The Greater America


wrecked ex-Belgian Brewster

I've had a sneak preview of The Brewster F2A by Capt. Richard Dann USN (ret.), which Steve Ginter will publish this summer as Number 104 in his remarkable series on US Navy warplanes. It's a large-format book, 176 pages, with many sideviews and other drawings, and an absolute feast of photographs! I can't get enough of the photos, and I have to confess that so far they haven't allowed me time to actually read the text. Here's a sample, showing what the first of the B-339s ordered by Belgium in 1939. The plane was completed in April 1940 and flown to Houlton, Maine. From there, it was pushed across the Canadian border, to comply with US neutrality laws. The freighter carrying it was still at sea when the Germans invaded Belgium, so it was re-routed to southwest France. In the event, it was the Germans assembled and tested it. It was blown apart, probably by an American or British bomb, at an airfield in Darmstadt, where this photo was taken in 1945.

I read three books a month, so you don't have to! (I borrowed that line from Michael Palin.) But here's one you really ought to read: The Allure of Battle by Cathal Nolan. The germ of its 709 pages is this: battles don't win wars. Attrition wins wars. Demonstrating it, however, takes us on a magnificent sweep of (mostly European) history, acquainting us with the Great Generals who, if not defeated themselves in war, prepared the way for their successors to be defeated. The Germans especially take it in the neck. There is no mewling equivalence here: Not only was the Heer prone to butchering civilians, but its generals never grasped that there was no way they were going to win those stupid wars, once other nations got involved. Pity Donald Rumsfeld didn't read this book before we went into Iraq. Winning a battle is the easy part; it's what comes afterward that wears us out.

My other books of the month were Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy, about Ernest Hemingway's flirtation with communism, and The Populist Explosion, about the recurring strain in American politics had has given us such presidents as Andy Jackson and Donald Trump. For more about these books, go to the Warbird's Book Club. And that's the perfect lead-in to The Greater America. Sally's grandfather wrote it at the start of the 20th century, and I have edited it for the 21st. Check it out! — Dan Ford

Welcome to the forum!

Here are a thousand or so files on airplanes, pilots, and the wars of the past hundred years, grouped under these headings:

Annals of the Flying Tigers
Annals of the Brewster Buffalo
Annals of Poland: war and exile, 1939-1948
Japan at War, 1931-1945
Annals of the Chinese Air Force
Glen Edwards and the Flying Wing
Remembering Bluie West One
The Spadguys Speak (carrying a nuke to Sevastopol)
Annals of Vietnam
War in the Modern World

Plus these excellent places to look for more: