North Africa and Sicily
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.
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.
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.”
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 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.
This six-book series is Churchill’s personal memoirs.
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.
I like what was said in a review on Amazon.com, “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 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.
Sir Winston Churchill won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953 for this book and the other five books in the series.
“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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
I loved the Blues Brothers call signs of Jake, Elwood, Blues, and Joliet.
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.
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” by Stephen Grey is the story of American and Afghan forces cooperation in dealing with the Taliban stronghold on southern Afghanistan.
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.
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.
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.
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.