Friday, 22 March 2013

The Eyes of the Division - Helmut Gunther

The information presented was written by Chris Buckham; however, it was published in The Canadian Army Journal. Therefore, the material is reproduced here by the author with the permission of the journal. If you would like to republish this information or refer to excerpts please contact the Editor Canadian Army Journal ( Website for the Journal is:

Title: The Eyes of the Division

Author: Helmut Gunther
Publisher: J.J. Fedorowicz Publishing Inc (
ISBN: 1-927332-00-9
Pages: 252
Photographs: 68 b/w and 11 maps
          Helmut Gunther became a Untersturmfuhrer  (Second Lieutenant) in the Recce Bn of the 17th SS Panzer Grenadier Division in 1944 following his recovery from wounds received during operations on the Eastern Front. His book commences with his unit being stationed in Vire, France on the 6th June and the commencement of the invasion of Normandy. The memoire traces the units operations as it engages British and American forces across the breadth of France to the region of Metz where he is once again wounded and hospitalized until the end of the war. What follows is an account of the treatment that German POWs received from the victorious Allies as each side struggles to come to grips with the challenges of postwar Germany.

This narrative focuses exclusively at the tactical level. Gunther relates his and his comrades experiences from the perspective of the small unit. One clearly begins to see the confusion relating to an army engaged in continuous defensive operations. He relates the frustrations and challenges through a lens of cynical humour and resignation universal to soldiers everywhere. One of the real strengths of this book is that the reader begins to appreciate the German soldier as a human being suffering the same fatigue, fear and uncertainties as soldiers anywhere. Additionally, I was also struck by the resilience in adversity and the maintenance of professionalism even as the front collapsed.

Gunther relates a number of anecdotes throughout the book that provide insight into the morale, resilience and dedication of the German soldier. Stories such as some of the ‘snatch and grab’ missions, leaving a unit calling card on the doorway of US Regimental HQ during a deep recce operation and utilizing ‘unorthodox’ means to acquire logistics support from the German system all provide depth to the narrative. His comments and observations relating to the incarceration of the German soldiers following the cessation of hostilities are very enlightening and concerning. Additionally, the demobilization documents provided by the author are interesting in that he is precluded from any professional employment due to his being a member of a Waffen-SS unit. He relates that this, in fact, was never an issue when it came to post war work.

The writing style of the author is somewhat choppy and broken. He is not a professional author. He provides personally produced local maps that provide some assistance in tracking the unit location. It is, at times, difficult to follow the narrative as he is relating his stories from snippets of diary correspondence that he kept throughout the war. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the book. It was refreshingly candid and free from heavy moralizing one way or the other. It is the recollections of a soldier of his experiences and those of his immediate peers and the methods by which they coped under conditions that would challenge the strongest of characters.

JJFPub has a tradition of quality books and this product is no exception. Once again they have provided an outstanding source for the military historian looking for the ‘human’ experience.

The Real Great Escape - Guy Walters

The information presented was written by Chris Buckham; however, it was published in Soldier Magazine. Therefore, the material is reproduced here by the author with the permission of the magazine. If you would like to republish this information or refer to excerpts please contact the Assistant Editor Soldier Magazine ( Website for the Magazine is:
Title: The Real Great Escape 
Author: Guy Walters
ISBN: 978-0-593-07190-8
Publisher: Bantam Press
Pages: 411

Attempting to escape is one of the key responsibilities of an incarcerated soldier. Walters has drafted a book that provides a thrilling and insightful account of one of the greatest escape attempts in history; that of hundreds of Allied airmen out of Stalag Luft III in March 1944. His account is fast paced and engaging, drawing upon both Allied and German testimony. The reader is exposed to not only the ringleaders of the plan but also the relationship between the prisoners and their German captors. He also delves into the flight, recapture and tragic ending to many of the prisoner’s stories. Included are accounts of the Gestapo agents and their fates following the war. The book is both a page turner and incredible story.

Warrior Geeks - Christopher Coker

The information presented was written by Chris Buckham; however, it was published in Soldier Magazine. Therefore, the material is reproduced here by the author with the permission of the magazine. If you would like to republish this information or refer to excerpts please contact the Assistant Editor Soldier Magazine ( Website for the Magazine is:
Title: Warrior Geeks
Author: Christopher Coker
ISBN: 978-1-84904-254-3
Publisher: Hurst and Company
Pages: 330

Coker’s book focuses on the potential eradication of the Homeric warrior as a result of the advancement of science and technology. That is to say, he discusses the human element of the war fighter being subsumed by biologically and technologically enhanced soldiers, devoid or incapable of the warrior ethos/ethic and the human character that is an inherent part of who we are. This is not an easy read, nor does it leave one feeling particularly comfortable; it is not meant to. It raises disturbing, challenging and fundamental questions that have not been addressed. A very thought provoking book. Recommended.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Africa at War Series - McWilliams, Baxter, Gillmore, Wood

The information presented was written by Chris Buckham; however, it was published in The Journal of the RCAF. Therefore, the material is reproduced here by the author with the permission of the journal. If you would like to republish this information or refer to excerpts please contact the Editor RCAF Journal ( Website for the Journal is:

Title: Battle for Cassinga                            Title: Pathfinder Company
ISBN: 978-1-907677-39-7                          ISBN: 978-1920143-48-0
Pgs: 64                                                         Pgs: 160
Publisher: Helion/30 Degrees South           Pub: 30 Degrees South
Author: Mike McWilliams                          Author: Graham Gillmore

Title: Selous Scouts                                     Title: Op Dingo
ISBN: 978-1-907677-38-0                           ISBN: 978-1-907677-36-6
Pgs: 64                                                          Pgs: 64
Publisher: Helion/30 Degrees South            Publisher: Helion/30 Degrees South   
Author: Peter Baxter                                    Author: Dr JRT Wood

Title: France in Centreafrique
ISBN: 978-1-907677-37-3
Pgs: 64
Publisher:  Helion/30 Degrees South        
Author: Peter Baxter

     Africa has been witness to a myriad of colonial and domestic military operations that have served as the basis for much of the joint and asymmetric doctrine used by Western powers today. Battles and places such as Cassinga, Dingo and Chimoio are not well known in the West. They are however, very well known to the Rhodesians, South Africans, Angolans, Cubans and others who fought and died in these conflicts. Why this is relevant to the West other than as a footnote of history is easily discernible when one considers the nature of warfare in the modern world and the methodologies necessary to combat it. The authors of this series experienced firsthand the environments within which the paradigm and doctrinal changes necessary to combat these new adversaries were developed. In many cases they were directly involved in the development and implementation themselves. This is important to note as it lends additional credibility to the observations put forward.

