they took preflight. You are under antiaircraft fire with them as they make their final approaches to the drop zones. In some cases, you are within the aircraft as it is going down in flames. You feel the fear of being captured by the Germans. You experience the myriad of broken legs, sprained ankles and other injuries from jumping at too fast of air speeds and too low of altitudes while being shot at. You land with them in the trees and nearly drown in the flooded areas during your parachute landing. You feel the downright confusion of the event.

Glider Unit Coverage Included

The coverage of the glider units landing later during the D-day is information rarely covered in other books. Familiar stories like Lieutenant Dick Winters leading troops taking out the guns on Normandy are shared with a freshness that predates “Band of Brothers” by nearly twenty-five years.

I strongly recommend the book. It is necessary for any military history library, college library or community library.  Books like “Band of Brother’s”, “D-Day: June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II”, “Citizen Soldiers” and “The Greatest Generation” follow the historical method used by Mr.  Koskimaki.

D-Day June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II by Stephen E. Ambrose

dday

Over 1400 Interviews

The late Stephen E. Ambrose used over 1400 interviews for his history of the D-Day invasion.

This “oral history” approach brings the reader into the heart of the battle through eye-witness testimony. The tales of the front line infantryman sweeps the reader up into their personal histories.

Individual and Small Unit Stories

The story is told from the individual and small unit level often failing to describe larger unit actions or explaining how the individual actions fit into the total picture. Let is shared of what happened on the Canadian and British beachheads. Historical controversies are often given minimal coverage. These are simply good stories of many individual experiences.

The book is not a textbook for lessons on strategic decision making or to answer big picture questions. Ambrose touches on these larger issues in a general focus, but that is not his focus.

Courage of Small Unit Leaders

This is a book about the American achievement in Normandy. The individual courage and independence of the American small unit leaders is the big story of this book.

Ambrose is right on target as he tells the story of their braveness and toughness. I originally read and reviewed the book in 1999.

Jungle in Black by Steve Maguire

jungle in black

A Memoir

Jungle in Black is the memoir of Steve Maguire. McGuire was a young, gung-ho, Airborne Ranger who lead a 9th Infantry Division Battalion Reconnaissance Platoon in the 6th Battalion, 31st Infantry in the Mekong Delta in 1969.

The story opens with drawn-out and generic combat descriptions that lead up to Maguire’s wounding. The rest of the book covers his treatment. We learn that an exploding Vietcong mine blinded him for life.

An Honest First-person Account

This is an honest first-person account that never wallows in self-pity. Unfortunately, he in no way offers enough background about his life to round out his person.

He missed the mark with his book. He paints a broad description of the early stages of rehab. The description covers the usual male boasting, lust for nurses and hopes dashed by physicians not healing or restoring his sight. He fails to feature how he coped with his loss of sight and completed his bachelor and master’s degree and began working on a doctorate in psychology (not mentioned until in an epilog).

This could have been a very inspirational and motivational story; instead, it’s just another war story memoir.

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 is 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 am well read on the subject of Gettysburg having read more than twenty books and memoirs on the battle. I am a trained historian by education who studied military history. I am a former US Army infantry officer who has studied the battle in detail in my military science curriculum. All this said; I can examine the premise, but respectfully disagree with it.