Book Review: ‘The Conquering Tide: War in the Pacific Islands, 1942-1944 (Volume II of the Pacific War Trilogy)

(C) 2015 W.W. Norton & Company

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

On September 21, 2015, W,W. Norton & Company – an independent, employee-owned publishing company based in New York City – published Ian W. Toll’s The Conquering Tide: War in the Pacific Islands, 1942-1944. This is the second book in Toll’s Pacific War Trilogy, which begins with Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942 (2011) and ends with the recently-published Twilight of the Gods: War in the Western Pacific, 1944-1945.

As the subtitle clearly indicates, The Conquering Tide covers the war between the Japanese Empire and the Allies (the United States, Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand) during the “island-hopping” campaigns of the American-dominated twin drives across the vast expanses of the South and Central Pacific to drive the Japanese out of their conquered island holdings and build a network of bases from which Admiral Chester W. Nimitz’s Pacific Fleet and Gen. Douglas MacArthur could use as a springboard to liberate the Philippines and the invasion of the Japanese home islands.

Ian W, Toll first won acclaim for his 2006 book Six Frigates: The Epic Story of the Founding of the U.S, Navy. Photo Credit: Dan Deitch

The Conquering Tide begins where Pacific Crucible left off; in the late summer of 1942. Seven months have passed since Japan’s blitz across the Pacific and Southeast Asia began on Sunday, December 7, 1941 with the stunning attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet, which was based at Pearl Harbor Naval Base on the island of Oahu, then part of the U.S. territory of Hawaii. After a chain of shocking victories on land, in the air, and at sea, the Japanese juggernaut has been stopped by the Americans at the Battle of Midway (June 4-7, 1942). On the first day of that now-famous battle (Chicago’s Midway Airport was named to commemorate the victory), four of the six Japanese carriers that participated in the Pearl Harbor raid were destroyed, and a heavy cruiser, the Mikuma, was sunk several days later. Additionally, Japan suffered 2,500 casualties and the total loss of 292 aircraft) (U.S. losses were serious, too, including the carrier USS Yorktown, destroyer USS Hammann, 145 aircraft, and 307 casualties.)

Though the Battle of Midway is rightly called a turning point of the Pacific War; it marks the end of Japan’s offensive and sets the stage for the next phase of the U.S.-Japan struggle, it was not the decisive battle that changed everything in the Pacific Theater.

Contrary to many Midway myths, many of the Japanese aircrew who participated in the battle were not killed in action or when their floating air bases were sent to the bottom of the North Pacific Ocean. Many pilots and observers were injured, but most recovered from their wounds and returned to the fight in the skies over the Solomon Islands.

It was in that distant island chain – a British protectorate that Japanese forces occupied in the spring of 1942 shortly before the Battle of the Coral Sea – that America’s first counteroffensive of World War II began. Spurred by reports from Royal Australian Navy coastwatchers and other sources of intelligence that the Japanese were building a new airfield on the north coast of the island of Guadalcanal, Fearing that Japanese bombers based on Guadalcanal could sever the sea lanes between the U.S. and Australia, Admiral Ernest J. King and the other Joint Chiefs of Staff ordered Admiral Nimitz to send the First Marine Division to capture the area around the air base before it was completed.

So it was that on August 7, 1942, eight months to the day after Pearl Harbor and two months after the victory at Midway, a large amphibious force supported by U.S. and Australian warships and Admiral Frank J. Fletcher’s carrier force landed the vanguard of the first amphibious landing in U.S. Marine Corps history since the Spanish-American War in 1898 and the first of many such D-Days in the Pacific.

From the W.W. Norton & Company website’s page for A Conquering Tide:

This masterful history encompasses the heart of the Pacific War—the period between mid-1942 and mid-1944—when parallel Allied counteroffensives north and south of the equator washed over Japan’s far-flung island empire like a “conquering tide,” concluding with Japan’s irreversible strategic defeat in the Marianas. It was the largest, bloodiest, most costly, most technically innovative and logistically complicated amphibious war in history, and it fostered bitter interservice rivalries, leaving wounds that even victory could not heal.

Often overlooked, these are the years and fights that decided the Pacific War. Ian W. Toll’s battle scenes—in the air, at sea, and in the jungles—are simply riveting. He also takes the reader into the wartime councils in Washington and Tokyo where politics and strategy often collided, and into the struggle to mobilize wartime production, which was the secret of Allied victory. Brilliantly researched, the narrative is propelled and colored by firsthand accounts—letters, diaries, debriefings, and memoirs—that are the raw material of the telling details, shrewd judgment, and penetrating insight of this magisterial history.

This volume—continuing the “marvelously readable dramatic narrative” (San Francisco Chronicle) of Pacific Crucible—marks the second installment of the Pacific War Trilogy, which will stand as the first history of the entire Pacific War to be published in at least twenty-five years.

In a narrative presented in a prologue, fourteen chapters, and an epilogue, A Conquering Tide: War in the Pacific Islands, 1942-1944 takes the readers from the halls of political power in Tokyo and Washington, D.C. to the bases at Pearl Harbor, Wellington (New Zealand), Noumea, Truk, and Rabaul, where politicians, admirals, and generals held palavers over strategy and planned attacks and counterattacks that involved hundreds of warships, support ships, and landing craft of various types and sizes, as well as thousands of aircraft and tens of thousands of sailors, soldiers, airmen, coast guardsmen,and marines on both sides of the war.

Starting with the preparations for Operation WATCHTOWER (the landings on Guadalcanal) – a mission so hastily planned and provided with the barest of essential war materiel and food supplies that wags in the Marine landing force called it Operation SHOESTRING – and continuing the “island hopping” campaigns up the Solomons chain and in other archipelagos north and south of the equator, The Conquering Tide covers many diverse topics, including:

  • The initial – and stunningly shocking – Japanese response to the Guadalcanal landings, including the Battle of Savo Island, which resulted in one of the biggest defeats in U.S. Navy history
  • The fierce interservice rivalry between the U.S. Navy and the Army, each of which had distinct and sometimes conflicting strategies for the defeat of Japan
  • The contrasting personalities of the senior American commanders, especially of the calm but determined Admiral Chester W. Nimitz and the brave but ambitious (and publicity-hungry) General Douglas MacArthur, and their impact on how the Pacific campaigns would be fought
  • The long attritional campaign for Guadalcanal and the Solomons, which gutted Japanese naval aviation far more than the Battle of Midway and claimed Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’s life in the only American assassination of an enemy military commander in World War II
  • The imbalance between Japan’s limited industrial capacity and America’s jump-started war production juggernaut, which allowed the U.S. to replace lost warships, transports, tanks, and planes at a faster pace than its Japanese enemies
  • The invasion of Tarawa (in the Gilbert Islands) by the Second Marine Division and other supporting units in November 1943, which saw the first opposed amphibious landing in the Pacific War and cost the lives of 1,009 Marines and 2,101 wounded, in exchange for the near-annihilation of the Japanese-Korean garrison of 4,700 soldiers and civilian laborers
  • Operations in New Guinea and other islands in the Southwest Pacific, part of the twin-drive strategy led by Nimitz and MacArthur
  • The Battle of the Bismarck Sea
  • Admiral William F. Halsey’s stint as theater commander in the South Pacific under Nimitz, and Admiral Raymond Spruance’s corresponding assignment as commander of the Fifth Fleet, Nimitz’s main striking force of the Pacific Fleet
  • The Japanese strategy to contain the American advances in the Pacific – and why it was doomed to fail
  • Operation Forager, the invasion of Saipan, Tinian, and Guam in the Marianas, which led to the first liberation of a U.S. territory occupied in 1941 by the Japanese (Guam) and triggered the pivotal Battle of the Philippine Sea
“A Water Buffalo, loaded with Marines, churns through the sea bound for beaches of Tinian Island near Guam.” July 1944. Photo Credit: National Archives

Often overlooked, these are the years and fights that decided the Pacific War. Ian W. Toll’s battle scenes—in the air, at sea, and in the jungles—are simply riveting. He also takes the reader into the wartime councils in Washington and Tokyo where politics and strategy often collided, and into the struggle to mobilize wartime production, which was the secret of Allied victory. Brilliantly researched, the narrative is propelled and colored by firsthand accounts—letters, diaries, debriefings, and memoirs—that are the raw material of the telling details, shrewd judgment, and penetrating insight of this magisterial history.