     In effect these changes may be broken down into distinct facets:
1.       Development of Joint operational doctrine and execution involving multiple elements within the military (ie army and air force );
2.       Streamlined Command and Control structures involving multiple departmental agencies (ie police, intelligence and military);
3.        Significant improvisation utilizing homegrown technological developments; and
4.         Development of specialized units for intelligence gathering and infiltration activities.

     A clear example of this is in Wood’s book “Op Dingo” where he traces the actions of the Rhodesian military as it grapples with an increasingly violent insurgency supported by neighbouring country’s providing safe havens to the insurgents. Additionally, Rhodesia was hamstrung by an international embargo and threatened by adversaries supported by the Warsaw Pact. These challenges demanded innovation to address and overcome. As a result  they rapidly developed light, extremely mobile infantry centered on a joint doctrine involving fast air, parachute and rotary wing infil and exfil supported by flying columns of fast strike, heavily armed jeep convoys; the so-called “Fireforce” concept. Overseeing these operations was the JOC (Joint Operations Centre), an ad hoc organization consisting of senior local members of the security and intelligence community that was mandated to determine viability and scope of response or action. A JOC was only stood up during the period of the action and was responsible only for activities within their designated geographic area of the country.

     Peter Baxter’s book ”Selous Scouts” investigates the development of new and innovative units and techniques in the field of intelligence gathering. The Scouts were a highly trained unit specialized at operating both domestically and within neighbouring countries well ‘off of the grid’. Proactively recruiting turned insurgents, centering efforts on experts with local knowledge, deep penetration observation operations and infiltrating insurgent organizations formed the basis of their modus operandi.  All point towards a change in focus from traditional conventional war and the unique capabilities that this unit brought to the fight.

     Gillmore’s book “Pathfinder Company” goes into detail regarding the special South African ops group 44 Parachute Brigade. Formed following the raid on Cassinga and the identified need for a specialized pathfinder capability this unit conducted deep penetration attacks into Angola utilizing modified jeeps as their primary means of insertion. This mobility allowed for flexibility of ops and independent action that served to undermine the confidence of insurgent organization in the invulnerability of their safe havens.

     McWilliam’s book “Battle for Cassinga” represents many of the techniques and doctrinal advances made during the African wars brought to a very high state of effectiveness. Concurrent to and in conjunction with the Rhodesians, the South Africans honed their skills at vertical envelopment using parachute and rotary wing insertion supported by fast air assets culminating in a deep strike on insurgent training bases within Angola over 1000 nautical miles from their mounting airfield.

     Baxter’s book “France in Centrafrique” focuses on the events surrounding the post-colonial experience of the western powers in Africa; in this case Central African Republic. It is of interest to readers because it sheds light on the changing role that France played in Africa from colonial power to economic and military real politique  in her dealings with local dictators and governments. An insightful and eye opening appraisal of the difficult and challenging transitions that followed colonial rule.

     Each of the books in this series is a well documented and researched synopsis of the events that they are focused upon. The layouts and presentation are logical and of a very high quality. Each provides a solid overview of the regional and international climate of its respective topic area in order to provide the reader with context. The narrative is balanced with credit and criticism being given in equal parts where deserved.  Replete with photos and colour maps, these books serve to provide readers with a strong introduction to the subjects explored. While this does leave some questions for the readers, it, in my opinion, in no way detracts from the focus or quality of this series. There are definitely books available that go into greater depth and detail surrounding the units and operations discussed here; however, as an introduction to this field of operation, this series is outstanding. A definite asset for those wishing to improve their knowledge and understanding of the development of successful, multi-faceted doctrine in the fight against insurgent/asymmetric war.

Age of Airpower - Martin van Creveld

The information presented was written by Chris Buckham; however, it was published in The Journal of the RCAF. Therefore, the material is reproduced here by the author with the permission of the journal. If you would like to republish this information or refer to excerpts please contact the Editor RCAF Journal ( Website for the Journal is:

Title: Age of Airpower 
Author: Martin van Creveld
ISBN:  158648981X
Publisher: Public Affairs

Martin van Creveld has a long history of scholarly writings that explore and challenge long-held beliefs and the ‘sacred elephants’ of the military. His latest book, The Age of Airpower, is no exception. Continuing his tradition of exceptionally detailed research and extrapolation/interpretation of data, he traces the evolution of airpower as an effective and relevant ‘third pillar’ in the commander’s arsenal. Commencing with the development of flight pre-WW1, he tracks its spectacular rise from rather obscure and simplistic beginnings, through its expansion and technological development at all doctrinal levels (strategic, operational and tactical) during the ensuing WW2 and Cold War years, culminating in its role in what has become the modern asymmetric battlefield of the post-Soviet era.

Of particular note is Van Creveld’s look at the impact of the nuclear and missile age upon airpower as a stand alone capability. Once considered to be the mainstay of the world’s air forces, the bomber arm ran into technological and doctrinal trouble with the advent of ballistic missiles, ICBM’s, cruise missile capability and nuclear warfare. Following WW2, the air force worked very hard to maintain a role for itself as the only arm capable of carrying out a nuclear strategic strike against an enemy force. However, with the advent of smaller nuclear warheads and an increase in missile range and accuracy, expensive bombers became redundant and gradually have disappeared off of the line of battle as a separate capability. In fact, ironically, increased accuracy of missiles has resulted in a diminishment of the strategic aspect of air ops. That is to say, all targets, regardless of range, may now be considered tactical in nature which constitutes a dramatic change in paradigm.

