James Howard flew with the American Volunteer Group “Flying Tigers” where he was credited with six victories over Japanese aircraft. He subsequently commanded the 356th Fighter Squadron in England. On 11JAN44 his squadron was escorting B-17s over Germany when the formation was intercepted by Luftwaffe fighters. After downing a Me-110, he found himself alone as a large group of German fighters was preparing to intercept a formation of B-17s from the 401st Bomb Group. Howard single-handedly attacked the German formation even though outnumbered thirty to one. He fought alone for approximately half an hour, protecting the bombers and downing five more of the enemy. Asked why he took on thirty Luftwaffe fighters by himself he said, “I seen my duty and I done it.”
Howard was awarded the Congressional Medal of honor for his actions, the only fighter pilot in the European Theater to have won the award. He retired from the USAF as Brigadier General in 1966.
Serial Number 43-6315 “Ding Hao” P-51B-5-NA Major James H. Howard, 356 FS 354 FG, kit decals
William McRaven was a military brat, his father was an Air Force Colonel who had flown Spitfires during the Second World War. He went through ROTC at the University of Texas, and upon commissioning completed BUDS and became a SEAL. His career in Special Operations spanned 37 years, he retired as an Admiral in 2014.
Sea Stories is a re-cap of ADM Raven’s career, in his own words. He tells of his formative years before entering the Navy, plus his training and experiences as he worked his way up through the ranks. This is not a “shoot ‘em up” story of SEAL missions, there are many, many books like those for any who are interested. What makes ADM McRaven’s story different are the details of his contributions within the Special Warfare community after making Flag rank. These are high profile, headline-grabbing missions, requiring consultation with and authorization by the Joint Chiefs, Secretary of State, and Presidents. He provides unique insights into the capture of Saddam Hussein, the rescue of Captain Phillips, and the raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound. If you want to know why these operations were conducted the way they were and the various alternatives which were considered, this is your book.
This story is interesting throughout. ADM McRaven’s style is direct, and it is a major plus that he reads for the audiobook himself. The book really shines when he explains the coordination involved at the national command level, there is so much more to a successful operation than showing a strike team a map and turning them loose. An engaging story from start to finish, I can highly recommend this book.
This is CDR David McCampbell’s F6F-5 Hellcat “Minsi III” which he flew while Commander of Air Group 15 aboard the USS Essex (CV-9). McCampbell is the highest scoring US Navy ace, with 34 victories, all on a single tour. He was also credited with 20 more aircraft destroyed on the ground, but unlike USAAF pilots his ground victories were not displayed on his aircraft per U.S. Navy policy. His decorations included the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross.
This is an FG-1D Corsair of VBF-83, USS Essex (CV-9), May 1945. Markings are from Starfighter Decals sheet 72-143. The geometric shapes on the wings and tail were known as “G markings” and were used to identify the air groups of the parent carrier. They were used during the first half on 1945. However, these proved difficult to describe over the radio, and were soon replaced with letters.
Authored by Candice Millard, Narrated by Simon Vance
Audiobook, 10 hours and 14 minutes
Published by Random House Audio
Born into English aristocracy, Winston Churchill was always convinced he was destined for greatness. He determined that the surest path to political success was being publicly recognized for audacity on the battlefield, and at the end of the 1800s England did not lack for battlefields in the far reaches of her sprawling Empire. Churchill served as a junior officer in India and the Sudan, but the medals he so desperately sought eluded him. Resigning his commission, he relied on his writing skills as a military correspondent in Cuba, and his oratory skills in a failed run for Parliament. Still craving adventure and the recognition which would propel him to greatness, he sailed to South Africa to cover the Boer War as a journalist in 1899. He was 24 at the time.
The Boers soon proved to be worthy opponents for the mighty British Army. A pioneering people, they turned their frontier skills and knowledge into formidable weapons, fighting a successful guerilla war and handing the British several defeats. Churchill was with a formation which was bottled up in Estcourt, harassed by invisible Boer fighters. The garrison sent out an armored train on a daily patrol. Churchill rode along on the day the train was ambushed. He saw this as an opportunity, and directed the men in responding to the ambush, attempting to get the train underway again. The British were eventually overwhelmed, the survivors being captured and taken to Pretoria, the Boer capitol.
Churchill chaffed at his captivity. He joined a small party who were planning an escape, but wound up being the only member to go over the wall unnoticed. There he found himself alone deep in enemy territory, lacking adequate provisions, a map, or even a plan. With no other acceptable options, he set out.
This book is part biographical history and part adventure story, an excellent combination. While I was familiar with Churchill’s background in broad terms, the details of his escape are fascinating. This is not a dry history and the author’s style is engaging, resulting in a real “page turner”. I was surprised at Churchill’s unreserved ambition, and conviction from an early age that he was destined for greatness. One wonders how the world might have turned out differently today if things had worked out differently for him, and there certainly were multiple opportunities for things to have gone wrong. Highly recommended.
WHENEVER ANY FORM OF GOVERNMENT BECOMES DESTRUCTIVE OF THESE ENDS (LIFE,LIBERTY,AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS) IT IS THE RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE TO ALTER OR ABOLISH IT, AND TO INSTITUTE A NEW GOVERNMENT― Thomas Jefferson