USN McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II Book Review

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USN McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II

By Peter E. Davies, illustrated by Adam Tooby and Henry Morshead

Series: Osprey Air Vanguard Book 22

Paperback, 64 pages, heavily illustrated

Published by Osprey Publishing March 2016

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1472804953

ISBN-13: 978-1472804952

Dimensions: 7.2 x 0.1 x 9.9 inches

This is the first book in the Osprey Air Vanguard Series which I have read.  Like most Osprey books, it covers a lot of ground in a small number of pages, so it is best thought of as a primer or an introduction rather than a comprehensive history.  The story of the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom could easily (and does!) fill several volumes so it is wise that Osprey have focused on USN F-4s in this work while issuing a separate book on Phantoms operated by the USAF.  Having said that, this volume also covers Phantoms in US Marine, Royal Air Force, and Royal Navy service, so the USN in the title is a bit of a misnomer.

The first chapters are devoted to the developmental history and technical description of the Phantom.  This is well known among aviation enthusiasts but is useful for being concise – an example where the brevity of the format is a strength.  There is a description of all the major sub-types operated by the naval services, and then a history of the type in service.

Like most Osprey books, this one is profusely illustrated, mostly in color.  There are several pages of artwork including portraits of two aircraft and profiles of nine.  The profiles are reproduced to a much smaller format than either those in the Aircraft of the Aces or Combat Aircraft series and there is much less information presented in the captions.  One of the nicer presentations is one which I almost overlooked – the back cover is actually a gatefold which contains an annotated cut-away illustration of the Phantom.

Overall a nice package, the contents and quality of which would not come as a surprise to anyone familiar with this publisher.

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Sherman in the Pacific 1943-1945 Book Review

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Sherman in the Pacific 1943-1945

By Raymond Giuliani, twenty color profiles by Christophe Camilotte

Hardcover, 144 pages, heavily illustrated

Published by Histoire and Collections May 2015

Language: English

ISBN-10: 2352502837

ISBN-13: 978-2352502838

Dimensions: 12.3 x 9.2 x 0.7 inches

This book is a photo essay of all US Army and USMC M4 Sherman operations in the Pacific War, from Taupota, New Guinea in October 1943 through the invasion of Okinawa which was secured in June 1945.  The photographs are arranged by operation, with each section introduced by a map and a brief paragraph giving an overview.  The author then lets the photographs tell the story.

The photographs are, in a word, spectacular.  They are the crème of the crop, sharp and in high resolution.  Often there are several views of the same Sherman showing the vehicle from different angles or at different times.  They are reproduced in large format on glossy paper, and the pages are piled full of pictures.  This is a modeler’s dream with crew stowage and modifications being clearly seen, and the vehicles are shown in many situations which would make excellent inspiration for dioramas.

The captions are well detailed and provide insight and context to what is seen in the photographs.  There are several instances of some awkward translations in the captions and while these make the descriptions read a little clunky they do not prevent the reader from grasping the meaning.  A minor (but avoidable) fault which I found easy to adjust to.

Interspaced among the pictures are twenty color profiles of M4 Shermans and the M32 recovery vehicle, which are displayed along with the photograph(s) which inspired the artist.  These are quality renderings and the photographs of the particular subjects only enhances the artist’s credibility.  This is a nice standard which I wish more artists and decal manufacturers would follow.

Overall this is an outstanding treatment of the subject and a valuable reference for anyone wanting to model these vehicles.  If you can find a copy pick it up, you will not be disappointed!

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Marine Tank Battles In The Pacific Book Review

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Marine Tank Battles In The Pacific

By Oscar E. Gilbert

Hardcover in dustjacket, 356 pages, illustrated

Published by Da Capo Press January 2001

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1580970508

ISBN-13: 978-1580970501

Dimensions: 6.0 x 1.2 x 9.0 inches

This book follows the use of tanks in the United States Marine Corps during the Second World War.  For the Marines, the war in the Pacific against the Japanese brought a set of unique obstacles.  The first which would have to be overcome is the US in general and the USMC in particular lacked armor, especially effective tanks of modern design.  This was exasperated by the lack of the sealift capacity to land them quickly and in sufficient numbers to support the infantry.  When (or in some cases if) they could be brought ashore the Pacific islands were not ideal tank country and many were unsuitable is various ways; Guadalcanal was a muddy jungle; Tarawa drowned tanks in shell craters; Cape Gloucester was a swamp; Peleliu was an oven with no water; the black sands of Iwo Jima bogged the tanks down.