The canvas of this book is very broad, encompassing comments upon the diminishment of the naval air arm in the post WW2 era, areas of Cold War conflict such as the Middle east, the failure of airpower to be able to effectively come to grips with insurgents in non-traditional combat environments and the challenge of creating doctrine that establishes effective parameters of use for air forces. One of the strengths of this book is the fact that van Creveld makes use of historical examples to reinforce and clarify his observations. This makes it much easier to follow and to understand the applications he discusses.  

Van Creveld’s work outlines several key elements of the airpower story:
1.       Rapid Development: Its rise and capability development has been unprecedented in military history. It may be argued that no other element of military force has benefitted from the advent of both the industrial/technological revolution and the requirements of war;
2.       New View of Warfighting: The development of airpower and its doctrine has had a fundamental impact on the evolution in doctrine of the other branches of the military and the paradigm through which commanders and governments envision and prepare for conflict;
3.       Capability Outpacing Doctrine: The vision of the role, use and effectiveness of airpower has been challenging and controversial due to the fact that capabilities have evolved at a breath-taking rate, precluding the opportunity to draw upon historical precedents to evaluate future focus;
4.       R & D Prohibitively Expensive: Airpower is rapidly becoming a potential victim of its own success in that cost required for research and development is outpacing the national level capacity to fund. This results in fewer states being able to create and maintain cutting edge capability. This in turn results in diminishing markets for sale, higher per unit cost and a subsequent reluctance of national governments to assume risk in the utilization of these assets;
5.       Air Assets and Asymmetric Warfare: The rise of asymmetric style warfare with its emphasis on non-traditional style combat and lack of ‘hard targets’ revealed a series of limitations in the effective utilization of air assets as  an efficient counter to these threats; and
6.       New Technology: The traditional sense that air forces, due to what we may call their ‘individuality and youth’, have always challenged the more traditional aspects of military force now find the challenges coming full circle as they grapple with the concept that technology may be undermining the requirement for manned aircraft and what the role will be for the aircrew of the future.

          Overall, this book represents to the Air force professional and the general reader, a concise synopsis of issues that face not only Air Forces but also governments as they balance defence needs with budgetary constraints. There are some very uncomfortable questions raised by Van Creveld that challenge the very foundations upon which Air Forces are built and developed; questions that need to be asked and debated openly and frankly as we move into the future.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

1914-1918 An Eyewitness to War - Edited by Bob Carruthers

The information presented was written by Chris Buckham; however, it was published in Soldier Magazine. Therefore, the material is reproduced here by the author with the permission of the magazine. If you would like to republish this information or refer to excerpts please contact the Assistant Editor Soldier Magazine ( Website for the Magazine is:
Title: 1914-1918 An Eyewitness to War
Author: Edited by Bob Carruthers
ISBN: 978-1-78159-151-2
Publisher: Pen-and-Sword Books

I enjoyed this book. What made it somewhat unique for me from other ‘eyewitness’ accounts was that it encompassed not only the recollections of soldiers from all walks of life and services, but also from non-combatants such as painters and journalists who were also involved at the front. The recollections are, at times, a bit hard to follow as they are presenting perspective and emotion as opposed to fact. They are; however, very honest and insightful. Indeed, one is presented with views not normally associated with traditional war commentaries (such as the civilian fire chief of the town of Verdun). A moving and worthwhile work.

The Lords of War - Correlli Barnett

The information presented was written by Chris Buckham; however, it was published in Soldier Magazine. Therefore, the material is reproduced here by the author with the permission of the magazine. If you would like to republish this information or refer to excerpts please contact the Assistant Editor Soldier Magazine ( Website for the Magazine is:
Title: The Lords of War
Author: Correlli Barnett
ISBN: 978-178-159-0935
Publisher: Pen-and-Sword Books

Historians are noted for two things: their strong opinions and the subjectivity of their work. Corelli Barnett’s book meets both of these criteria. Each of the twenty leaders that he reviews is presented in a balanced and insightful way. While necessity demands that their individual write-ups are short, the chapters do provide the reader with enough thought provoking information to spur additional interest. This book is not intended to present the reader with definitive evaluations of the subjects but it is a great starting point. I strongly recommend this book to both the aspiring military historian and the casual reader.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Open Cockpit - Arthur Gould Lee

The information presented was written by Chris Buckham; however, it was published in Airforce magazine. Therefore, the material is proprietary to the Air Force Association of Canada and is reproduced here by the author with the permission of the association. If you would like to republish this information or refer to excerpts please contact the Editor Airforce magazine ( ). I support the Air Force Association’s important mission to inform new generations of Canadians about the value and importance of their country’s air force. A link to the AirForce Magazine website is:
Title: Open Cockpit
Author: Arthur Gould Lee
ISBN: 9781908117250
Pages: 212
Illustrations: 29 b/w
Publisher: Grub Street Publishing

     The author, Gould, was a fighter pilot in the RAF from early 1916 until the end of the war having transferred from an initial stint with the infantry. His autobiography encompassing his period of training and operational flying is an engaging and enlightening window into the early years of military flying. His intent is not to glorify or romanticize the role of the fighter pilot, but rather to provide insight into the lives and challenges of a line pilot in the cauldron of the First World War. He is a gifted writer and his work conveys his story to the reader in a casual yet compelling way. Indeed, one could easily imagine the author, with a brandy and cigar, sitting across from the reader in his library relating the story of a particularly notable period of his life.

      Gould’s discussion of the training that he received is of particular interest. The casual, almost haphazard method that young pilots were introduced to the mysteries of flight is both shocking and comical. In today’s technological world of aviation, it is hard to imagine sending up novice pilots with a couple   hours training to solo without even understanding the basics of how to recover from a spin (and, in fact, the powers that be did not know the answer to this question until well into the war). The fact that pilot training was, in many respects, as dangerous as combat, further deepens ones respect for those early pilots who took up the challenge of flight.