Publisher’s blurb, The Conquering Tide

My Take

I purchased The Conquering Tide: War in the Pacific Islands, 1942-1944 on December 24, 2015 along with Toll’s first book of the Pacific War Trilogy, Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942. I did so for two reasons.

First, I had just finished re-reading Rick Atkinson’s Liberation Trilogy (An Army at Dawn, The Day of Battle, and The Guns at Last Light), which focuses on the Anglo-American campaigns against Nazi Germany from North Africa to Northwest Europe. between November 1942 and May 1945. Those are among my favorite non-fiction books, and I try to re-read them every so often. But my World War II library tends to have a European Theater of Operations bias, so I wanted a few new books about the Pacific War to counterbalance that.

The Liberation Trilogy. Photo Credit: Henry Holt & Co.

Second, it was the first Christmas that I spent alone (or mostly so) after my mother’s death and the sad, unwelcome, but tragically predictable estrangement from my older half-sister. Even in her last years, Mom had always told me to order something for Christmas from Amazon in her name, so even though this time around I was paying for it, I decided to get the first two-thirds of Toll’s trilogy in one fell swoop as a “Christmas present from me to me.”

Getting the books did not miraculously solve all of my existing problems, of course, but reading them did distract me from the troubles and tribulations I was facing at the time, plus I learned new and fascinating details about a part of World War II history that I was not totally in the dark about but wasn’t as knowledgeable about in comparison to the better-known battles in Normandy, Belgium, Holland, and Germany.

Some of the ground covered in The Conquering Tide was familiar to me from other books about the Guadalcanal campaign and the last year of the Pacific War (such as Max Hastings’ Retribution: The Battle for Japan, 1944–45 ) and documentaries such as The World at War and The War: A Film by Ken Burns & Lynn Novick. However, The Conquering Tide filled in so many gaps in my understanding of the Pacific War and its complexities that I feel like I received a college course’s worth of knowledge after reading it.

As he did in Pacific Crucible, Toll does a magnificent job of telling the complex story of the various campaigns in the South and Central Pacific as the mostly-U.S. forces fight their way across vast expanses of Earth’s largest ocean and a large array of islands both big and small. (Guadalcanal, which was the focus of a six-months-long air, sea, and land campaign, is 90 miles long and has a total land area of 2,047 square miles; in contrast, Betio Island, Ground Zero for the Tarawa invasion, has a land area of 0.59 square miles.)

Toll balances the Big Picture of grand strategy from the perspective of the two opposing sides with detailed personality profiles of American and Japanese commanders, insights into the thinking of President Franklin D. Roosevelt (who, by the end of the book, is campaigning for a fourth term in the White House even though he is, in essence, a dying man) and his senior commanders, including the self-effacing Nimitz and the vainglorious MacArthur.

On the Japanese side, we see the equally doomed Yamamoto doing his best to stave off disaster in the Solomons even though his pre-Pearl Harbor prediction that unless America was defeated quickly after the commencement of hostilities, Japan was doomed. We also learn about the self-defeating strategies concocted by Yamamoto’s successors in the Combined Fleet to deter America from penetrating Japan’s self-proclaimed defensive perimeter and the fall from grace of War Minister/Premier Hideki Tojo after the invasion of the Marianas in the summer of 1944.

We also see the Pacific War from the point of view of the average sailor, airman, soldier, or Marine who was at the “tip of the spear” throughout the various campaigns. Although the book is not an intimate look at the war viewed mostly from the perspective of the men who did the actual shooting, flying, or steering the warships, readers do get enough telling details about what each battle was like for the Marines coming ashore on Saipan or the Navy “zoomies” flying F6F Hellcat fighters to protect their ground-bound brethren from attacks by Japanese aircraft.

The Conquering Tide is one of the best books that I have read about this phase of the Pacific War, I have not read it since that first read-through in 2015; reading about the interservice rivalry between the Army, Navy, and Marines during World War II – while not exactly a new topic to anyone at all familiar with the military – was somewhat depressing, and some of the battles (Tarawa, in particular) were so fierce and gruesome that I sometimes wonder how the current generation of Americans could stomach a war in which 1,000 American Marines and 6,000 enemy combatants fight and die for a small coral atoll with a total land area of 0.59 square miles? (Back in 1943, the U.S. government commissioned an official documentary titled With the Marines at Tarawa. The footage of dead American Marines was so shocking that the film was not released until November of 1944, and then only because President Roosevelt insisted that the public needed to see it.)

(C) 2015 W.W. Norton & Company

As Gen. William T. Sherman once said, “War is all hell, boys.” And although World War II was a necessary war, it was spectacularly brutal and lethal. In the Pacific, it was a race war for both sides; Americans and Japanese alike held virulently racist views about each other, which led to a savagery on the battlefield that was not seen on a regular basis in the Anglo-American campaigns against Germany in North Africa and the various European battlefields on the Western Front.

The Conquering Tide showcases the many facets of war that many readers are drawn to. There is a lot of drama in a well-told war story (either in fiction or true histories), as well as stories of courage, self-sacrifice, and devotion to duty, which are often mixed with tales of unimaginable cruelty, cowardice, pettiness, and sheer incompetence.

No matter if you are an experienced World War II grognard or a newcomer to the literature about humanity’s greatest and most tragic clash of arms, Ian W. Toll’s Pacific War Trilogy is definitely worth reading. The Conquering Tide is a wonderfully written book that fascinate any reader who is interested in this chapter of history, and it sets up the third book in the series, Twilight of the Gods: The War in the Western Pacific, 1944-1945 beautifully.

Book Review: ‘Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942 (Volume I of the Pacific War Trilogy)

(C) 2011 W.W. Norton & Company

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

On November 14, 2011, W.W. Norton & Company published Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942, the first volume of Ian W. Toll’s Pacific War Trilogy. In twelve chapters and an epilogue which take up 493 pages of narrative, Toll covers the first six months of the Pacific War that pitted the Japanese Empire against the combined forces of the United States and the British Empire, as well as the small Dutch military contingent based in what was then the Netherlands East Indies – modern day Indonesia – from the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941)  to the fate-changing Battle of Midway (June 4-6, 1942) and its immediate aftermath.

By writing Pacific Crucible, Toll, whose first book of naval history Six Frigates: The Epic Story of the Founding of the U.S. Navy won the Samuel Eliot Morison Award for 2005 and earned praise from critics and readers alike, took on a huge challenge – to create the first multi-volume history of the war in the Pacific since Admiral Samuel E. Morison’s monumental and semi-official 16-book series about U.S. naval operations in World War II.

Toll, who was a stockbroker, speechwriter, and political consultant before becoming a writer of naval history, examines the various aspects of mid-20th Century global warfare, including the various strategies, tactical doctrines, and political imperatives that shaped the first harrowing months of World War II in the Pacific from both the American and the Japanese perspectives.