The tenacity of the Japanese defenders was legendary.  What they lacked in dedicated anti-tank weaponry they more than made up for in bravery.  Mines disabled many tanks, these were planted in likely approach areas or hand delivered by infantry who perished as the mines detonated.  Marine tankers quickly learned to operate in groups for mutual support while also being supported by infantry to prevent being swarmed.  The Japanese would employ 47 mm anti-tank guns from concealed bunkers, when fired from close range these were quite capable of penetrating the armor of the Sherman medium tank.  Many garrisons were also equipped with 75 mm anti-aircraft guns which were capable of penetrating the frontal armor of the Sherman at most ranges.  Japanese tanks consisted of the Type 95 Ha-Go and Type 97 Chi-Ha series.  In the few tank on tank battles these proved inferior to U.S. armor and were vulnerable to the Marines Infantry’s 37 mm anti-tank guns and bazookas.

This book is well-researched and depends on numerous first-hand accounts to convey what each campaign was like.  The Marines pull no punches in their accounts which are often detailed and graphic.  There are numerous action photographs presented which should have been a highlight of this volume but unfortunately these are not reproduced well, suffering from overly dark tones with little contrast on plain paper.  In several cases the captions call out interesting details for the reader which are invisible due to the poor presentation of the photograph.

Still this book is valuable, being a detailed and well-researched history of one of the more neglected aspects of the Pacific War.  If a subsequent printing corrected the issues with the presentation of the photographs it would also be useful as a modeling reference.  In spite of the problems with the photographs I can recommend this book for the quality of the research and presentation of first-hand narratives.

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Shooter Book Review

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Shooter: The Autobiography of the Top-Ranked Marine Sniper

By Jack Coughlin and Casey Kuhlman with Donald A. Davis

Hardcover in dustjacket, 320 pages, photographs, indexed

Published by St. Martin’s Press, May 2005

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0312336853

ISBN-13: 978-0312336851

Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.4 inches

Shooter is the story of U.S. Marine Staff Sargent Jack Coughlin, told in his own words.   SSGT Coughlin is a sniper.  The book opens with an engagement in Mogadishu, Somalia against Somali militia.  Next are a few chapters focusing on training, exercises, and base life.  Then more training after 9/11 and deployment with the 1st Marine Division and the war in Iraq.

The bulk of the book focuses on Coughlin’s experiences in the three weeks it took his unit, the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment to reach Baghdad from their starting point in Kuwait.  He chaffed at his position within the Headquarters and Services Company and clashed with his Company Commander, but had the respect of his Battalion Commander.  While he was arguably one of the most experienced snipers within the Battalion, while assigned to the H&S Company his job was not sniping.  He was often able to get into the thick of the action with his own small support team however, and usually with the support (and even insistence) of the Battalion CO.

This is very much a “boots on the ground” narrative, with Coughlin describing details of each action, what he did, what he saw, and what he felt – both good and bad.  The Marines lived in their vehicles and endured heat, sandstorms, and MREs while under constant threat of attack by chemical weapons and the regular Iraqi Army, along with ambushes by irregular forces.

This was a very fast read for me as I enjoy this type of book.  It is full of Marine bravado and pulls no punches on the descriptions of combat and the specific tactics used to achieve each objective.  An engaging account, recommend.

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The Fighters Book Review

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The Fighters:  Americans in Combat in Afghanistan and Iraq

by C. J. Chivers

Hardcover in dustjacket, 400 pages, indexed

Published by Simon & Schuster August 2018

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1451676646

ISBN-13: 978-1451676648

Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches

The Fighters follows the stories of six American military personnel through their deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.  In some cases this is a single tour, in others there are multiple deployments.  The progression of both wars is viewed through their personal perspectives, and those perspectives and the wars themselves change over time.   The protagonists are:

  • a Navy fighter pilot, flying F-14s and later F/A-18s from carriers
  • a Navy corpsman assigned to a Marine platoon
  • an Army OH-58 Kiowa scout helicopter pilot
  • an Army infantryman
  • a Marine platoon commander
  • an Army Special Forces sergeant.

The stories are very personal and often tragic.  Chivers pulls no punches and gives the reader the whole story, both the good and the bad.  The book is arranged chronologically, so the chapters follow one individual and then shift to another, later returning to the original person on a later deployment.  It is thoroughly researched and very well written, just as you would expect from a Pulitzer Prize winning author.  I can recommend it without hesitation to anyone interested in the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars.

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Curtiss SBC Helldiver Color Pictures Part 2

Here is a selection of beautiful in-flight color photographs of SBC Helldiver aircraft in the overall Light Gray scheme.  This scheme was introduced effective 30DEC40 and ended the Yellow Wings era.  Blue Gray was added to upper surfaces of carrier-based aircraft types on 20AUG41 so this scheme was only authorized for a short time.  The first two pictures show a Helldiver with red cross wargame markings and come from National Air and Space Museum Archives, Hans Groenhoff Photo Collection.  The remainder are of SBC-4 Helldivers of VMO-151, a Marine unit which was one of the last operational units on the type.  These pictures are from NASM’s Rudy Arnold Photo Collection.  Enjoy!

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