     I was particularly taken with his descriptions of patrols. Typically these lasted for two to three hours and as his aircraft, the Sopwith Pup, handled better at higher altitudes, 18 – 20,000 ft was not uncommon. As a rule of thumb, any sustained operation above 10,000 ft today requires the use of oxygen in an unpressurized environment. Imagine if you will, operating at 20,000 ft without oxygen or heating in open cockpits for two to three hours!!! Now add the stress and challenge of potential combat onto that (and without parachutes). Modern aviation medicine tells us that it is incredibly hard both psychologically and physically to sustain this kind of undertaking. It boggles the mind that these men were expected to do it two to three times per day, every day. Gould’s reminisces of these events leave the reader shaking their head in wonder.  

     The author does discuss his thoughts on the courage of the fighter pilot compared with other elements of the airforce (such as observation and reconnaissance aircraft) and the army. His views are poignant and balanced. In effect, he acknowledges that each of the branches had stressors uniquely theirs and so one may not, with any degree of legitimacy, suggest that one group was braver than another. In his view, the main challenge for the fighter pilot was centred upon the fact that he was alone. In the air, he did not have the support of being able to overcome/dilute his fear through the close proximity of his peers and friends. He comments that a significant part of his maturity and development as a pilot occurred during a scrap with a Albatros D-III. The German and Gould were alone facing each other and the German’s aircraft was overall a far superior one to the Pup that Gould was flying. Nevertheless, the German broke contact and retreated to his own lines. It was at that moment, Gould recounts, that he realized that his adversaries were as scared, and therefore as human, as he. The quality of the aircraft, while important, was not the only factor in survival in the air. Psychologically, the balance was made more even for Gould because of this realization.

     Grub Street publishing has produced yet another high quality book. The production value is first rate and well worth the money.

     Overall, I have to say that this was one of the most enjoyable books that I have read about the experiences of a First World War combatant. Gould is a top notch author who is able to tell his tale without being overly dramatic or gruesome. A thoroughly engaging read, I had trouble putting the book down. I highly recommend this book to those looking for a story that entertains and educates concurrently.

Cyber War - Richard A. Clarke

The information presented was written by Chris Buckham; however, it was published in Leatherneck Magazine. Therefore, the material is reproduced here by the author with the permission of the magazine. If you would like to republish this information or refer to excerpts please contact the Editor Leatherneck Magazine ( ). Website for the Magazine is:

Title: Cyber War
Author: Richard A. Clarke
Publisher: Harper Collins
ISBN: 978-0-06-196223-3
Pages: 290
            In a recent edition of the International Herald Tribune, there was an oped article by Vincent Cerf expressing concern about the potential limitations and oversight being considered for the internet at an upcoming International Telecommunications Union (an organization within the U.N) summit. The nature of the article underlines the fundamental debate raging in today’s world where the unregulated internet is being used for both positive and negative outcomes and provides the backbone within which hazard and threat could potentially be directed at the world’s increasingly digitized social and economic structures.

                The premise of Richard A Clarke’s book “Cyber War” addresses this issue directly with a broad ranging review of what it is, how it is being used (both offensively and defensively), how prepared the world is for it and what recommendations he would suggest on how nation states can ensure that they don’t fall victim to it. He acknowledges at the outset that this is a very complex subject; one fraught with aspects that transcend social, economic, national and cultural boundaries; and one that not enough attention is being paid to for a number of reasons.

                He approaches the issues, background and recommendations in such a manner that that they are accessible to the common reader and does not shy away from identifying positions that run contrary to his own. This approach is a major strength of the narrative. Cyber warfare is unlike any potential battlefield that we, as nations, have ever been faced with. The potential for a nation with very limited traditional offensive capabilities to be able to undermine the military strength of a first world power with a few keystrokes that shut down power grids or communication systems is a profound change in paradigm. Indeed, as Clarke points out, it fundamentally alters the art and practice of international relations (and warfare) as we understand it. Further complicating the issue is the fact that access to this potential is not limited to nation states but to individuals in the form of terrorists, hackers and activists.

                This book is important because it provides education to those not familiar with the threat and promotes dialogue within the circles of government, industry and society on what we should do. A major stumbling block to the discussion is as basic as trying to identify what constitutes a threat that requires government intervention or oversight. For example, if you receive spam that shuts down your server, is that an attack or simply malicious behavior on the part of the originator of the spam? Does a self replicating virus constitute a national level threat? Coming to common agreement on the definition of what constitutes cyber warfare is a huge undertaking in and of itself. Clarke points out that this agreement is not solely resting within the purview of national level governments as traditional threats (ie gas warfare) have done. This also has to include industry and society as they will be profoundly affected by decisions based upon international agreement.

                The creators of the internet had no idea of the range and scope of its potential; neither did governments. Originally designed to support research and development within closed circles of scientists and academics, it has expanded through industry to provide a worldwide interface that has largely developed from the bottom up, free of regulatory oversight. This has always been touted as one of the internet’s strengths. Unfortunately, as Cyber War identifies, it has also resulted in being one of its great vulnerabilities (or opportunities depending upon your perspective). Clarke points out that this has been recognized but that nothing has been done for a number of reasons:

a.       Lack of visible loss – society has not experienced a major disruption that they have equated to an internet attack;
      b.      Lack of consensus on what to do – between industry, government and interest groups;
      c.       Concerns over privacy and regulation – how much is too much;
      d.      Boy who cried wolf syndrome – too many alleged threats with no discernible consequence;
      e.      Influence of big business ie Microsoft on the discussion; and
      f.        Disagreement on who is responsible for internet security/regulation – the Government or    industry?

Each of these areas opens a Pandora’s box of negotiation, perception and discussion with little to no consensus.

                Negotiations concerning traditional conventional weapons systems and the nuclear threat, have been able to be accomplished much through deterrence. That discussion centered on capability and included academics and military experts able to provide government negotiators with hard data that could be balanced against. In the world of cyber warfare, individuals have little to no idea of the offensive or defensive capabilities of their potential adversaries (or even who those adversaries may be). Given that fact, how does a nation prepare itself and, within the realm of negotiated treaty, how does a nation ensure compliance?

                Clarke identifies and explains what he sees as the five main areas of vulnerability for nation states: 1. lack of encryption, 2. the decentralization of the system, 3. border gateway protocols (essentially how information enters the system), 4. domain naming system (how information is identified), and 5. the propagation of malicious traffic. He then goes on to recommend methods by which these could be addressed (acknowledging however that this will require some form of regulation). For Clarke, the issue is not should there be a form of regulation, but more, what kind of and under whose authority should this be done.

                The irony of cyber warfare to the first world nations is that the development and propagation of the internet has made them more vulnerable than ever to threat due to the high level of digitization of banking, power, transportation etc. That which has made the West stronger has also made it weaker. This is an excellent book to explain the issues at hand and to stimulate discussion towards addressing the challenges of ensuring  that the internet remains safe while continuing to provide a medium for making the world smaller.

From Kabul to Baghdad and Back - John R Ballard, David W. Lamm, John K. Wood

The information presented was written by Chris Buckham; however, it was published in Leatherneck Magazine. Therefore, the material is reproduced here by the author with the permission of the magazine. If you would like to republish this information or refer to excerpts please contact the Editor Leatherneck Magazine ( ). Website for the Magazine is:

Title: From Kabul to Baghdad and Back
Authors: John R. Ballard, David W. Lamm and John K. Wood
ISBN: 9781612510224
Pages: 384
Illustrations: 11 b/w
Publisher: Naval Institute Press

     Ballard, Lamb and Wood’s book: From Kabul to Baghdad and Back is a chronological synopsis of the concurrent conflicts that the United States undertook in Afghanistan and Iraq. Their thesis focuses on the challenges faced by the US regarding the effective execution of these operations from both a ‘command and control’ and a resource perspective. Initially evaluating the strategic decision-making at the political level, they identify challenges such as the convoluted command and control/decision-making processes that served to limit the effectiveness and timeliness of execution throughout the efforts. Additionally, they further expand upon the challenges and successes at both the strategic and operational level as Central Command attempted to prosecute concurrently a symmetric war in Iraq (that subsequently became asymmetric) and an asymmetric war in Afghanistan. Further enhancing the difficulty of this, the authors highlight the background of ongoing political efforts to maintain both focus and support as the wars progressed. Further exacerbating the efforts were the difficulties in the responsiveness and dynamism of the NATO command system in Afghanistan and the US command system in Iraq. The authors point out however, the improvements that were recognized as the decade unfolded. Certainly, they point out, lessons were learned and applied and they highlight the changes that were made in response to these lessons. The book concludes with a note of caution relating to future US operations involving multiple theatres of operations. This portion represents a real strength in the narrative as the authors provide a comprehensive synopsis of lessons learned, command challenges, an overall comparison of the phases of the two operations and also a highlight of those aspects of the wars that were and were not a success. They also have provided a recommended roadmap for the future and where emphasis needs to be placed in order to avoid some of the pitfalls in the future.

     The book covers a massive topic in terms of scope, depth and complexity. Given that fact, there is a great deal for the reader to absorb and comprehend. The linear dialogue that the authors utilize to trace the development of the two theatres (including a brief history leading up to the conflicts) is appropriate and effective in that it clearly structures the information for the readers. Of particular benefit is the breakdown of the story into manageable ‘bites’ identified by sub-titles within the paragraphs. Nonetheless, it is necessary to pay close attention as the narrative develops in order to maintain awareness of the storyline. Typical of Government/Military ‘speak’ is the prodigious use of acronyms throughout the text. The authors do a commendable job in addressing this issue through the use of a “Acronym and Abbreviation’ section. (the fact that it is nine pages long gives an indication of what the reader has in store).

     A central theme of both the thesis of the authors (that being the almost insurmountable challenges of concurrent duel conflicts) and the narrative itself is the complexity of the command structure. In Afghanistan, for example, American commanders were faced with coordinating policy and operations between a NATO command structure (which answered to both NATO and the individual national governments), NGO’s, the Government of Afghanistan itself (which carried with it a whole host of issues including corruption, effectiveness and the power structure of the tribes and warlords), domestic (US) limitations, US OGD’s (Other Government Departments), the spillover of the conflict into Pakistan and the command structure of the US military itself. Any one of these would be challenging in and of itself, but combined presented challenges daunting in any environment. The authors provide a striking analysis of the breadth of these problems within both the Afghan and Iraq theatres of operations. However, due to the scope of the book, there is left room for additional evaluation and analysis. For example within the structure of Central Command (the COCOM responsible for both Iraq and Afghanistan), the blurring of the delineation of authority between the operational and strategic levels is of note. Additionally, while the authors refer to the advent of technology and its impact upon operational capability throughout the narrative, I would have liked to have seen more discussion and analysis on the degree of stress put on the command structures through micromanagement resulting from the selfsame technology (so-called challenges of effective information management and execution).

     One of the clear lessons derived from the book is the fact that the US Administration and the Department of Defence did not fully grasp the difficulties relating to operations within an asymmetric conflict environment. Additionally, there was little initial thought given to the concept of nation building and who would be responsible for it. The authors do provide an excellent evaluation of the struggles within the various departments responsible for civilian and military administration within the conflict zones as the scope of the problems unfold before them. This books interpretation of the mean by which these issues were dealt with provides invaluable insight into the inner workings of the US senior planning staff and the limitations and challenges presented by the complexities of the conflicts to effective and timely decision making. 

     The authors are to be commended for taking on the challenge of evaluating the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and translating the vast store of knowledge surrounding the successes and failures within each into a format that enables readers to begin to grasp the true complexities of the actions undertaken by the United States. The selected bibliography and extensive footnoting are extremely valuable and ensure the reader excellent access to additional sources. 
Overall, this is a highly recommended book. The author’s assessments of the conflicts, the method by which they present their findings and the depth of evaluation that they undertake makes this a singular work for an overall understanding of the conflicts thus far.

From Fledgling to Eagle: The Development of the South African Air Force - Brig-Gen Dick Lord

The information presented was written by Chris Buckham; however, it was published in The Canadian Aviation Historical Society Journal. Therefore, the material is reproduced here by the author with the permission of the journal. If you would like to republish this information or refer to excerpts please contact the Editor CAHS Journal ( Website for the Journal is:

Title: From Fledgling to Eagle: The Development of the South African Air Force
Author: Brig-Gen Dick Lord
ISBN: 9781920143305
Pages: 528
Illustrations: 40 colour, extensive b/w
Publisher: 30 Degrees South Publishers

    Brig-Gen (Ret’d) Dick Lord’s book ‘From Fledgling to Eagle’ traces the development of the South African Air Force (SAAF) from its conception to the end of the Bush War period in 1989. The book commences with a synopsis of the relationship that South Africa has with the international community and the background behind its gradual isolation on the world stage. This sets the environment for the reader and provides context for the main thrust of the book which encompasses the doctrinal and technological development of the airforce during the period of the Bush War years, 1974 to 1989. Interwoven with this, Lord skillfully lays out the main activities/operations of the airforce in support of ground and air operations throughout this period. He also incorporates the regional political and international hurdles that affected the operational effectiveness and capability of the SAAF.   

    Lord covers the efforts of fixed wing fighter, transport and rotary wing assets in such a way as to clearly identify their successes and challenges in support of the air and ground campaign against the African forces of SWAPO (South West Africa People’s Organization), MPLA (Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola) and the Eastern block countries that supported them. He seamlessly shifts from the strategic view of operations (such as discussion of the international embargo on certain technologies and their affect on local development and capability) to the operational (looking at the development of the Fireforce concept of operations) and the tactical (where he discusses in detail the development and execution of operations such as Op Cassinga). 

    His detailed evaluation of Op Cassinga is of particular interest to the reader as it represents the developmental peak and execution of the Fireforce doctrine. Fireforce represented a joint doctrine that entailed close operational and tactical support between land forces, rotary wing infil/exfil, fast air support and operational command and control from an additional onsite airborne platform. This doctrine developed to a great extent from the effects of the international embargo and the regional requirements of asymmetric warfare against the African forces in Angola/South West Africa. It clearly underlines the ability of the SAAF to draw upon lessons learned in the regional conflicts of Rhodesia and SWA.

    From Fledgling to Eagle is written in an extremely engaging style that brings the reader into the forefront of operations throughout the border wars. The depth and breadth of detail that BGen Lord brings to his narrative sheds a great deal of light on the transition of the SAAF into an elite asymmetric engagement force. He does not ignore the opposition however. Concurrent to his tracking the advancement of the SAAF, Lord recognizes the exponential improvement in the capabilities of the SWAPO and MPLA adversaries. They became increasingly hazardous to the SAAF as the primary source of advisors and weapons, the Soviet Union, started providing advanced ground to air weapons systems. Additionally, these groups were reinforced by Angolan (Angola not only overtly supported them but also provided sanctuary for the insurgent groups) and Cuban regular forces. Lord acknowledges and speaks to the bravery of the individual insurgent soldier but is harsh in his criticism of the naiveté of the international community and the leadership of the insurgent groups.

    Additionally, of particular interest is the explanation of the different systems used by the SAAF to intelligence gather and to strike at their adversaries. For example, the SAAF initiated the use of the remotely piloted Seeker UAV, a pusher-propeller driven system that used an onboard data capturing system to record anything of interest. Lord draws attention to a number of the local developments involving weapons systems and command and control functions that augment SAAF effectiveness.

    The production value of this book is very high. Included are in depth appendices that relate tactical innovation of fixed wing operations, comprehensive listing of operations and an outline of SAAF loses throughout the Bush War.

    There is no question that the SAAF proactively recognized the transient nature of operations during the Bush War period. This in turn led to the development of doctrine and tactics in order to facilitate adaption to the new operating environment. BGen Lord’s book traces these changes while at the same time putting a human face on the SAAF. Through his use of personal and institutional anecdote, he provides the reader with both intimate and professional insight into an institution of which he is obviously very proud. A great read and very highly recommended for those interested in the development and unfolding of air operations in South Africa during the turbulent Bush War years. 

Demolishing the Myth: The Tank Battle of Prokhorovka, Kursk, July 1943: An Operational Narrative - Valeriy Zamulin

The information presented was written by Chris Buckham; however, it was published in The Canadian Army Journal. Therefore, the material is reproduced here by the author with the permission of the journal. If you would like to republish this information or refer to excerpts please contact the Editor Canadian Army Journal ( Website for the Journal is:
Title: Demolishing the Myth: The Tank Battle of Prokhorovka, Kursk, July 1943: An Operational Narrative
Author: Valeriy Zamulin
ISBN: 978 1 906033 89 7
Publisher: Helion and Company Ltd
Pages: 630

    With the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989, many documents and unit records of Soviet operations during the Second World War became available to scholars. Valeriy Zamulin has taken advantage of this opportunity to draft an outstanding operational history of the Battle of Prokhorovka. Fought on the Southern Front of the Kursk conflict between 2 and 17 July, 1943, this Battle represented the zenith of German offensive capability on the Eastern Front. From this point on, the Germans efforts were defensive in nature while Russian operations transitioned onto the offensive full time.

    Of note in Zamulin’s book is that it is written from the perspective of the Soviet forces. He has taken advantage of numerous first hand accounts ranging in level from junior soldiers to Front Commanders that provides context and depth to the narrative. While the scope of his study is relatively narrow (the Battle of Prokhorovka within the larger Kursk conflict); the breadth of his operational narrative is such that it provides a clear sense of the challenges faced by the Russian Commanders controlling the fast moving and fluid conflict.

