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. 


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 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.

The Gathering Storm

The Gathering Storm by Sir Winston Churchill is the first volume of Churchill’s Noble Prize winning six-part chronicle of World War II.

This six-book series is Churchill’s personal memoirs.

The Rise of Hitler and Indifference of European Leaders

The Gathering Storm depicts the rise of Hitler and the indifference of the leaders of the European democracies to the clouds of the gathering storm. Churchill incorporates contemporary documentation and his reminiscence in this opening memoir. Churchill’s mastery of English is reason enough to read this book.

Statesman and Leader of Historic Proportions

I like what was said in a review on, “Winston Churchill was not only a statesman and leader of historic proportions, he also possessed substantial literary talents. These two factors combine to make The Gathering Storm a unique work.”

The Events Between World War One and World War Two

The book tells the story of the events between World War One and World War Two. Churchill shows how key events were ignored or the people simply hoped they would go away without dealing with them. The resulting inaction allowed many of the later events to occur, thus escalating the size and difficulty of the task.

Nobel Prize in Literature

Sir Winston Churchill won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953 for this book and the other five books in the series.

Turning Pro

I first heard of the book “How to Turn Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life’s Work,” by Steven Pressfield while listening to Joanna Penn on “The Creative Penn” podcast.  She seemed to mention the book every few months. Curiosity had the best of me. I located it up on One-click later I had a charge for its purchase on my credit card and the e-book downloaded to my Kindle.
Steven Pressfield’s name registered with me as the author of the novel “The Legend of Bagger Vance” and the non-fiction book “The War of Art.”  Maybe it was the book’s subtitle “Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life’s Work” that caught my attention. A quick read of several Amazon reviews showed a common theme. Most agreed the book helps you navigate the passage from the amateur life to a professional practice. I agree.

How To Be a Professional Artist

In “Turning Pro” Steven Pressfield teaches you how to be a professional artist. The book’s lesson is the reason so many of the writers, producers, bloggers, painters, and designers have a copy of his book in their studio or office. The principles shared in the book worked for them. They will work for you as well. When they have self-doubt, they reread the book and regain their focus.

Pressfield Teaches The Artist How To:

•    Fight resistance,
•    Believe in themselves,
•    Find their muse, and
•    Commit themselves to their craft.He sells the dream of turning pro, of being able to quit your day job. It’s the dream most writer’s I know what to see fulfilled in his or her life. I include myself in the aspiring group.

“Turning Pro” tells us we all have a job to do. It is not the same job for everyone. For some, the job is art. For others, the job they have to do is working in the business world. Creative endeavors like acting or writing await others.  Instead of embracing and doing the job, we spend our energies running from it. We do anything but what we were born to do.

Why do we run? Pressfield argues this is because we are not professionals. We have not learned how to turn pro.

Turning pro cannot be reduced to a formula or streamlined process. The trip is too convoluted, too intimate to allow that. It is a journey. The passage has many steps.  We’ll see those in a minute.

The book is divided into three parts.

Book One is The Amateur Life. 

Pressfield believes that the real problem is that we remain amateurs and never become professionals.

Becoming a pro is about growing up. He says it’s about becoming a man or woman in a world filled with adult children. One of the most important quotes from the book is this: “The difference between an amateur and a professional is their habits.” 

Most people haven’t appreciated the power of habits as much as they should have. We need to realize how much of our lives are shaped by our habits.

To be an amateur is to walk or run away from your true calling. Avoidance is the life of the addict or amateur: a life being distracted from your true calling. We need to not be distracted from what’s important.

Here is a second powerful quote from the book is: “The amateur is an egotist. He takes the material of his personal pain and uses it to draw attention to himself. He creates a ‘life,’ a ‘character,’ a ‘personality.’ The professional has turned a corner in his or her mind. They have succeeded in stepping back from themselves.” 

Why do we choose distraction and addiction? It’s because we look short-term instead of long-term. Addicts and amateurs know that they’re called to something great, but then they back away from the hard work and pain necessary to fulfill their calling. Addictions are the shadow form of our true calling and a metaphor for our best selves.

