Book Reviews: Military & Politics

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Band of Brothers by Stephen E. AmbroseBook Cover of Band of Brothers by Stephen E. Ambrose

Read by Natalie 2007

Natalie recommends this as a very in depth look at World War II

Band of Brothers is the story of Easy Company, a part of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division of the US Army during World War II. Made up of 140 men and 7 officers, they came from all walks of life and all over America in 1942 to fight the war against the Germans. The book follows their initial training under the command of the incompetent 1st Lieutenant Sobel, the parachute into Normandy on D-Day, the horrific battle of Bastogne, their liberation of a concentration camp and finally the capture of Hitler's Eagle's Nest in Berchtesgarden. Repeatedly sent on the toughest missions, this company lost more men than any other outfit, often facing horrendous conditions, going hungry, freezing and dying for their country. Led by the exceptional Lt Winters, what these men went through is absolutely amazing. Although the book isn't as well written as Generation Kill (see review above), it has been made into an outstanding 12-part HBO mini-series. In some ways this is a better tribute to their heroics and doesn't gloss over some of their major accomplishments like the book does. The episode explaining "The Reason Why We Fight" is particularly moving and is guaranteed to have you reaching for the tissues.

Stephen Ambrose died in 2002, at the age of 66. He led an interesting life where in addition to his books on Lewis and Clark and World War II, Ambrose also founded the National D-Day Museum and the Eisenhower Center for American Studies at the University of New Orleans. He was also a professor at the University of New Orleans (where he wrote or edited more than 35 books).

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Black Hawk Down by Mark BowdenBook Cover of Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden

Read by Natalie 2007

Natalie recommends this as an amazing look at how a government can completely mess up a country

This book tells the story of a group of Army Rangers sent into Mogadishu in Somalia to abduct two top lieutenants of a Somali warlord and bring them back to base for interrogation in a bid by the US government to stabilise the war-torn country. The mission was supposed to take an hour, but instead the men were trapped in the city for over 24 hours, fighting a country that never wanted them there in the first place and a lack of supplies or plan to get out. When they were finally rescued the next day, 18 of the 140 men were dead and 70 badly injured. Several of the men had been dragged through the streets, strung up and mutilated by the militia. The book is at times tough to follow as we are introduced to many characters, including a Delta squadron towards the end. But at heart it is an amazing journey, a story of courage and survival and ultimately an underestimation of a country and its people. The book has also been turned into a movie which gives you an easier to follow insight into events and features an all-star cast.

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