Per the book’s dust jacket blurb:

On the first Sunday in December 1941, an armada of Japanese warplanes appeared over Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and devastated the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Six months later, in a sea fight north of the tiny atoll of Midway, four Japanese aircraft carriers were sent into the abyss, a blow that destroyed the offensive power of their fleet. Pacific Crucible tells the epic tale of these first searing months of the Pacific war, when the U.S. Navy shook off the worst defeat in American military history and seized the strategic initiative.

This dramatic narrative, relying predominantly on eyewitness accounts and primary sources, is laced with riveting details of heroism and sacrifice on the stricken ships and planes of both navies. At the war’s outset, Japan’s pilots and planes enjoyed a clear-cut superiority to their American counterparts, but there was a price to be paid. Japanese pilots endured a lengthy and grueling training in which they were disciplined with baseball bats, often suffering broken bones; and the production line of the Zero – Japan’s superbly maneuverable fighter plane – ended not at a highway or railhead but at a rice paddy, through which the planes were then hauled on ox carts. Combat losses, of either pilots or planes, could not be replaced in time to match the fully mobilized American war machine.

For the inhabitants of Oahu, there was nothing unusual in being jerked out of sleep by guns and bombs and low-flying aircraft. The island was crowded with military bases, and live-firing drills were commonplace. In early 1941, as the danger of war had seemed to grow, the services took to conducting “simulated combat exercises” — mock battles pitting the army against the navy, the navy against the marines, the marines against the army.

Ian W, Toll, Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942

Among the events described in Pacific Crucible, readers will immerse themselves in:

  • The Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and its immediate aftermath in both the U.S. and Japan
  • The brilliantly-executed coordinated offensive that resulted in Japan’s conquests of Guam, Wake Island, Hong Kong, Malaya, Singapore, the Netherlands East Indies, Rabaul, and Burma
  • The poor generalship of Gen. Douglas MacArthur during the early stages of the Pacific War, including his unexplained sluggish reaction to the Pearl Harbor attack and the resulting loss of American air power in the Philippine Islands, then a U.S. possession slated to be granted full independence in 1946
  • The sinking of the British battleship HMS Prince of Wales and battle cruiser HMS Repulse, which sortied to attack a Japanese invasion fleet off the coast of Malaya – without sufficient air cover against land-based Japanese torpedo bombers
  • The arrival of Admiral Chester W. Nimitz as the new Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet (CINCPAC) at Pearl Harbor in late December 1941 and his efforts to boost the morale of the shaken staff on Oahu
  • The first forays of the Pacific Fleet’s carrier force against isolated Japanese bases in the Central Pacific that were intended to give the “brown shoes” (naval aviators) badly-needed combat experience and helped improve their skills and their fighting spirit
  • The fall of Manila, Bataan, and Corregidor, and how a PR-conscious Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered MacArthur to leave his troops on the doomed Philippine Islands to command the U.S. Army contingent then beginning to assemble in Australia
  • The brief and tragic tale of the American, British, Dutch, and Australian (ABDA) command and its desperate bid to avoid disaster in the Netherlands East Indies
  • The interservice rivalry between the Japanese Army and Navy, and the lack of a cohesive war plan after the successful first phase of Japan’s blitz across the Pacific and Southeast Asia
  • The  Doolittle Raid of April 18, 1942
  • The Battle of the Coral Sea, the first naval battle in which the two fleets never sighted each other
  • The efforts of the Pacific Fleet’s codebreakers at Pearl Harbor to break the various cyphers used by the Japanese Navy, including the crucial JN-25b code
  • The Battle of Midway, in which the Pacific Fleet partially avenged its baptism by fire on December 7, 1941 and ended Japan’s Pacific Offensive, taking away the strategic initiative from the Empire of the Sun…forever

Excerpt:


For the inhabitants of Oahu, there was nothing unusual in being jerked out of sleep by guns and bombs and low-flying aircraft. The island was crowded with military bases, and live-firing drills were commonplace. In early 1941, as the danger of war had seemed to grow, the services took to conducting “simulated combat exercises” — mock battles pitting the army against the navy, the navy against the marines, the marines against the army. On these days, a colossal amount of ammunition was thrown up into the air, and the island’s lightly built wood-frame houses would shake and rattle as if an earthquake had struck. So when the familiar racket started up, at a little before eight in the morning on that first Sunday in December 1941, most of the residents pulled a pillow over their heads, or turned back to their coffee and comic strips and radio programs, and tried to ignore the deep concussive thuds of distant bombs, the heavy booming of antiaircraft batteries, and the faint rat-a-tat-tat of machine guns.

My Take

(C) 2011 W.W. Norton & Company

I bought Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942, along with its recently published sequel, The Conquering Tide: War in the Pacific Islands, 1942-1944 in December of 2015 as a “Christmas present to myself” during my first holiday season five months after my mother’s death. I had just finished re-reading Rick Atkinson’s The Liberation Trilogy, which isabout the campaigns in North Africa, the Mediterranean, and Northwest Europe, so I figured to balance that by reading a similar trilogy about the Pacific War.

I was, of course, familiar with the topic; I have books about Pearl Harbor and various other battles and campaigns, including Midway and Guadalcanal, and I used to own Ronald Spector’s one-volume history of the Pacific War, Eagle Against the Sun, but until I bought Pacific Crucible and The Conquering Tide, I had never read a multi-volume account about the conflict between the United States of America and the Empire of Japan.

So between December 2015 and March of 2016, I would pick up my copies of Pacific Crucible and The Conquering Tide from my ever-present To Be Read (TBR) pile and either sit on my living room sofa or go to the pool closest to my townhouse – which wasn’t mine de jure because I had not gone through the probate process yet – and lay on a deck chair to read a chapter or two while getting a bit of fresh air and sunshine. In happier times, I might have read them both at a faster clip; as it stands, I am surprised that I was able to complete the then-existing two thirds of Toll’s trilogy without skimming through them and skipping through the sections that delve into politics in both Washington, DC and Tokyo.

That I did read both books all the way through at a time when my mind was on so many other things, including worries about my future and my sad – but inevitable – estrangement from my older half-sister, is a testament to Ian W. Toll’s skills as a researcher and storyteller.

Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942 is a highly readable book. I like how it looks at the first six months of the Pacific war from the high-strategy perspective of the fleet admirals – on both sides – to the “sword point’s” point-of-view of the sailors, marines, airmen, and soldiers who fought on the land, in the air, and at sea in the vast expanses of the Asia-Pacific theater of war.

It’s also a good example of revisionist history, but in the good sense of the word. As a historian of the 21st Century, Ian Toll uses the latest information available about the early dark days of America’s entry into World War II to explode some long standing myths, especially several misconceptions about the Battle of Midway, that have been perpetuated by earlier accounts of the Pacific War. The book explains how and why Japan decided to provoke a war that many of its senior commanders – including Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, Commander in Chief of the Combined Fleet – knew she could not win. Using clear and lively prose and an eye for vivid details that makes history come alive, Toll gives the reader a page-turner that is hard to put down  

Some readers might find fault in some of Toll’s editorial decisions; in a customer review I saw on Amazon recently, a Navy veteran griped that Pacific Crucible does not cover the efforts of the Pacific Fleet’s submarine force in the first six months of the war. Oddly enough, I wondered about that, too, even though I knew – from reading Clay Blair, Jr.’s Silent Victory: The U.S. Submarine War Against Japan – that the Silent Service’s performance during that period was hampered by pre-war doctrines that bred overly cautious skippers and by poorly-designed torpedo warhead exploders for the Mk. 14 torpedo used by most U.S. fleet boats.

As it turns out, Toll didn’t ignore the submarine force’s efforts in the Pacific War; he just deferred the topic until Twilight of the Gods: The War in the Western Pacific, 1944-1945. There will be readers who may still think that Toll somehow shortchanged the American submariners by saving that part of the narrative for the last book, but you can’t please everyone.

