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What are you reading?

Uncle Fester

Robot Pimp
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Funny, because CENTCOM currently is one of the fanciest (wood paneled in all the right ways) palaces I have ever set foot in. Them and DIA together, across the walking path, share that crown I suppose.
The whole story is pretty fascinating. I'd not had any idea until I read the book that 1) CENTCOM is of pretty recent vintage and 2) how hard the services fought against it. At least as the author tells it, DoD and the Navy in particular were dragged into it kicking and screaming.
 

Flash

SEVAL/ECMO
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I read The German Invasion of Norway, April 1940 by Geirr H. Haarr a few years ago and just finished his follow-up book The Battle for Norway, April-June 1940. Both books are exhaustively detailed and you can get a little bogged down reading about every battle in every town in Norway but overall they are excellent books. The author is a Norwegian and I think it ins noticeable in the attention he gives to the subject.

Two things I unexpectedly took away after reading the books;

1- The Allies didn't do joint or combined ops very well at all at the start of WWII, there were many mistakes, miscues, divided authorities and even mistrust (many of the Brits really didn't trust the Norwegians, kind of hard to fight alongside folks you don't trust) among numerous other issues. The fact that Churchill himself was getting intimately involved in the planning of ops complicated things even more. But you really got an appreciation why some of the 'joint' stuff we get spoon fed matters and why NATO standardized so many things post-WWII, from ammo to comms to C2.

2- You learn a lot about the character of the German soldiers, airmen and sailors at the time. The Germans were remarkably resourceful and resilient soldiers, demonstrating just how good they were over and over again throughout the campaign. Even though big parts of the invasion went pretty badly, I knew the story of the loss of the Blücher the book describes it in great detail, they literally shook themselves off and still got the job done. All almost right under the noses of the most powerful navy in the world. On the other hand....you also learned that they were almost casual in their cruelty and arrogance, from regularly bombing cities and towns regularly and indiscriminately well before the Allies started returning the favor (continuing the trend from Guernica and Warsaw) to assuming the Norwegians would not be unhappy they were rolling into town. These weren't isolated instances but were basically SOP for the Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe. Since the author is a Norwegian you really got a good sense as to why the German invasion has left such a longstanding impression on the psyche of the country. I got the same sense when I worked with the Dutch and how they spoke of the occupation and liberation.
 
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In between training I was able to finish Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War by Former Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and I thought it was a great read. The inner workings of Washington isn't always the most engaging subject but I thought it was very insightful on how complex hammering out defense policy is, especially under two different administrations. I wasn't very familiar with Dr. Gates as Secretary of Defense before reading this but I've repeatedly heard great things about his tenure as president of Texas A&M.


 

Uncle Fester

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Pags

Well-Known Member
pilot
Don’t think I’ve ever seen Sal pop a chub over a DoN document like that.
Yeah, I’m curious to see if a critical read of the actual document would match with Sal’s self congratulatory read of it. But the fact that someone who’s always been so critical of anything on Navy letterhead was fawning over it led me to think it must be worth a read.
 

Pags

Well-Known Member
pilot
Sometimes, I have trouble getting past all of his typos. He really needs an editor.
For some reason the document that Sal linked to via scribd showed up in ComicSans font and I couldn't read it like that. The version USNI posted was in a professional font that I was able to read. I've skimmed it and I thought it was a decent "here's how we got to Abilene" story written in an approachable way for those outside of USN such as congressional staffers. I thought it was interesting how the aviation and sub communities were recognized for their best practices and it was recommended that the surface community adopt many of them. Beyond that many of the issues seemed to fall directly in line with the issues that are discussed on here ad-nasuem: normalization of deviance, deferred maintenance, poor training, lack of funding, pitfalls of optimal manning, and so on. Most of the recommendations were a shot across the bow to OSD and Congress and seemed to hinge on funding. All in all a decent summary of how the road to hell was paved with good intentions but without real and continual pushing from the top and funding I have a feeling this report will end up on the pile of other ignored reports that the authors were very aware of.
 

Recovering LSO

Suck Less
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I didn't read as many books this year as last, but still managed a pretty good haul. A couple of my favorites:

Earning the Rockies - Robert Kaplan

Devotion - Adam Makos

An Everyone Culture - Robert Kegan, Lisa Laskow Lahey, Andy Fleming

Fire - Sebastian Junger

The Cost of Courage - Charles Kaiser

The Looming Tower - Lawrence Wright

The Leader's Bookshelf - James Stavridis, R. Manning Ancell

Ideas of the Great Philosophers - William and Mabel Sahakian

When Books Went to War - Molly Guptill Manning

What We Owe - Carlo Cottarelli

The Men Who United the States - Simon Winchester

Drive - Daniel H. Pink

The Lions of the West - Robert Morgan
 

jmcquate

Well-Known Member
Contributor
"Fighting for the Confederacy; The Personal Recollections of General Edward Porter Alexander"

Only about half way through it, but so far, the most honest memoirs of someone in the command structure of the Army of Northern Virginia that I have ever read. Alexander was Longstreet's chief of artillery. He wrote his memoirs from a request of his daughter, and never expected them to be published, thus avoiding the public Southern back-stabbing that occurred after the war.