    Zamulin’s approach to the Russian Command performance during the battle is balanced and objective. His use of daily logs, orders, situational reports and first-hand recollections highlight some of the strength’s and weaknesses of Russian command and control. Specifically, the tendency of the Russians to be extremely stratified in their decision making is repeatedly identified. Interestingly, the pressure on senior Commanders to perform effectively was compounded by the implied (and real) threat of consequences should they fail. This expectation resulted in micro management and a fear of error that permeated throughout the command structure.  Zamulin refers to a scenario, as an example of this, where Stalin himself directed that, just prior to the initiation of the Soviet counterattack on 12 July, the senior Front Commanders spread themselves between each individual regional HQ’s. Thus the Front Commander, his Chief of Staff and other key commanders were physically separated while trying to coordinate a multi-army, combined arms battle.

    One of the real strengths of this book is the ability of the author to expose the reader to both the interdependent role that the various arms operated under and the individual challenges and success that each arm faced. This battle revealed a growing confidence in the Russian military leadership in their abilities and equipment. Many errors were committed and these are discussed within the larger narrative of the battle and weaknesses were highlighted in senior leaderships ability/experience level to coordinate effective counterattacks using combined arms assaults. Nevertheless, it is evident from the overall performance of the Russian command and soldiers that morale and competency had improved dramatically.

    What I particularly enjoyed about Zamulin’s book is the way that he presents his evaluation of the battle. Thus, while he sets his third person narrative at the operational level, in order to provide context and depth, he seamlessly transitions to the tactical and first person. This provides the reader with a much greater appreciation of what was going on within the ‘heads’ of the individual commanders and soldiers. Additionally, while this book is primarily a narrative on the Russian experience, he does make a concerted effort to include the German perspective which adds further context and flavour.

    Another strength is Zamulin’s chronological presentation of Prokhorovka. Therefore, despite the complexity of the battle, the reader is easily able to follow as the battle unfolds from the German offensive from 2 – 12 July to the transition over to the Russian counter- offensive  running from 12 to 17 July. Zamulin has obviously researched the units involved in great depth. Included within the narratives (in chart format) are breakdowns of unit strengths by vehicle type and personnel, unit replacement rates and overall loss rates for both the German and Russian sides.

    Zamulin concludes his narrative by addressing the commonly held beliefs of historians surrounding the Battle of Prokhorovka. Using primary source documentation only recently made available to historians he refutes, for example, the idea that Prokhorovka involved the largest concentration of armour involved in a single combat operation on the Eastern Front. Additionally, he summarizes very succinctly the strengths and weaknesses of the Russian commanders from an experience as well as a doctrinal and quality of equipment perspective.

    Rounding off his book is a comprehensive listing of all of the units from both sides involved in the Battle. He also provides an in-depth bibliography of his primary and secondary sources. One observation that I would make involves the concentration of the maps into one section of the book. While a very small point that in no way takes away from the narrative, it would have made tracking the battle easier for the casual reader.

    This is an outstanding historical analysis of a ‘battle within a battle’. Valeriy Zamulin’s work represents for the military professional and the casual military historian a work of profound depth and scope. There is something for any branch of the combat arms professions and for operators in a joint environment.  The cost was horrific but the Russians learned many lessons from their experiences during the Battle of Prokhorovka and they did not waste time applying them.

KOEVOET: Experiencing South Africa’s Deadly Bush War - Jim Hooper

The information presented was written by Chris Buckham; however, it was published in The Canadian Army Journal. Therefore, the material is reproduced here by the author with the permission of the journal. If you would like to republish this information or refer to excerpts please contact the Editor Canadian Army Journal ( Website for the Journal is:
Title: KOEVOET: Experiencing South Africa’s Deadly Bush War
Authors: Jim Hooper
ISBN: 9780957058705
Pages: 269
Illustrations: 68 colour, 20 b/w
Publisher: GG Books

                The book Koevoet (read Koo-foot) is a reissue a publication originally published in 1988 relating the experiences of its author, independent journalist Jim Hooper, during the South African Bush War. Hooper spent a year embedded with the SWAPOLCOIN (South West African Police Counterinsurgency Unit), the official name of Koevoet, during the period 1986 to 1987. Hooper’s book traces the path he took that led him, as a journalist, first to Africa and the Chadian insurrections and then ultimately to South Africa. He outlines in detail the challenges that he faced getting the opportunity to join Koevoet on patrol and the even greater gulf that he had to overcome to become accepted and trusted by unit members. His book sheds light on a aspects of the South Africa Bush War that were rarely seen and even more poorly understood by those not involved (including the people of South Africa themselves); those being the level of mutual trust and respect between members of the unit (which was a mix of black and white), the level of violence and the capability of the SWAPO (South West Africa People’s Organization) forces that they were fighting. Hooper details the development of the unit, the tactics that it developed to address bush fighting requirements, its success and failures, the nature of the war itself and the differences between what the world saw (and assumed) and the realities of fighting on the ground. He does not glorify what these men were doing nor does he gloss over the less palatable aspects of the war (including his own naiveté and preconceived ideas). Rather, he paints a picture that is raw, honest and enlightening. The small unit structure of Koevoet operations means that Hooper gets to know the soldiers themselves and is able to convey their frustrations, prejudices, loyalties and underlying motivations. This is critical to adding a human face to the conflict.

     While today viewers may be well adjusted to seeing journalists placing themselves in as much of the ‘operational’ world as possible, this was not the case in the 1980’s. This was especially true in the counterinsurgency war within South West Africa (modern day Namibia) where South African and Namibian regular and irregular forces (such as UNITA - National Union for the Total Independence of Angola) were engaged in a long running war with Soviet and Cuban backed SWAPO who were seeking the establishment of a communist regime in Namibia. Hooper’s writing style is very accessible for the casual tactician. He specifically avoids long technical descriptions of equipment and operating doctrine; providing enough information to inform the reader without detracting from the overall picture. Instead, his narrative is focused on the ‘human’ dimension of the conflict; the soldiers with which he worked, came in contact with, their frustrations, fears and successes. He paints a very deliberate picture of the conflict itself blending into the storyline explanations of the external stressors placed on the unit through conflict with the international media, the regular army, the political climate and the great divide between the population “at home’ in South Africa and the soldiers doing the fighting at the front.