Overall, Pacific Crucible is a fine opening to a highly enjoyable trilogy, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who is interested in U.S. history, naval warfare, or U.S.-Japan relations in the first half of the 20th Century.

More Tales from a Constant Reader: Progress on ‘Twilight of the Gods’ & a Bit of Melancholy

(C) 2020 W.W. Norton & Company

Hi, there, Dear Reader. As I write this, it’s still early afternoon on Thursday, September 10, 2020. In my neck of the suburbs – so to speak – it is a typically hot late summer day; the temperature outside is 90˚F under mostly cloudy skies. According to my smartphone’s AccuWeather app, the “feels-like” temperature is 99˚F thanks to high humidity and becalmed winds. Per the hourly forecast graphic, it looks like we will have scattered thunderstorms around 7 PM (Eastern), but nothing more serious than that.

I’m making progress with Ian W. Toll’s Twilight of the Gods: The War in the Western Pacific, 1944-1945. I’ve read eight chapters so far, and so far the book has kept me riveted with its mix of battle narratives, personality profiles, and the interweaving of politics, economics, and the divide between civilians on the “home front” and the sailors, soldiers, airmen, and Marines in the Pacific Theater of Operations.

Toll has done an excellent job telling the story of the last year of the war between Japan and the United States; it is mostly a “Big Picture” history rather than a Band of Brothers-type book that focuses on the trials and tribulations of a specific unit or the minutiae of “what it was like for the average American or Japanese military member to be at war in the Western Pacific.” Still, there enough anecdotes that describe specific details of the experience of war to give readers some idea of what it was really like at the Battle of Leyte Gulf or the typhoon that could have cost Admiral William F. Halsey his command due to poor decision-making that led to the loss of several U.S. destroyers and heavy damage to various other warships,

I’m past the chapters about the Leyte Gulf battles and the start of Japan’s kamikaze campaign; I’ve read about the U.S. Navy’s successful use of submarine warfare to destroy the Japanese merchant fleet and sever the vulnerable shipping lanes between Japan’s 1941-1942 conquests in Southeast Asia – especially the oil fields of Borneo and the Dutch East Indies – and the Home Islands. By the time I put the book down to take a shower, get dressed, and have some lunch, the U.S. had secured the island of Leyte and Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s Southwest Pacific forces were fighting with Japanese defenders near Manila, on the Philippine island of Luzon.

Other than that, I don’t have much to tell. I’m feeling somewhat melancholic about things lately; I miss my mom – she died on July 19, 2015 after a long and debilitating fight with dementia and other ailments – and my old neighborhood. I know that the townhouse I inherited from Mom had too many issues that were beyond my abilities (physical, emotional, and especially financial) to deal with alone, but I do regret not owning my own space and living independently. I try not to dwell on it, but every so often I am reminded that when I was in the townhouse, I could do my own grocery shopping, prep my own meals, and watch my favorite TV shows and not have to answer to anyone else.

Oh, well. It was not meant to be that way, I suppose. Still, I often think that if I had gotten that sixth number on a winning Florida Lotto ticket in January of 2016, I could have had the townhouse remodeled and renovated, and I would still be living there.  

Tales from a Constant Reader, or: Books, Memories, and Changed Circumstances

I took this picture at the “small pool” near what was once my home in East Wind Lake Village. (Photo by the author)

Well, it’s late morning here on this Wednesday, September 9, 2020, and in my corner of Florida, it looks like it’s going to be another hot and stormy late summer day. Right now, it’s 83˚F (28˚C) under partly sunny skies, although the feels-like temperature is 94˚F (34˚C). It’s a quiet – if perhaps a bit – grey-tinted day so far, but the weather forecast for today calls for thunderstorms in the afternoon.

Today is a good day for reading, so that is how I have spent most of my Wednesday morning. The book I am focusing on at the moment is Ian W. Toll’s Twilight of the Gods: The War in the Western Pacific, 1944-1945, which is the final volume in Toll’s Pacific War Trilogy. I received my copy on September 3, and over the past few days I have read the first five chapters. So far, Toll has focused on the events that led to the Battle of Leyte Gulf (a series of separate engagements around the Philippine Islands that historians grouped together for convenience’s sake), as well as the American submarine war against Japan’s merchant fleet and the use of B-29 heavy bombers against the Japanese home islands.

I started reading Toll’s Pacific War Trilogy when I bought the first two volumes, 2011’s Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific 1941-1942 and 2015’s The Conquering Tide: War in the Pacific Islands, 1942-1944 on December 24, 2015. I bought the books as a “Christmas present to myself” a few months after my mother’s death. I still remember going to the pool closest to my erstwhile home, book in hand, and laying on a deck chair in the cool South Florida “winter” days while reading the first two-thirds of the trilogy.

At the time, Twilight of the Gods was scheduled for a 2018 publication, and I fully expected to be still living in what was then still my late mom’s house. I owned it de facto, but I had not started the probate process (I had no idea how to), so it wasn’t my house de jure, which Is what counts in the eyes of the law. Still, I planned to abide by my mom’s wishes and slowly but surely make the house my own, not only legally but by remodeling to reflect my distinct identity and decorative tastes.

Well, the book did not come out in 2018, and even though I won the legal fight to own the townhouse in Fontainebleau Park, I was not able to renovate or even stay put there. I ended up selling my house for far less than its assessed value and moving elsewhere.

As a result, sometimes I have weird flashes of my experiences reading Pacific Crucible and The Conquering Tide in late 2015 and early 2016; I have vivid flashbacks of taking the books from my TBR pile on the couch in what was then my living room and going to the “small pool” to read them out in the fresh air and sunshine….and then contrast those experiences to the new reality of living, well, elsewhere.

Oddly enough, because Pacific Crucible and The Conquering Tide are hardcovers, they have been out of their moving boxes and in a designated space in my Ikea Billy bookshelves since 2016. And yet, I have not re-read them in all the time I have been here.

TV Documentary Review: ‘The First World War’ (2003)

(C) 2014 Entertainment One, Hamilton Film Partnership, Wark Clements & Channel 4 (UK)

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

In September of 2003, Britain’s Channel 4 TV network began airing The First World War, a 10-part series based on historian Hew Strachan’s eponymous book about the cataclysmic conflict that broke out in the summer of 1914 and ended on the “11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month” in 1918. Produced and narrated by Jonathan Lewis (The Boer War, Stalin), the 500-minutes-long documentary is an engrossing overview of World War I that explodes many of the clichés and myths about the conflict that shaped the 20th Century and whose repercussions echo well into the 21st.

The series’ writing credits include Strachan and various historical figures from whose memoirs and other writings much of the narrative is drawn, including Karen Blixen (Out of Africa), Vera Brittain, Winston Churchill, Rudolf Hess (who, after the war, would be infamous as Hitler’s Deputy Fuhrer), Edward Grey, Georges Clemenceau, David Lloyd George, and Siegfried Sassoon.

The First World War was also directed by Marcus Kiggell, Simon Rockell, Ben Steele, Corina Sturmer, and Emma Wallace, each of whom directed two 50-minute-long episodes.

Per the series’ descriptive blurb on the Amazon listing for the reissued 2014 Entertainment One three-DVD set:

The popular view of the First World War is dominated by cliché. Young soldiers were led to ghastly deaths in muddy wastes on the Western Front by incompetent generals for reasons that were seemingly futile. And although clichés are not necessarily lies, they are, at best, a selective view of the truth.

On the centenary of the start of this terrible conflict, this special edition ten-part series offers a stunning account of the war, presenting new insights into one of the defining events of modern history, and, for the first time ever, a truly global vision of the conflict.

(C) 2014 Entertainment One, Hamilton Film Partnership, Wark Clements & Channel 4 (UK)

The First World War is divided into 10 parts and covers the major events of the conflict that toppled three great European empires, sparked the Russian Revolution, marked the United States’ entry into the club of world powers, and paved the way for the great calamities of a Second World War, the U.S.-Soviet conflict known as the Cold War, and the never-ending strife in the Middle East.

The 10 parts are:

  • To Arms 1914 An 18-year-old terrorist secretly aided by Serbian intelligence assassinates Austria-Hungary’s Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife at Sarajevo, and a cold war between two European military blocs – the Entente and the Central Powers – turns hot as a regional crisis in the Balkans becomes a global conflict.
  • Under the Eagle 1914 – 1915 Germany invades Belgium and France in accordance to the Schlieffen Plan, but the German Army’s harsh occupation methods – including the mass murder of civilians – helps stiffen Allied resolve to win the war.
  • Global War 1914 – 1916  Germany struck against the mighty British Empire at sea from the North Atlantic to the Pacific, and waged war on land in Africa in a bid to force the British to divert forces away from the vital spaces of the Western Front.
  • Jihad 1914 – 1916 The Ottoman Empire, already weakened by the loss of its Balkan territories in the late 19th Century, throws its lot with Germany and Austria-Hungary, a move that proves disastrous for both sides.
  • Shackled to a Corpse 1914 – 1916 In the Eastern Front, Generals Hindenburg and Ludendorff beat back a Russian invasion of East Prussia, and the war in Eastern Europe becomes a contest pitting Teutons vs. Slavs in an all-out battle that will weaken the Romanov dynasty’s precarious hold on power in a war-weary Russia.  
  • Breaking the Deadlock 1915 – 1917 In  the West, both sides look for strategies and weapons to break the stalemate created by trench warfare. Germany seeks to bleed France white at Verdun, while the Allies attempt to break German defenses at the Battle of the Somme.
  • Blockade 1916 – 1917 The British Royal Navy imposes a blockade on Kaiser Wilhelm II’s Kaiserreich, the German High Seas Fleet and its British counterpart duke it out in the indecisive Battle of Jutland, and Germany’s leaders decide to use U-boats in a counterblockade of Great Britain. But unrestricted submarine warfare draws the U.S. into the war.
  • Revolution 1917 The war’s seeming endlessness saps at the morale in various armies, especially the French in the West and Russia’s ill-equipped and ineptly led hosts in the East. In the vast Russian Empire, war-weariness and social unrest give a Marxist revolutionary who calls himself “Lenin” an opportunity to bring down the Tsarist regime, and Germany eagerly gives him safe passage across her territory to sow the seeds of revolution and knock Russia out of the war.
  • Germany’s Last Gamble 1918 With Russia teetering on the edge of collapse and Lenin seeking an immediate end to hostilities, Berlin shifts vast armies from the East and transfers them to the West, where Ludendorff and his generals plan a last great offensive in March. One million German troops are massed for a huge blow on French and British armies before Gen. Pershing’s American Expeditionary Force can make a difference on the battlefield.  
  • War Without End The Allies’ defeat of the Ludendorff offensive and the combined effects of British, French, and U.S. counteroffensives in early fall of 1918 force the German high command to realize the war is lost. Revolution in German cities and battlefield defeats in the West force Kaiser Wilhelm II to abdicate. On November 11, 1918, the guns go silent, and for the first time since August 1914, all is quiet on the Western Front. But the Armistice and the Treaty of Versailles that ends the “war to end all wars” is only a momentary respite, and the grievances caused by the First World War will fester for nearly a generation, until Adolf Hitler promises to make Germany great again and unleashes a Second World War.
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

My Take

As a viewer who is interested in military history, I tend to focus primarily on World War II and other conflicts that are closer to our current times and give short shrift to earlier wars. Only after watching Ken Burns’ now-classic 1990 The Civil War did I start breaking away from the “World War II, all the time” routine of watching military-themed documentaries.

As far as World War I is concerned, I wasn’t too keen on it until I started watching The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Volume Two – The War Years DVD box set almost 13 years ago. Produced by Lucasfilm Ltd. and released by CBS DVD and Paramount, this multi-disc set not only has seven “movies” that were re-edited from the original 1990s TV series The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, but also offers viewers a treasure trove of short documentaries that cover many aspects of the “Great War” of 1914-1918.

Since then, I’ve bought several books and TV documentaries about the war, including the 1964 CBS series World War I, which features a narration by actor Robert Ryan and music by Morton Gould.

The 2003 counterpart, The First World War, was made for British TV and, though it has fewer episodes than the CBS series, is based on a scholarly book by a renowned Scottish-born historian named Hew Strachan. It mixes contemporary (2003) location footage of such places as Sarajevo (where the assassination of Austria-Hungary’s Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie triggered the coming of the conflict) and Verdun with black-and-white footage of the leaders, the soldiers, the navies, and the battlefields of World War I.

As noted above, the series examines the war through eyes that look beyond the popular narrative that World War I was just a four-year-slog through muddy trenches and not much else. In the Western Front, trench warfare was the defining hallmark of “the Great War,” but in other fronts the war was unimaginably mobile, especially in Africa and the Middle East. In the latter theater, Col. T.E. Lawrence (best known to us as Lawrence of Arabia) fought a hit-and-run guerrilla war against the Turks as one of the leaders of the seminal Arab revolt. In the Eastern front, too, great armies marched across vast expanses of Central and Eastern Europe, without the deadlock seen in France and in Flanders, where most of the trench-centric battles were fought.

The First World War may not be as comprehensive for grognards who are well-versed in the “war to end all wars,” but it is a perfect documentary for viewers who are more familiar with the conflict’s bigger and bloodier sequel, World War II. It is well-written, nicely shot and edited, and ably narrated by series producer Jonathan Lewis.

Musings & Thoughts, Labor Day 2020

Photo by Brianna Martinez on Pexels.com

Labor Day 2020

It’s late afternoon here in my corner of Florida; right now the weather outside is typical of the wet season – hot, muggy, and, after a passing thunderstorm, partly sunny. The temperature is 89˚F (32˚C), but with humidity at 64% and an easterly breeze blowing at 6 MPH, the feels-like temperature is 99˚F (37˚C). For a while there I thought the rest of the afternoon would be a total washout due to thunderstorm activity in the area, but thankfully the line of storms that passed through has moved away and it doesn’t look like the rest of Labor Day will be as wet or punctuated with the K-r-r-a-a-c-k Booms of lightning strikes nearby.

We didn’t do anything special here today in observance of Labor Day. The global COVID-19 pandemic has put the kibosh on many festive activities, so we made no plans to go to the beach, have a picnic, or even host a barbecue. Everyone here does pretty much his or her own thing anyway, especially now that we have two college-age youngsters who have their own social lives and other interests.  To be honest, I don’t think we did anything for Labor Day last year, but at least then there wasn’t a coronavirus pandemic to worry about.

Promotional photo of Imperial Snowtrooper (Hoth), which is actually a Star Wars The Black Series figure from 2016 in “vintage” Kenner livery, Photo Credit: Hasbro, Inc. (C) 2020 Hasbro and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

Earlier today I wrote a review of my latest Star Wars The Black Series action figure acquisition – the six-inch scale Imperial Snowtrooper (Hoth) in cardback packaging designed to resemble the 1980 Kenner Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back Imperial Stormtrooper (Hoth Battle Gear) carded bubble-pack. I received my figure from Amazon yesterday, so I spent most of my morning evaluating the figure (in its original packaging) and doing research about snowtroopers, the original Kenner figure, its Star Wars The Black Series history, and downloading images from Hasbro. (I can’t take good pictures cos my hands tend to shake a bit.)

