Stryker Combat Vehicles Book Review

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Stryker Combat Vehicles

By Gordon L. Rottman, illustrated by Hugh Johnson

Series: Osprey New Vanguard 121

Softcover, 48 pages, index, well-illustrated

Published by Osprey Publishing July 2006

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1-84176-930-4

ISBN-13: 978-1-84176-930-1

Dimensions: 7.2 x 0.1 x 9.8 inches

The Stryker family of armored vehicles is one of the most common types in U.S. inventory with more than 4,400 having been purchased.  The standard configuration is the armored personnel carrier which carries a crew of two and nine infantrymen.  Other versions include a reconnaissance version, a mobile gun system with an unmanned 105 mm gun turret, a mortar carrier, command vehicle, and various supporting functions such as engineering, ambulance, and forward observation.

While the U.S. Army has purchased the Stryker in large numbers, it still remains controversial.  It is only nominally deployable using the USAF C-130, as it is a tight fit and so near the maximum permissible weight that the crew and combat load must be transported separately – up-armored versions cannot be loaded at all.  The recoil of the mobile gun system commonly overturned the vehicle in tests and so has not been fielded.  It is not amphibious like the Marines’ LAV-25; there are no firing ports or vision blocks provided for the infantrymen like the Army’s Bradly IFV.  Perhaps most inexplicable is the cost – at $4.9 Million per vehicle the Army could purchase either four Bradlys or five LAV-25s for the same price, and both of the other vehicles were better armed and already in production.

This book is in the format familiar to readers of the Osprey New Vanguard Series.  The descriptions are brief but adequate, the artwork and photographs are superb.  It is an enjoyable and informative read.  I was not familiar with the Stryker and picked up this volume in an attempt to figure out why it was purchased in such great numbers when there were some obviously superior alternatives already in service.  Now that I am more familiar with the Stryker, I am even more mystified.

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Hasegawa Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero of Takeo Okumura in 1/72 Scale

The fifth leading Imperial Japanese Navy ace was Takeo Okumura with 54 victories.  The model represents WI-108, an A6M3 Type 22 assigned to the 201 Kokutai at Buin in September 1943.  The only profile I was able to locate of this aircraft was in Osprey Aces 22, IJN Aces 1937-45, which was depicted in a badly chipped paint job.  Most photographs of operational Zeros show little or no chipping, so mine is rendered similarly. Okumura was credited with four Chinese aircraft prior to the start of the Pacific War.  He was assigned to the aircraft carrier Ryujo during the Guadalcanal Campaign and was transferred to the Tainan Air Group at Rabaul.  When operating from Buin in September 1943, he was credited with nine victories and one shared over five sorties, a record for the Pacific War.  He was lost at the end of the month attacking a convoy off Cape Cretin, New Guinea.

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Dornier Do 17 Units of World War 2 Book Review

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Dornier Do 17 Units of World War 2

By Chris Goss, profiles by Chris Davey

Series:  Osprey Combat Aircraft 129

Softcover, 96 pages, appendices, 30 color profiles, and index

Published by Osprey Publishing, September 2019

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1472829638

ISBN-13: 978-1472829634

Dimensions:  7.3 x 0.3 x 9.8 inches

State of the art when introduced in the mid-1930s, the Dornier Do 17 was fast approaching obsolescence at the beginning of the Second World War.  It was intended that the “Flying Pencil” would be able to out-run defending fighters, but such was the pace of aeronautical development that it was not considered fast even for a bomber by the start of the war.  Coupled with its poor range and limited bomb load it was destined to be replaced in short order, but along with the Heinkel He 111 the Dornier Do 17 made up the medium bomber arm of the Luftwaffe for the first year of the war.

The Do 17 served with the Condor Legion in Spain, and in the Battle of France.  In the Battle of Britain losses mounted and several units began transition training to the new Ju 88.  Surviving units fought in Greece and in Russia, but by 1942 front-line units had converted to the Ju 88 or the more powerful Do 217 development of the design.  Still, some Do 17s soldiered on in auxiliary roles through the end of the war.

This work tells the story of the units which flew the Do 17 in Luftwaffe service and in the Condor Legion during the Spanish Civil War.  Much of the text reads as a loss list, with dates, places, and crew names given for the aircraft involved.  Being a type with marginal performance figures, attrition was constant and the detailed listing of losses soon becomes repetitive.  The profiles offer little relief, as the vast majority are finished in the same standard Luftwaffe bomber camouflage scheme of 70 / 71 over 65, with a little variation provided by the Condor Legion schemes or those aircraft wearing black distemper for night raids.

