By Rick "The Professor"
July! School's out, the fishing hole
beckons. Families go on vacation. Colonial Gamers who can head to Historicon
for several days of little sleep, heavy food, maximum game play with some of
the giants of the hobby and huge holes blasted in credit cards and budgets as
the glittering promise of the Dealer's Room is recognized. It's also a great time to wile away the sunny hours with a book or
first selection is hard to find but well worth the search.
War in the Far East: 1904-1905," by the military correspondent of The Times,
(New York: E.P. Dutton and Company, 1905), 656 pages, Cost: Unknown. (No ISBN.)
is a pearl of great price. If you are a
student of the Russo-Japanese war, you must get this book. If it's too expensive, put it on a birthday
or appropriate holiday wish list. It's
it started out as a pure money-making device.
The war had just ended, there was a fair amount of curiosity about it
and whoever published fast and first was going to reap some tidy profits. The phenomenon exists today. If you recall the war in the Persian Gulf,
new biographies of Saddam Hussein were on the street almost before the first
air raids were back from Baghdad.
Unfortunately those works won't stand the test of time. "The War in the Far East"
idea was simple enough. Bind up all the columns the Times (The London times, of
course.) had printed and sell the package as a book. Include a few photos, some beautiful maps and voila! Instant best
what a package. The maps are
breath-taking and a major help to any who seriously wants to game this
period. The reporting is first rate and
every aspect of the war is covered. This alone would justify the price of
admission. But wait, there's more.
the day these columns were written, correspondents were not shy to draw lessons
for their own country. As such this
books is a fly in amber, trapping British military attitudes and debates for
future generations to look at.
is not a work to be consumed as if it were popcorn. It is meant to be savored and contemplated. It belongs on your shelf .
another Oldie and Goodies:
of the World's Military History," by
Brigadier General William A. Mitchell of the United States Military Academy, West
Point N.Y. (Harrisburg: Military Service Publishing Company, 1931) Cost:
Unknown. (No ISBN).
a title for a one volume work can only mean one thing - a very shallow mass
market offering, or a textbook. This is
the latter. It's a thing of beauty, made during a time when publishers took as
much care with text books as with any others.
It's also written by a fairly well known military thinker. (Although I
doubt very much if Mitchell did much, if any, of the actual writing. A great many Majors are acknowledged as
having "helped" with the book.
an ambitious work, covering from The ancient wars of Assyria to World War
One. As a result many conflicts are
shorted. The Boer War, for example is dismissed as a minor civil conflict,
easily handled by the British after some initial reverses and the die-hards
dealt with in a single line. Of the
Boxer Rebellion there is no mention.
But then, this is an Army book. Of the United States Marines there is no
there are some descriptions of wars usually overlooked such as the
Russo-Turkish war. There are also
numerous illustrations of uniforms, alas not in color. These may be helpful as
may some of the maps and the overviews of the various wars.
truly sets this book apart is its U.S. flavor.
Every historical tidbit if put through a U.S. filter, every lesson
learned applied to the armed forces of the United States. And most interesting of all are the study
questions in the end of each chapter. A
a one volume work of all wars to a one volume of one small war:
Spanish War: An American Epic 1898 by G.J.A. O'Toole, (New York: Norton, 1984)
447 pp,. Cost: $15.95 U.S. ISBN: 0-393-30304-7.
O'Toole used to be a high level official in the U.S. Central Intelligence
Agency (the Chief of Problem Analysis Branch, if you must know). He is also a
fairly prolific author with at least two novels under his belt. And he is not a bad historian.
he isn't a great historian either. Or
at least, not a ground-breaking one.
There is nothing in here that is wrong, but nothing that is new. There are lots of quotes from key actors, a
smattering of photographs and the Navy is not forgotten.
the Cubans are. Or rather as is too
often the case, rebels leaders are identified and then never heard of
again. This is not a failing unique to
isn't much else to say. The diplomatic
and naval aspects of the war are covered. At times the writing is dramatic and
the battles are handled in a competent fashion.
book is a good primer. You won't be
going wrong if you buy it, but you could do a lot better.
Through American Eyes: The Journal of Frnacis Hall 1859-1866,"edited, annotated and
abridged by F.G. Notehelfer (Boulder: Westview, 2001) $35.00 U.S., ISBN:
Hall has been called the leading U.S. business pioneer in the nineteenth
century Japan and the title is not overblown.
He was also a prolific writer and his view of Japan was the only one
many Americans ever encountered. This
is his diary. And it is fascinating.
is much here for the gamer. Scenery
descriptions, possible scenarios and much local color. The international community's position in
Japan was often a precarious one and Hall reflects the problems, rumors and
alarms that were commonly encountered.
also reflects the attitude of many Americans of his day, warts and all. He both admires and is repelled by the
Japanese. He refuses to bow before Japanese
royalty, yet is profoundly rank conscious. He is attracted to the young women of the country, yet finds
Japanese openness to sexuality offensive.
In short he arrives a stranger in a strange land.
a large degree he remains so. For
although he learns much, it is debatable is ever pierces the Japanese heart. Not that he doesn't try.
familiar with Japan will be pleased at the recognition of many activities and
locales that are still familiar more than 100 years later.
that about does it. Until next month.
Good reading and good gaming!