Stormy weather moved into our neighborhood around 1 or so in the afternoon, so after a late brunch I decided to read out in the living room for a while. I began browsing through Peter Caddick-Adams’ Snow & Steel: The Battle of the Bulge, 1944-1945. I’m not quite ready to deep-dive into it since I am also reading Caddick-Adams’ Sand & Steel: The D-Day Invasion and the Liberation of France, as well as Ian W. Toll’s Twilight of the Gods: The War in the Western Pacific, 1944-1945. I want to finish those books before tackling Snow & Steel, but I did want to see how the book starts and if it will be profoundly different from other books about the same battle. It looks promising; so much so that I read the entire introduction and part of the first chapter.

Unfortunately, since I am not used to sitting on the couch for long periods of time and the lighting in that room is not reader-friendly, I got tired after an hour or so of reading, so after making sure the storms had moved out of the area, I logged back on to my computer, et voila! I’m here with a rare second WordPress blog post.

Photo by Carlos Herrero on Pexels.com

As Labor Day 2020 begins to wind down – it is late Monday afternoon where I am – and we all get into “regular work week” mindset, I fervently hope that this is the last one that takes place during a Trump Presidency. I’m still angry about his “just-for-show” patriotism and his pretense at caring about America’s military forces and veterans. I happen to believe The Atlantic’s revelation that he calls military personnel – especially those that have given their lives in battle – as “suckers” and “losers.”

I know that Trump’s “base” – the closest to a Stalin-like cult of personality that I have seen in American politics – is in denial, but the comments attributed to the 45th President are not out of character for Donald Trump. Not in the slightest. After all, no one in the Trump family has served in the military since his grandfather fled from Germany to the U.S. to avoid obligatory military service there in the late 19th Century. His father, Fred Trump, Sr. didn’t serve during World War II, and the President famously got several deferments from the draft during the Vietnam War. Some were granted because he was in college, but after becoming eligible once he earned his degree, his father bought off a doctor who certified Trump as being unfit for military duty due to “bone spurs” in his feet.

I mean, just look at this statement from a Trump supporter on a social media post by The Hill related to Trump’s pushback on the Atlantic article:

[O]nly the most nieve [sic], and hate mongers would think he did.

Trump has used his own private plane to bring home US Soldiers. He has used that same plane to bring families to their wounded loved ones. He has stepped into his limousine and asked the driver to take him to Arlington just to pay his respect. He has also been at Dover Airbase when our military dead have been brought home. This man has more respect for our Military than possibility any other President in history. Use your brain start thinking, lose the hate!

Hopefully next Labor Day, we won’t have Donald Trump occupying the Oval Office anymore.

‘Star Wars’ Collectibles & Toys Review: Hasbro Star Wars The Black Series Imperial Snowtrooper (Hoth) (Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary Figure)

Behold the 40th Anniversary reboot of the Imperial Snowtrooper! Photo Credit: Hasbro. (C) 2020 Hasbro, Inc. and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

IMPERIAL SNOWTROOPER (HOTH): Stormtroopers in cold-weather gear deployed from Imperial AT-AT walkers and invaded Hoth’s Echo Base, quickly and ruthlessly taking control of the Rebels. – Product description blurb, Hasbro official website

On Friday, August 28, Hasbro released the latest addition to its Star Wars The Black Series collection of figures commemorating the 40th Anniversary of Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back: Imperial Snowtrooper (Hoth). Like quite a few of Hasbro’s Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary 6-inch scale action figures, the Snowtrooper is not a new offering. Rather, it is a repackaged version of Star Wars The Black Series # 35, which was originally released in November of 2016 along with Princess Leia Organa, AT-AT Driver, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Darth Revan, and Sabine Wren.

Promo photo of a “Kenner” carded Imperial Snowtrooper (Hoth) 6-inch scale action figure. Photo Credit: Hasbro, Inc. via Amazon. (C) 2020 Hasbro and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

Star Wars The Black Series #35 is, of course, a descendant of Kenner’s original 1980 Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 3.75-inch scale mini-action figure Imperial Stormtrooper (Hoth Battle Gear).  This was the first “specialist” variant of the Imperial Stormtrooper figure Kenner produced, and although many fans referred to the Hoth Battle Gear version as the “snowtrooper,” it was never referred to as such in any canonical material of the times. The nickname stuck, though, even being mentioned as such in the section on Imperial Stormtroopers in the Star Wars Visual Dictionary:

Snowtrooper

Based on the Republic’s cold assault clone troopers, Imperial snowtroopers are self-sufficient mobile combatants in freezing terrains. They rely upon their backpacks, breath masks, and suit systems to keep them warm. Each suit can last for two weeks on battery power alone before they need to be recharged. – Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary (2018 Edition), page 190

Somebody paid $1000.00 for this vintage Imperial Stormtrooper (Hoth Battle Gear) Kenner Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back action figure from Brian’s Toys! Photo Credit: Brian’s Toys. (C) 1980 Kenner Toys and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

Because the fan-created nickname for Imperial Stormtrooper (Hoth Battle Gear) stuck and eventually was adopted by the Lucasfilm licensing division, Hasbro – which bought Kenner in the 1990s and eventually absorbed it wholesale – decided to go with the flow and tweaked the original nomenclature accordingly, branding the reissued Star Wars The Black Series #35 as Imperial Snowtrooper (Hoth)

actionjackman‘s video review of a 1980 Kenner Imperial Stormtrooper (Hoth Battle Gear) action figure.

What’s in the Package?

40TH ANNIVERSARY FIGURE: Celebrate 40 years of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back with this Imperial Snowtrooper (Hoth) The Black Series action figure featuring 1980s-inspired design. Product description blurb, Hasbro official website

The 2020 Imperial Snowtrooper (Hoth) is a representation of a “specialist” variant of the Galactic Empire’s elite shock trooper equipped for cold climate warfare on worlds such as Hoth. As mentioned earlier, it’s a reissue of Star Wars The Black Series #35 Snowtrooper, repackaged in a reproduced “cardback” that is based closely on the Imperial Stormtrooper (Hoth Battle Gear) Kenner action figure’s packaging, even using the same image from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and blending the two versions of the figure’s nomenclature so that they match a bit better.

Imperial Snowtrooper (Hoth) wields a BlasTech DLT-20A rifle in this Hasbro promotional image. Photo Credit: Hasbro. (C) 2020 Hasbro, Inc. and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

Imperial Snowtrooper (Hoth) includes:

  • “Kenner” branded 40th Anniversary cardback packaging with 1980s-style Star Wars: The Empire Strikes livery and the classic blue-and-white Kenner logo
  • Star Wars The Black Series #35 Snowtrooper action figure, renamed here as Imperial Snowtrooper (Hoth)
  • Backpack
  • BlasTech E-11 (short barrel) Imperial-issue blaster
  • BlasTech DLT-20A laser rifle
Imperial Snowtrooper (Hoth) is always ready to blast Rebel scum with his trusty E-11 blaster. Photo Credit: Hasbro. (C) 2020 Hasbro, Inc. and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

My Take

Photo Credit: Hasbro, Inc. via Amazon. (C) 2020 Hasbro and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

Back in 1980, when I was 17, I bought the original Imperial Stormtrooper (Hoth Battle Gear) action figure for the then-princely sum of $2.49 plus Florida’s 4% sales tax, or $8.14 in 2020 dollars. Like its 1978 Imperial Stormtrooper forebear, this figure was cool-looking but only had four points of articulation (POA) – at the shoulders and hips – and one accessory (a long-barreled Stormtrooper rifle) that looked cool but was actually difficult to use in an action pose.