Overall there are no surprises here for those familiar with Osprey’s Combat Aircraft series.  The format follows the familiar formula with photographs and color profiles.  The repetitive nature of the writing provides some useful information for amateur researchers, but tends to make recreational reading a slog.  Good for picking a specific Do 17 as a modeling subject.

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Vietnam Airmobile Warfare Tactics Book Review

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Vietnam Airmobile Warfare Tactics

Osprey Elite Series Book 154

By Gordon L. Rottman, illustrated by Adam Hook

Paperback, 64 pages, heavily illustrated

Published by Osprey Publishing, March 2007

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1846031362

ISBN-13: 978-1846031366

Dimensions: 7.3 x 0.2 x 9.9 inches

The development of the helicopter gave military tacticians the potential to move troops around the battlefield in unpresented ways. Natural obstacles or enemy defenses could be avoided by flying over or around to more suitable positions, opposing forces could be cut off by “vertical envelopment”.  Early helicopters were underpowered and therefore lacked the range and payload capacity to make them militarily useful for transporting large formations of troops or heavy equipment, but by the late 1950s new designs were emerging which made combat applications more practical.  The U.S. Army began organizing Airmobile formations, with helicopters effectively being used as flying trucks to move soldiers around the battlefield; the USMC saw the helicopter as another way to move Marines ashore during amphibious assaults.

These new formations saw their first widespread tactical application during the Vietnam war, where ultimately more than 12,000 helicopters were deployed.  In addition to troop transport types such as the UH-1 Huey, specialized gunships, observation, and heavy-lift helicopters were developed and incorporated into operations.  While they gave unprecedented mobility on the battlefield, helicopters were vulnerable to enemy fire, particularly when inserting troops into a landing zone.  A total of 2,066 helicopters would be lost during the Vietnam War.

Vietnam Airmobile Warfare Tactics describes the transformation of the helicopter from a novel aviation vehicle into a vital tactical asset.  This is a standard Osprey Elite Series book, well-illustrated and an excellent primer in operations and tactics of Airmobile warfare.  It provides useful insight into what all those helicopters in Vietnam War movies are doing, or at least supposed to be doing.  Recommended.

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Out of Nowhere: A History of the Military Sniper Book Review

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Out of Nowhere: A History of the Military Sniper

By Martin Pegler

Hardcover in dustjacket, 333 pages, well-illustrated, notes, and index

Published by Osprey Publishing, October 2004

Language: English

ISBN-13: 978-1841768540

ISBN-10: 1-84176-854-5

Dimensions: 7.9 x 1.3 x 10.3 inches

Ever since the first human hurled the first rock mankind has placed a premium on those who could aim a projectile accurately at the longest possible range.  Any group which could damage their enemies before their enemies could damage them enjoyed a significantly higher probability of not only defeating their opposition but also living to fight another day themselves.  The sling, the spear, and the bow were eventually replaced by the firearm in the 1500s, but early firearms were inaccurate, unreliable (especially in wet weather), and slow to reload.  The standard military tactic was to overcome the limitations of the single musket by gathering dozens or even hundreds of soldiers together and firing in volleys against similar masses of opposing soldiers, the volleys often being followed by a charge with the bayonet.

Not all muskets or musketeers were created the same, and some were much better at hitting their targets than others.  Shooting competitions were organized which helped disseminate both knowledge and technical advances.  It was soon realized that individual sharpshooters could be a useful augmentation to the massed fire of standard military formations and the concept of the specialized sniper was born.

This book traces the evolution of the military sniper from the first employments during the 1500s to today.  A major part of the history is devoted to the technological development of the rifle, and later the telescopic sight as improvements in accuracy extended the range of the rifle past the limitations of open sights.  The author describes the evolution of the equipment well, and many of the illustrations focus on the different weapons, optics, and ammunition.  The tactical employment of sniper teams and their tactics are detailed, as well as the counter-sniping role.  Throughout the author has related accounts of how snipers were used in various conflicts and utilized anecdotal descriptions from the actual combatants when available.

This is a good primer on the history of military sniping, being well-written and well organized.  It does not bog down in excessive technical descriptions of the weapons and optics involved, but highlights the evolution of the weapons in a logical manner.  The use of first-person accounts keeps the narrative interesting and keeps the reader looking forward to the next page.  An excellent book which I can recommend to anyone interested in the topic.