     Readers will certainly appreciate and understand the difficulties faced by the author as he endeavours to understand and be accepted by the men that he is stationed with.  Given the lack of international support for South Africa and its operations on the international stage throughout the 1980’s, it is very understandable that Hooper would have been met with a less then rousing welcome as an American journalist when he first arrived. His explanation of his efforts to obtain permission from the authorities to report on the conflict, his disappointment at seemingly being regulated to a unit he had never heard of and his gradual transition from green reporter to seasoned bush veteran make for a remarkable and engaging narrative.

     While Hooper obviously respects and admires the soldiers that he is working with, he does maintain an impartiality that balances his storyline and draws attention to some of the less palatable aspects of the bush war. This includes the hypocrisy of the so called freedom fighters of the SWAPO organization and its blatant manipulation of the international media and organizations such as the UN. Through interviews with SWAPO representatives in London and elsewhere, he exposes a number of contradictions between what the world viewed and the realities on the ground. He also focuses upon the tragedy of the people of South West Africa caught up in the fighting between the opposing forces.

     The production value of this book is high and it includes a myriad of, maps colour and black and white photographs and an acronym section that is of great value. The reprint of this book with an update by the author should be very well received by the reading public. It is an engrossing ‘amateurs’ insider view of operations during the Bush War and an outstanding glimpse into a region of conflict that remains virtually unknown to the general population.

My Seventy-Five - Paul Lintier

The information presented was written by Chris Buckham; however, it was published in Airforce magazine. Therefore, the material is proprietary to the Air Force Association of Canada and is reproduced here by the author with the permission of the association. If you would like to republish this information or refer to excerpts please contact the Editor Airforce magazine ( ). I support the Air Force Association’s important mission to inform new generations of Canadians about the value and importance of their country’s air force. A link to the AirForce Magazine website is:
Title: My Seventy-Five
Author: Paul Lintier
ISBN: 9781907677304
Pages: 140
Illustrations: 8 b/w
Publisher: Helion & Company

    One of the most interesting ways of narrating history is through the experiences of those who were on the ground, living the events in real time. Many of these personal histories are drafted after the fact, drawn from the memories of the participants. What makes Paul Lintier’s book “My 75” different is the fact that it is from his actual journal entries written on the day of the events being related.
     Enlisting in the 49th Artillery Regiment in 1913 at the age of 20, Lintier was already recognized as a talented and insightful author. Commencing Aug 1st with mobilization, he began a daily log outlining his experiences and thoughts. This was carried on religiously until September 25th when, having been  seriously wounded in the hand,  he was taken off duty. The writer’s intent was to record the environment and his insights surrounding the declaration of war, mobilization of his battery, their advance through Belgium, the initial clashes with the Germans at Virton, the subsequent retreat to the Marne, the Battle of the Marne and ultimately the Battle of Aisne where he was wounded on September 22nd. Lintier’s account was originally published in 1914 as ‘Ma Piece’ and was followed by a second journal that traced his experiences from July, 1915 to the day of his death in combat on Mar 15th, 1916.
     Lintier’s account is written from the view point of a non-commissioned soldier, working with his battery. While this gives the reader unprecedented insight into the mindset and feelings of the author, it does not provide the context of the operational and strategic picture; this is addressed through the translator’s preface. Understanding the context is critical as it gives the reader the capacity to greater appreciate the environment of Lintier’s experiences. Otherwise, one would be limited to his narration within which to empathize with the Unit’s circumstances.
     Lintier’s approach does not glorify war nor does it denigrate it. Insightful and poignant, he puts a human face on the French soldier of 1914. Through his writing, one can begin to empathize with the excitement and nervousness associated with the declaration of war and mobilization.  Tracking forward, the initial rush of adrenalin from first contact is followed by the progressive exhaustion and disorientation of long marches, little sleep and adverse weather as the advance into Belgium turns into retreat. The reader begins to understand the degree to which the French soldier was unaware of what was happening outside of their immediate area and the debilitating effect that this had on their psyche. Lintier refers many times to the rumors that permeated the front lines and the effect they had on overall morale. His writings betray the fear of being cut off and the reliance that the soldiers had on not only each other but also on their immediate chain of command (in fact the book is dedicated to his Battery Captain and the impact that his loss had on the unit).
     The personality of the soldiers of the different gun crews come out in the storyline. At no point do commanders above the Battery Captain enter into the narrative. This ensures that the insights of the diary are very focused in keeping with view of a soldier not exposed to the larger plans. The fact that the diary is written in ‘real time’ and not in retrospect means that the daily entries are not impacted or diluted with the advent of hindsight or additional information from outside sources.
     Lintier, despite his and his peers growing exhaustion and apprehension, proves himself to be very perceptive and insightful writer. His descriptions, for example, of the plight of the civilians and refugees that he encounters during all phases of the book puts a very human face/dimension upon the tragedy, comedy and sensitivity of the interface between them and soldiers in times of war and displacement. This is also evident in his candid portrayal of the relationship that the soldiers had with their animals.  In 1914, a battery of artillery was made up of teams of men and horses. Soldiers of any period have always had a special affinity for animals and Lintier’s repeated references and descriptions of the plight of wounded and starving horses is indicative of this sensitivity. The fact that, as the narrative progresses, the reader senses a subtle, gradual but progressive diminishing of his idealistic outlook is especially telling.
     This is a very moving and intense book. The narrative is honest and forthright and speaks to the reader in a frank, direct manner. One is transported through the narrative and can readily empathize with the emotions and struggles of the men and women who, against a backdrop of intense upheaval, face an environment unlike any they have ever faced before.  It is a simple and honest book that any student of military history, or the human condition, should have in their collection.