The figure was uber-cool looking, but it had its share of issues. Imperial Stormtrooper (Hoth Battle Gear) lacked a swivel point at the neck, you couldn’t pose him in life-like poses; your best bet was to stand him stiffly with his long-barreled rifle pointing down at a slight angle. And the kama that snowtroopers wear as part of their insulation gear was made of the same vinyl-like material used by Kenner to simulate the “capes” worn by such character-based figures as Darth Vader, Princess Leia Organa, and Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi and often came off from the figure’s legs if you weren’t careful. (I hated that removable kama, but I managed to not lose it.)

Recall intense moments from the Star Wars Galaxy with this Star Wars The Black Series 40TH anniversary 6-inch-scale Imperial Snowtrooper (Hoth) action figure that includes 3 accessories and features premium deco across multiple points of articulation.   – Product description blurb, Hasbro official website

Another view of Imperial Snowtrooper (Hoth) wielding his DLT-20A laser rifle. Photo Credit: Hasbro Pulse store (C) 2020 Hasbro and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

Even though I was reluctant to order Imperial Snowtrooper (Hoth) when I saw that the figure was available for preorder at Amazon, it dawned on me that my collection doesn’t include many Imperial characters. I had not purchased the original Star Wars The Black Series #35 Snowtrooper in 2016, and I had already passed on the AT-AT Driver and Imperial TIE Fighter Pilot figures. So after mulling it over for several days, I ordered the figure on August 26.

I wasn’t expecting to get my new Snowtrooper for a while; it was supposed to ship in time for a delivery on the 3rd, but Amazon emailed me to let me know it would be delivered sometime between September 11 and October 1 and to ask if I still wanted it. I hit the Yes, I Still Want My Order option and let the matter stand. After all, it was only a delay and nothing more. To get angry or sad about such a thing seemed a bit much, even in these troubled and scary times.

Photo Credit: Hasbro. (C) 2020 Hasbro, Inc. and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

As with all of the Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary figures from Hasbro’s Star Wars The Black Series, I am impressed by the attention to detail lavished on Imperial Snowtrooper (Hoth).  The multiple POAs allow collectors and kids alike to pose the figure in realistic action stances, and the sculpt-and-paint job captures every detail of the artistic visions of  costume designer John Mollo and concept artists Ralph McQuarrie and Joe Johnston for the arctic warfare version of the Empire’s white clad stormtroopers. From the top of the eerily anonymous snowtrooper helmet and its breath mask to the tips of the rugged ice boots, every detail of Imperial Snowtrooper (Hoth) is true to the outfit seen in Irvin Kershner’s Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back.

I also appreciate the fact that Hasbro tried to stay true to the Kenner legacy by blending the original product name and the more current character nickname and labeling the repackaged #35 Snowtrooper as Imperial Snowtrooper (Hoth). That, to me, acknowledges the canon status of the “snowtrooper” label – which, as mentioned earlier, was a fan created name – while still respecting the original name of the 1980 figure.

Well, this wraps up another review of a Star Wars The Black Series figure from the The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary collection. I enjoyed writing this piece, and I hope you enjoy reading it.

Until next time, Dear Reader, stay safe, stay healthy, and remember: the Force will be with you…always.

Musings & Thoughts for Sunday, September 6, 2020: Another Late Summer Day in My Corner of Florida

Hello, Dear Reader. I hope this Sunday post finds you in good health and safe from the current global COVID-19 pandemic. If you are a citizen or resident of the U.S., I also hope that you are enjoying a nice pre-Labor Day weekend, even if the coronavirus health crisis means you have to put up with social distancing and having to “do without” big gatherings or public events such as baseball or football games.

As I write this, it’s late afternoon in my corner of Florida. It’s not quite “evening” yet, but it is almost 5 PM right now, and because I am not the fastest typist in the world, it will probably be evening when I post this on WordPress. It’s hot outside; the temperature is 92˚F (32˚C) under mostly sunny skies, but it feels like 99˚F (35˚C). The humidity is at 51% and the wind is blowing from the northeast at 6 MPH. So, yep. It’s a scorcher out there!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Despite it being a Sunday, I spent quite a bit of time writing a post for this blog’s forerunner, A Certain Point of View on Blogger. It wasn’t anything terribly special; just a fluff piece about how I beat the Cold Waters Beating the Odds single mission. But I had not written a new post on ACPV since August 20, and I needed to get past the 1,352 mark there lest my readers there think that I have abandoned them.  I have not, but now that I have two blogs instead of just the one, I find it difficult to create content for both every single day. I thought that I could, but since my online time is limited during the regular work week, I have to choose between growing my new A Certain Point of View, Too blog here or focus more on its Blogger sibling.

(C) 2020 W.W. Norton

So instead of reading more from Ian W. Toll’s Twilight of the Gods or watching a movie, I wrote. Which is perfectly fine with me. I love writing; I fell in love with the written word when I was a kid, and all I have ever wanted to do since was to be a writer. Sometimes, like today, I have to push myself to stay at my desk and compose something; I slept poorly last night, and I am tired, but if I don’t write anything, I feel guilty as hell afterwards.

Today I received two packages from Amazon. One contained my Star Wars The Black Series Imperial Snowtrooper (Hoth) 6-inch scale action figure in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary packaging; the other holds my copy of Snow & Steel: The Battle of the Bulge 1944-1945 by British historian Peter Caddick-Adams. Though it was written in 2014 (in time for the 70th Anniversary of the Ardennes counter-offensive, I see it as a sequel to Caddick-Adams’ Sand & Steel: The D-Day Invasion and the Liberation of France. As you can see, my TBR pile keeps growing!

Photo by Sebastian Voortman on Pexels.com

Other than that, dear friend, I don’t have much to say on this late Sunday afternoon. So I’ll just wrap this up by saying thanks for reading, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.

Musings on Politics, September 5, 2020: Trump Disses America’s War Dead as ‘Suckers’ and ‘Losers’; Supporters Don’t Care

Photo by Sharefaith on Pexels.com

Hi, there, Dear Reader. It’s late Saturday morning in my corner of Florida as I start this post, and – no surprise – it’s going to be another hot late summer day here. Currently, the temperature here is 83˚F (29˚C) under mostly sunny skies. With a slight breeze blowing from the east at 2 MPH and humidity at a sticky 83%, the “feels-like” temperature is 92˚F (34˚C). Today’s forecast calls for mostly cloudy skies and high humidity with a high of 92˚F (34˚C). No precipitation is expected in our area, and a local flood warning in a nearby part of the county expired over three hours ago.

As I sit here in my air-conditioned writer’s study, I am bamboozled by the cognitive dissonance shown by Trump supporters on social media every single day after Donald Trump does or says something controversial and the media reports on it. (Which is, unfortunately, an everyday occurrence!)  I mean, seriously, the Make America Great Again crowd is a cult; its members figuratively close ranks and – like Pavlov’s dogs – reflexively chant “fake news” at any new revelation of their man’s crass self-centeredness.

Take, for instance, the brouhaha over a report published a couple of days ago by the respected publication The Atlantic in which Donald Trump’s disdain for the American military was put on display for all to see.

In Jeffrey Goldberg’s September 3, 2020 article Trump: Americans Who Died in Wars are ‘Losers’ and ‘Suckers’ , we see a side of the current President that he does not want his followers to see:

In his lead to the article, Goldberg writes:

When President Donald Trump canceled a visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018, he blamed rain for the last-minute decision, saying that “the helicopter couldn’t fly” and that the Secret Service wouldn’t drive him there. Neither claim was true.