Steven Pressfield catalogs our addictions. He discusses addictions to failure, sex, distraction, money, and trouble. He philosophizes more on the meaning of addiction, saying “The addict seeks to escape the pain of being human in one of the two ways–by transcending it or by anesthetizing it.”

Book Two is Self-Inflicted Wounds. 

In Book Two, Steven Pressfield states “Fear is the primary color of the amateur’s interior world. Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of looking foolish, fear of under-achieving and fear of over-achieving.” The professional is also fearful, but the difference between the two is how they handle this fear, something the book deals with in Book Three.

Reading “Turning Pro” can change your life. How? You face your fears, your activities, and your habits. You structure your days to achieve an aim. And it changes how you spend our time and with whom you spend it.

Book Three is The Professional Mindset

In Book Three, Steven Pressfield gets to the payoff: how to Turn Pro. He lists twenty characteristics of a pro:

1.      The professional shows up every day
2.      The professional stays on the job all day
3.      The professional is committed over the long haul
4.      For the professional, the stakes are high and real
5.      The professional is patient
6.      The professional seeks order
7.      The professional demystifies
8.      The professional acts in the face of fear
9.      The professional accepts no excuses
10.    The professional plays it as it lays
11.    The professional is prepared
12.    The professional does not show off
13.    The professional dedicates himself to mastering technique
14.    The professional does not hesitate to ask for help
15.    The professional does not take failure or success personally
16.    The professional does not identify with his or her instrument
17.    The professional endures adversity
18.    The professional self-validates
19.    The professional reinvents herself
20.    The professional is recognized by other professionals

I recommend “Turning Pro.” It will make you think. Many of his applications and stories use his journey to becoming a writer as the illustrations to lead us to how to apply it to our life.

Joanna Penn still mentions “How to Turn Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life’s Work,” by Steven Pressfield every few months on “The Creative Penn” podcast.  I now understand why she gushes over his work. It’s a wake-up call on how to cross the threshold from being an amateur to becoming a professional.

A Nightmare’s Prayer

A Memoir

I highly recommend “A Nightmare’s Prayer” by Mike Franzak. It is a wonderful memoir of the early days of the Afghanistan campaign. You get the feeling you are with him as you go through the deployment from Yuma, AZ to Bagram.

I was shocked to learn that the Harrier aircraft cannot take off vertically about 5,000 feet elevation. His description of the scary take off from Cherry Point, North Carolina had the hair standing up on the back of my neck.

Blues Brothers Call Signs

I loved the Blues Brothers call signs of Jake, Elwood, Blues, and Joliet.

Harrier Aircraft’s Achilles Heal

The information that the Harrier Aircraft struggled to stay above 400 Kilometers Per Hour (KPH) with a load and at altitude had me questioning the wisdom of using the aircraft in this theater and wondering why it had ever been added to the arsenal. The book provides a profound reminder of how lethal mines are … and how they don’t know who they are killing.

I shook my head at the policymakers since the 400 KPH speed is the maneuver speed needed to avoid the Surface to Air Missiles (SAM). When reading the book I jotted down a couple of things that caught my attention. First was “The generals and policymakers had grown so risk-averse, they tied the hands of those charged with enforcing the policies.” The second was when he was landing at night and wrote, “I saw the base, but not the runway…” That was pretty profound. The tiny IR lights had been obscured by the generator-powered lights of Bagram Air Base. So much for night light security.

Prayers and Promises

The chapter Prayers and Promises is riveting, heart-pounding and action-packed. And you too will see after reading that chapter that “This time God had answered a Nightmare’s Prayer.”

The book is wonderful. It makes a lasting contribution to the literature and history of the Afghanistan War. You get Mike Franzak’s story. And the story is gripping. It will have you cheering the Nightmare’s actions and shaking your head at the big picture decision makers. Mike Franzak’s memoir will grip you and hold your interest. It will have you turning page after page. You get a nice picture of the soldier on the ground form the pilots point of view. Bravo Lt.Col (Ret) Mike Franzak for a telling your story.

Recommended for all military history buffs and aviation buffs.  Read and reviewed by Jimmie A. Kepler.

Into the Viper’s Nest: The First Pivotal Battle of the Afghan War

“Into the Viper’s Nest: The First Pivotal Battle of the Afghan War” by Stephen Grey is the story of American and Afghan forces cooperation in dealing with the Taliban stronghold on southern Afghanistan.

Three-day Battle for Musa Qala

It details the vivid three-day battle for the Taliban stronghold of Musa Qala. The battle started on 7 December 2007 This is an excellent, well-written book.  Grey skillfully tells the story of how American, British, and Afghan forces took the fight to the Taliban in 2007.

Taliban Stronghold

The town of Musa Qala was a notorious Taliban stronghold. This was the location chosen for everything to change. A local leader decided he was going to leave the Taliban. He was joining the Hamid Karzai’s government. This defection needed coalition protection.

Excellent Writer

Stephen Grey is an excellent writer. He captures all phases of this story. He covers the discussions between President Karzai and coalition leaders. He covers the particulars of the deadly combat to wrestle control of Musa Qala from the hands of the Taliban.

International Cooperation

He paints a picture of International cooperation as he tells the story through the words of the British, Afghani, and American men who were there. The publisher did an excellent job with eight pages of graphics and charts to showing systematically how the battle took place.

I highly recommend this book for any reader looking for a tactical-level viewpoint on the Afghan War. Anyone interested in Afghanistan and the war against the Taliban will benefit from reading the book. I recommend for community and university libraries as well as the personal libraries of all military historians. This is the best I have read on United States involvement in Afghanistan.

Predator: The Remote-Control Air War Over Iraq and Afghanistan: A Pilot’s Story

A Great Story

Wow! This is one well-written book. The story is well told. The book is surprisingly interesting exceeding my expectations.

Flying Airplanes From Half a World Away

My thought going in is a book about flying remote control airplanes from half a world away? No way this could be interesting. What I found was a compelling story that kept my interest and had me viewing modern warfare through a new set of eyes … and I am a former US Army officer! The book will make an amazing movie.


You travel with Gen-X author Matt Martin from his graduation at Purdue University and commissioning as a second lieutenant in the US Air Force through his navigator training and his RC-135 crew experience. We see how his passion to pilot an aircraft fly leads him to apply for the Predator.

The Stories Are Amazing

The stories are amazing. I laughed when his growing up on a farm experience lead him to name the suspicious object between the two builds as a manure pile that was generating heat. The chases of the green Toyota was both educational and spellbinding. The story of the rocket man and their motivation to get the bad guys had me turning each page.


I loved the chapter with the Peugeot chase and surveillance, especially with the Abrams Tank pointing its main gun at the driver. In another chapter, I was amazed when they blew off the front end of the vehicle with the machine gun and gunner surviving. The story of the double air strike’s success in taking out the mortar crew made me glad I am no longer a mortar platoon leader as I was 40 years ago!

Warfare Has Changed

I enjoyed the human side of the stories in the book. You realize how warfare has changed. You realize people go to war for their shift and then go home at the end of their workday. You learn how both restrictive the rules were on the US and yet see how hard we work to protect the innocent.

Helps Explain Both Iraq and Afghanistan

Lt. Col. Martin gives some of the best historical backgrounds on the conflict I have read. It helps explain both Iraq and Afghanistan. He also looks at the morality of war in a very personal way that helps show the human side of our military. The book deserves more attention as it is a significant contribution to the literature of modern warfare.


When I first received the book to review my first thought was we are too close to the war. I highly recommend the book giving it five out of five stars.


You will not be disappointed when you read “Predator: The Remote-Control Air War Over Iraq and Afghanistan: A Pilot’s Story” by Matt J. Martin.

A Few Typos

The book has a few typos that a forward explains. They did not impact my enjoyment of the book. It looks like “quarters” being replaced with “Bobby” … so you have the word “headBobby” instead of headquarters a few times as well a “quarters” being replaced with “Bobby.” It was no big deal. Well done!