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Typhoon Wings of 2nd Tactical Air Force Book Review

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Typhoon Wings of 2nd Tactical Air Force 1943–45

Osprey Combat Aircraft Series 86

By Chris Thomas

Softcover, 96 pages, 40 color profiles

Published by Osprey Publishing, September 2010

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1846039738

ISBN-13: 978-1846039737

Dimensions:  7.3 x 0.3 x 9.9 inches

The Typhoon was designed as a fighter but was mainly used as a ground attack aircraft.  It enjoyed great success in that role, the Royal Air Force fielding twenty wings of the type at the time of the Normandy invasion.  The type had a troubled development history which only got sorted out with great difficulty, and even then with some compromise.

The first chapter deals with the technical and production issues which plagued the introduction of the Typhoon into service.  There were substantial issues with the type’s Napier engine from both the reliability and availability perspectives, the issue got so bad at one point that there were several hundred Typhoon fuselages in depots without engines, as these had been cannibalized to keep the operational squadrons going.  Another more famous issue was a series of structural failures which resulted in Typhoons disintegrating in flight.  The fault was eventually traced to elevator flutter which caused the tail assembly to fail.

The remaining chapters describe the exploits of the men and units which flew the Typhoon in combat.  This is standard fare for the Osprey aviation books but the anecdotes are impressive nonetheless.  There is also the expected color profile section which is a highlight of the series, in this volume there are a total of forty profiles, all in the Dark Green and Ocean Grey over Medium Sea Grey scheme.

Author Chris Thomas mentions three bits of information which I found particularly interesting from a modeling perspective.  First, Typhoon units carried underwing markings in 1943 which were similar to the Normandy “invasion stripes”.  Second, Typhoons were configured with either bombs or Rocket Projectiles, and these versions were usually concentrated together in squadrons of the same type.  And third, a note at the beginning of the Colour Plates description section designates the tailplane and propeller configurations by serial number.

This is a typical Osprey Combat Aircraft series volume and delivers all the goodies readers have come to expect.  I found the chapter on the design and production problems and their solutions particularly interesting.  Overall a nice package and a welcome addition to the series.

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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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Israeli A-4 Skyhawk Units in Combat Book Review

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Israeli A-4 Skyhawk Units in Combat

By Shlomo Aloni, illustrated by Jim Laurier

Osprey Combat Aircraft Series Book 81

Paperback, 96 pages, heavily illustrated, 24 color profiles

Published by Osprey Publishing November 2009

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1846034302

ISBN-13: 978-1846034305

Dimensions: 7.2 x 0.2 x 9.9 inches

The Douglas A-4 Skyhawk is one of the classics of aeronautical engineering.  It was developed as a carrier-borne light attack aircraft for the U.S. Navy.  It was designed by Ed Heinemann and exceeded its design expectations in every respect – it was lighter, smaller, faster, and cheaper than specified.  It was also loved by both pilots and ground crews, it was easy to fly, simple to maintain, and could absorb significant punishment.  Almost 3,000 were produced.

In addition to the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps the Skyhawk was exported to several other air arms, Israel was the largest export customer.  The A-4 was intended to replace both the French Mystere and Ourangan in IDF service.  This book details the political maneuvering and negotiations which resulted in the initial acquisition of the A-4 in 1965 using first-hand accounts from the participants.  I found this process fascinating, and the “What If” crowd will certainly enjoy reading about the multiple aircraft types in consideration for the contract.

The A-4 saw considerable combat while in Israeli service, and these actions are covered well here using pilot interviews and mission summaries.  The factors which lead to changes in tactics and adaptations of the aircraft are interesting.  There is discussion of the organizational structure of the Israeli Air Force and the evolving mission tasking of the Skyhawk force.  It was surprising to see how suddenly the shifts in personnel were conducted, in many cases squadron Commanding Officers were shifted overnight.

The book covers Skyhawk service in the IDF through several major conflicts – the War of Attrition and the Yom Kippur War, along with more limited actions against the PLA and in Lebanon.  This is an interesting narrative which did not get bogged down in dry mission statistics but struck a good balance between first hand accounts and keeping the larger strategic picture in focus.  One of the better volumes in Osprey’s Combat Aircraft Series.