Trump rejected the idea of the visit because he feared his hair would become disheveled in the rain, and because he did not believe it important to honor American war dead, according to four people with firsthand knowledge of the discussion that day. In a conversation with senior staff members on the morning of the scheduled visit, Trump said, “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.” In a separate conversation on the same trip, Trump referred to the more than 1,800 marines who lost their lives at Belleau Wood as “suckers” for getting killed.

I believe Goldberg’s story, which is based on anonymous accounts from individuals who know former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general who was present when Trump called the fallen World War I Marines “suckers.”

And, as the article points out, this is not the first time that Trump’s disdain for the military – especially those men and women in our armed forces who fall into enemy hands and become prisoners of war (POWs) or are from unpopular minorities  – has come to light.

Per The Atlantic:

Trump’s understanding of concepts such as patriotism, service, and sacrifice has interested me since he expressed contempt for the war record of the late Senator John McCain, who spent more than five years as a prisoner of the North Vietnamese. “He’s not a war hero,” Trump said in 2015 while running for the Republican nomination for president. “I like people who weren’t captured.”

There was no precedent in American politics for the expression of this sort of contempt, but the performatively patriotic Trump did no damage to his candidacy by attacking McCain in this manner. Nor did he set his campaign back by attacking the parents of Humayun Khan, an Army captain who was killed in Iraq in 2004.

Trump’s comments about the late Senator McCain – namesake son and grandson of two Navy admirals and himself a Vietnam War veteran- are on record, as is the attack on Capt. Humayun Khan’s parents during the 2016 Presidential campaign.

Yet, his cult-like followers refuse to accept facts, calling The Atlantic’s report – what else? – “fake news.”

I will never believe Trump would say this they are trying every way to bring him down I am sure the military has his back.

“D.T.” – Trump supporter, on The Hill’s Facebook page

Here are some comments that I saw on Facebook on a related story posted on The Hill’s social media page:

“D.T.” started a comment thread with this bon mot:

I will never believe Trump would say this they are trying every way to bring him down I am sure the military has his back.

“M.M” chimes in and adds: D.T. thank you. This publication thinks the readers are idiots. If you hate Trump this low hanging fruit

“F.D” says:  I agree with you. Trump loves our military. He’s had so many people that was with him that he didn’t say anything like that.

And regarding Trump’s insults aimed at John McCain, “A.H.” writes: who cares if McCain was a loser . He also did some very sneaky things . I am not impressed with john mccain

My personal opinion about Trump’s denials – he swears he loves the military and that he never, ever said this – can be summed up thusly:

Trump can deny this report as much as he wants. So far, the official line from the White House is, “Fake News,” but I – sadly – stopped believing anything the Trump Administration says the minute that it claimed that the Inaugural crowds at the Mall on January 20, 2017 were larger than President Obama’s in 2009.

I also don’t care if his supporters believe Trump. It’s their right to do so, even though I believe they are saps who have been conned by a grifter and liar.

What I do believe is The Atlantic‘s account of how Trump does not understand the notion of sacrifice and service, especially when it comes to the men and women who volunteer for our armed forces. He and his dad, Fred Trump, never served in the military, and Trump did everything possible to avoid the draft during the Vietnam War.

Musings & Thoughts for Friday, September 4, 2020

Photo by Sebastian Voortman on Pexels.com

Well, Dear Reader, it’s Friday, September 4, 2020 – the first weekend of the ninth month of perhaps one of the worst years I’ve ever lived through, on par with 2015. It’s also the start of the Labor Day weekend, which is not exactly one of my favorite holidays, but whatever.

Right now, it’s still early afternoon in my corner of Florida. It’s also hot; the temperature outside is 95˚F (35˚C) under sunny skies, but with humidity at 58% and an 8 MPH breeze from the east, it feels like 110˚F (44˚C). I’m in an air-conditioned house and the sun is not yet streaming in through my window, but I can tell it’s a scorcher out there. I feel ripples of warmth wafting through the room, and with so many air-conditioning units working at the same time, I am sure the strain on the electric grid is immense. We already had a momentary loss of power – less than a minute long, yes, but my computer shut down and the digital clock in the kitchen was blinking as a result of the “micro-outage.”

Photo by Lum3n on Pexels.com

I haven’t done much of anything today; I feel tired, headachy, and unmotivated. I didn’t stay up all night as I sometimes do when I get the occasional bout of insomnia, but I did wake up unnecessarily early. Worse, I had no idea what I was going to write about today – I usually have a topic chosen either by the time I log on to my Lenovo all-in-one PC in the morning or, at the very latest, by noon on days when I have to put my computer on airplane mode to free up the Wi-Fi for others who need it more for work or school. Today…well, I had to force myself to sit down and write this Musings & Thoughts post.

Photo Credit and (C) 2020 Hasbro, Inc. and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

I was hoping to receive my Hasbro Star Wars The Black Series  Luke Skywalker & Yoda (Jedi Training) 6-Inch-Scale The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary Figures yesterday; until late Tuesday night, Amazon kept telling me that the status of my order was “Will arrive on Thursday, Sept. 3.”  Turns out that the shipment of the two-figure sets has been delayed; the new delivery window is “September 24-October 11). I am thinking that the COVID-19 pandemic is playing merry hell with Hasbro’s supply line; like its former competitor-turned-subsidiary Kenner, Hasbro manufactures its Star Wars products overseas – in China, to be more exact. Something may have gone awry somewhere between the factories – in the Kenner days, Star Wars toys were labeled “Made in Hong Kong” – and the States. ( I have no idea if Hasbro moved its facilities to the mainland or if its operations stayed in place in the post-1997 Hong Kong SAR,) So now I’m wondering if COVID-19 is gumming up the works for the toy-making giant. I had also ordered a 40th Anniversary Imperial Snowtrooper (Hoth) figure and it was also supposed to arrive on September 1. Now Amazon’s delivery window for that figure is October 1.

Photo Credit: Hasbro, Inc.

I’m not angry about the delays; I know that the pandemic has had a detrimental effect on every aspect of life throughout the world and getting angry about something as trivial as a Star Wars figure is neither rational nor mature. I was disappointed; I was looking forward to getting my Luke Skywalker & Yoda (Jedi Training) 6-Inch-Scale The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary Figures and writing about them here, but I have to be philosophical about it and accept reality. As the Rolling Stones once put it, “You can’t always get what you want.”

As for the rest of my Friday….

(C) 2020 W.W. Norton

As soon as I publish this post, I’ll probably go to my favorite reading area – the living room couch – and resume reading Twilight of the Gods: The War in the Western Pacific, 1944-1945 for a bit. I have read three or four chapters and I am enjoying Ian W. Toll’s concluding volume of his Pacific War trilogy. It is one of the best books about World War II naval history that I’ve read, but I am not quite ready to review it yet.

I could also read another chapter from Sand and Steel: The D-Day Invasion and the Liberation of France by Peter Caddick-Adams. I don’t know why (a) the book subtitle suggests that it delves into the whole battle of France – it does not – or (b) Amazon’s image of the book cover has a typo (“invasions” instead of “invasion”), but the book is excellent. So much so, in fact, that I ordered Caddick-Adams’ previous book, Snow and Steel: The Battle of the Bulge, 1944-45. I will get that on Sunday.

An Il-38 “May” ASW plane hunts my sub in Beating the Odds, a scenario from Cold Waters. (C) 2017 Killerfish Games

Heck, I might even play a quick session of Cold Waters. As a Tom Clancy fan and long-time player of such games as Red Storm Rising and Silent Service II, I enjoy stepping into the role of a nuclear-powered fast attack sub and pitting my skills as a commander against the computer-controlled Soviet and Chinese navies portrayed in this 2017 sub warfare simulation.  

Beats curling up in a fetal position in bed and wishing it was 1983 all over again, no?