Cowboy: interpreter, warlord, one more casualty

New & improved for July

USS Long Island with Buffalo on deck
If you're a fan of the Brewster Buffalo and have $995 burning a hole in your pocket, here's the perfect desk ornament! The Long Island was the US Navy's first escort carrier. She started out as the cargo liner Mormacmail, launched in 1940 but acquired by the Navy and commissioned under her new name in 1941. She took about Scouting Squadron VS-201 with eight Brewster F2A-2 fighters, to test the concept of using a small auxiliary to safeguard a convoy. She had a moment of glory delivering aircraft to Guadalcanal in 1942, though by that time the Buffaloes had been retired. For more, see the Annals of the Brewster Buffalo.

Looking at the big picture, the President has proposed a Space Force as a "sixth military service," even though by my count there are only three at present. Meanwhile, the Commandant of the Marine Corps (which is part of the Navy) has trumped him by an astonishing remake of the world's most formidable fighting force, the US Marine Rifle Squad, formerly consisting of thirteen men but now slimmed down to twelve. See War in the Modern World.

Great book! It takes great knowledge and considerable talent to tell an old story so that it sounds new. Thomas Childers is such a writer. When he was a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, he taught an excellent course on Nazi Germany that I keep on my iPhone and never tire of hearing, as a reminder of how swiftly a country can go wrong. Here, in The Third Reich, he goes back to that always fascinating story of how a vagrant from Austria, whose "National Socialist" party never got as much as a third of the popular vote in Germany, turned himself into absolute dictator in a very few months. There are few heroes in the tale to resist the monstrous outcome, for Germany and the world. Yet the Gestapo was never as large as people imagined (smaller the postwar East German Stasi, for example); the government was a mess, with conflicting and ad hoc bureaus competing for the Leader's attention; and the war effort depended upon slave labor because Hitler thought women should tend to their families instead of working in factories as British, Russian, and American women did. What a tribute to the German military! It went to war against three great empires -- the British Commonwealth, the Soviet Union, and the United States -- and staved off defeat for nearly five years.

Also reviewed this month on the Warbird's Book Club are 12 Strong: The Declassified True Story of the Horse Soldiers, by Doug Stanton, and Hellfire Boys: The Birth of the U.S. Chemical Warfare Service and the Race for the World's Deadliest Weapons, by Theo Emery. Blue skies! — Daniel Ford

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Reading Proust
Expedition Yacht Seal

Flying Tigers
revised and updated