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Mil Mi-24 Hind Gunship Book Review

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Mil Mi-24 Hind Gunship

By Alexander Mladenov, illustrated by Ian Palmer

Osprey New Vanguard Series Book 171

Paperback, 48 pages, heavily illustrated

Published by Osprey Publishing September 2010

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1846039533

ISBN-13: 978-1846039539

Dimensions: 7.2 x 0.1 x 9.9 inches

U.S. helicopter tactics rely on two basic types of platforms – assault helicopters such as the AH-1 Cobra or AH-64 Apache suppress enemy defenses which allows troops to be inserted by transport helicopters such as the UH-1 Huey or UH-60 Blackhawk.  In the Mil MI-24 Hind design the Soviets combined both functions, resulting in a heavily armed (and armored) assault helicopter which could also transport eight infantrymen.

This volume is divided into two parts.  The first half of the book describes the design and development of the Hind.  The various models are described including several types of special-purpose modifications.  For each of these the author lists specific equipment installed to perform the missions required.  The second half of the book is devoted to the various operators of the MI-24.  The author provides an overview of operations of each nations Hinds.  These are specific enough to understand the employment of the helicopters but do not go into great detail or contain crew interviews.

Like all books in the Osprey Vanguard series this is not a lengthy all-encompassing history of the subject but there is enough there to familiarize the reader with the high points.  I felt the technical description was the right length – it covered all the variants and would have bogged down with additional detail.  The section on the service histories was brief.  There are certainly many interesting stories omitted here due to page length.  Overall, another nice volume from Osprey.

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Liberation of Paris 1944 Book Review

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Liberation of Paris 1944: Patton’s race for the Seine

By Steven J. Zaloga, illustrated by Howard Gerrard

Osprey Campaign Book 194

Paperback, 96 pages, heavily illustrated

Published by Osprey Publishing April 2008

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1846032466

ISBN-13: 978-1846032462

Dimensions: 7.2 x 0.3 x 9.9 inches

A campaign to liberate Paris was a battle neither side wanted to fight.  From the American viewpoint, Paris offered little of strategic value.  With the bulk of Germany’s combat strength in France bottled up in the Falaise Pocket, Patton’s 3rd Army was facing little in the way of organized resistance; the only thing slowing him down was finding enough fuel to continue his onslaught.  Attacking Paris would bog American divisions down in urban warfare, and divert much needed logistical capacity away from the spearheads driving deeper into France.

From the German perspective, there was little front-line combat strength with which to mount a meaningful defense.  The German General, Dietrich von Choltitz, was able to form ad hoc units from staff and support personnel based in Paris, but these were not seasoned combat troops.  Armor was scarce, consisting of obsolete French tanks taken over by the Wehrmacht for garrison and policing duties along with a few Panthers, replacements meant for other units which were requisitioned for the defense.  Under orders from Hitler to burn Paris to the ground rather than let the Allies take the city, Choltitz had little means and no desire to raze one of Europe’s great cities.

The French had other plans.  De Gaulle wanted very much to be seen as the liberator of Paris.  This would instantly give him political legitimacy as the leader of the French people after the war.  Leclerc’s French 2e Division Blindée, patterned after and equipped as an American armored division, provided him the means to realize his ambition.  For their part, the French Resistance (FFI) was divided along political lines.  The Communist faction wanted to start an uprising at the earliest opportunity, while the other factions were more pragmatic, observing the results of the premature Warsaw Uprising to the East.  In any case, the FFI was short of weapons.  This only worsened after the Germans confiscated the revolvers of the Paris police force.

In the end, an uprising by the FFI forced everyone’s hand.  They seized several buildings and erected barricades, and as expected were met with some resistance from Choltitz’ garrison forces.  Fearing the situation might get out of control Eisenhower changed his plans and dispatched de Gaulle with Leclerc’s 2e Division and the American 4th Infantry Division.

In many ways this was a political battle for what France would become after the war instead of a battle fought to help win the war.  The Allies wanted to avoid fighting in Paris and even the German defenders did not want to see the city destroyed.  The various French factions were looking to gain political standing to advance their own goals in a post-war France.  As Clausewitz said, “War is not an independent phenomenon, but the continuation of politics by different means.”

The book follows the standard format for Osprey’s Campaign series, and is heavily illustrated with maps, photographs, and artwork illustrating important incidents.  A good volume which I can recommend to anyone interested in the Liberation of France.

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