Monday, May 30, 2005

Memorial Day Reading

To commemorate Memorial Day each year, I usually start a book about a different military figure and/or conflict about which I may be undereducated. Past efforts have included Band of Brothers (before it was a mini-series, by the way), Battle Cry of Freedom, and a biography of Maxwell Taylor. This year, I am tweaking that tradition and finishing a book I started over a year ago on the great admirals, succinctly entitled The Great Admirals.

It contains 15-20 page bios (by different authors) of 19 different naval commanders, most of which I had never heard of before. Believe me, I'm no Alfred Thayer Mahan.

In chronological order:

  • Francis Drake (England) - Knew who he was.
  • Maarten Harpertszoon Tromp (Netherlands) - Never heard of him before.
  • Robert Blake (England) (No, not that Robert Blake) - Never heard of him before.
  • Michiel Adriaenszoon de Ruyter (Netherlands) - Never heard of him before.
  • Niels Juel (Denmark) - Never heard of him before.
  • Edward Hawke (England) - Never heard of him before.
  • Pierre-Andre de Suffren de Saint-Tropez (France) - Never heard of him before. But, if you're going to have a French name, you might as well go for broke like he did.
  • Horatio Nelson (England) - Read a book about Trafalgar and slept through That Hamilton Woman.
  • Andreas Miaoulis (Greece) - Never heard of him before.
  • David Glasgow Farragut (USA) - Where would Tom Petty be without him?
  • Wilhelm von Tegetthoff (Germany) - Never heard of him before.
  • George Dewey (USA) - I knew a little about him from reading about American occupation of the Philippines.
  • Heihachiro Togo (Japan) - I have read about him before, and knew that his most memorable achievement was doing something called 'Crossing the T ' with the Russkies. No word on whether he dotted the 'i.'
  • John R. Jellicoe (England) - Heard of him.
  • Reinhard Scheer (Germany) - Never heard of him before.
  • Andrew Browne Cunningham (England) - Read about him in some WWII books. His nickname was 'ABC.'
  • Isokuru Yamamoto (Japan) - Read about him in some other WWII books and saw a History Channel program about his death in 1943 when his plane was shot down. This is the guy who was in charge of the attack on Pearl Harbor. This author, H.P. Willmott, had (IMHO) the most interesting against-the-grain view in this book because (he asserts) Cold War spinmeisters held that Yamamoto was always tremendously skeptical of Japan bringing the United States into the war, whereas the facts Willmott cites suggest differently. The U.S. foreign policy establishment wanted to hasten the healing of national war wounds on both sides and establish Japan firmly in the pro-West, anti-Communist camp. So Yamamoto was posthumously made pro-American (or at least a non-anti-American) as part of that effort. For example, he is attributed with this line in the now-classic Tora, Tora, Tora.
  • Raymond A. Spruance (USA) - Read a whole biography (actually, the only biography out there) about him after I saw a (different) History Channel program and realized I had barely heard of Spruance. To me, he was the most interesting of the bunch, maybe because of the 20th-Century native English-speakers (there were only four) it seemed like he shared a lot of characteristics with me (or at least with my perception of myself) and was therefore the subject with whom I most identified.
  • William F. Halsey (USA) - Well-known from plenty of History Channel and History Channelesque documentaries, but I had not read anything about him at length. Portrayed by James Whitmore in T,T,T.

Much of the rest of the day was spent clearing out some of the crappy trees mentioned previously, watching some tapes of things I’ve had stacked up, misc. errands, and some more messing around with the blog template.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


Just looked in on your blog, since GlennyB just introduced both of us to his friends. It seems that, in addition to bluegrass music, you and I share an interest in naval history. Which is a good thing for me, I guess, since I work at the Chicago Public Library and order the books on naval and military science.

Know of anything we're likely not to have that every large public library should have? Just curious, since we're about to get our book budget for the year.

Kevin Davey

12:44 PM  

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