BOOK REVIEW: ‘Vietnam’s Final Air Campaign: Operation Linebacker I & II May-December 1972’

96. OPERATION LINEBACKER VIETNAM WAR

Reviewer: Michael Keith

Title:  Vietnam’s Final Air Campaign: Operation Linebacker I & II May-December 1972

Author: Stephen Emerson

Total Number of Pages: 128

Rating Scale (1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent):

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The American air operations known collectively as Linebacker I and II occurred in 1972, during the Vietnam War and were an 11-day-long aerial bombing campaign intended to force the North Vietnamese to seriously-negotiate a formal peace settlement between the United States of America and North Vietnam and so bring to an end the aforementioned war. In that it was successful, and the machinations and military activities which occurred immediately-prior-to and during the operations, form the subject of this very readable volume.

The book opens with the expected Contents page which, in addition to the usual chapter headings etc., also contains a list of the Maps the book contains; a Chart (U.S. Troop Levels 1964-1973), a Diagram (Typical Linebacker Force Composition) and a Table (U.S. Air Losses for Linebacker II, December 18-28, 1972). It is an ‘Admirable’ inclusion and saves a lot of time in respect of searching. A two-page Glossary follows. This clarifies the military terminology used throughout the book and is in turn followed by an Acknowledgements section within which the author, while thanking those who helped with information, also pays tribute to ‘…All the men who flew in or supported Operation Linebacker I and II in 1972’; it is a nice touch. The seven Sections (analogous to Chapters, but not named as such) follow. Of these, Sections One to Five provide the necessary background to what is detailed in Chapter Six (Unleashing the Dogs of War), and as such portend and explain what is to come; the activities outlined in Chapter Six being the ultimate focus of the volume Where relevant to the narrative, while equally stories in their own right, sections of text have been placed within boxed areas within the larger ‘chapter’ With Chapter 6 having been the focus of the narrative, an analysis becomes necessary. This is provided by the volume’s last section (Number 7 and titled Post Mortem), the title being self-explanatory. Within each Section, Subsections are used to provide additional information, and, where necessary, Endnotes are used to indicate the existence of additional reference material. The latter are sequential, Section-specific, and numeric in format; the individual citations appearing in a designated Notes section placed after Chapter 7.  A Bibliography follows that section and is in turn followed by the volume’s Index; the book’s last section. The narrative is accompanied by numerous monochrome Images from a variety of sources; some acknowledged, many not. A selection of coloured Images also appears, and is placed in an eight-page section in the centre of the volume.The Images are informatively captioned, but neither the Contents nor Index sections contain reference to their existence. As previously-noted Charts, Diagrams, Tables and Maps appear within the volume and are valuable aide memoirs to the narrative.

While this is an excellent tale and both well-told and written, for this reviewer, it was let down by the ‘little things’; the ‘details’ if you will. Of these the Index was the most problematic, with several randomly-sought locations being denied an Index entry despite being deemed worthy of a mention within the larger narrative.  Although others were also found, Mu Gia Pass (page 24) and the Thai Nguyen rail complex (page 108) will suffice as examples. The appearance of several Quotes without citations was also noted, as were a small number of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors.

As previously-noted this is a well-written and well-told volume and, despite the previously-referenced ‘little things’, begs fair to become a Standard Reference Work on its subject.  As such it may be of interest to aviation and military historians, while readers seeking clarification as to what who did what and why during the latter days of the Vietnam War, may also find it informative. Due to the large number of aviation-related images military-aviation enthusiasts and aero modellers may also find this book useful in their researches.

On a Rating Scale where 1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent, I have given this volume an 8½.

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BOOK REVIEW: ‘Vietnam’s Final Air Campaign: Operation Linebacker I & II May-December 1972’

BOOK REVIEW: ‘C-130 Hercules: A History’.

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BOOK REVIEW

Reviewer: Michael Keith

Title: C-130 Hercules: A History

Author: Martin Bowman

Total Number of Printed Pages: 320

Rating Scale (1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent) 6

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On the opening page of Chapter I of this volume, the author states ‘Everyone knows the Hercules – even those who are unaware of its C-130 military designation know exactly what it does, this bulky, squat but lovable aircraft with the reassuring face of a friendly seal pup and whaled tail’. It is a fair summation of both the aircraft and the book; the latter being about the many faces and uses of the former.

The volume consists of 12 Chapters, there being no Introduction prior to Chapter 1.Within these the reader is introduced to the personnel who flew (and still fly) the aeroplane. It should be noted however that many of the Chapters take the form of personal reminiscences that have been sourced from other publications; they are not original to this volume. Technical details relating to the C-130’s development, variants, and uses in both military and civilian roles are also provided. Where additional information is required, this is presented in the form of sequentially-numbered and chapter-specific end-notes, the relevant citations appearing at the end of each Chapter.  Three Appendices follow the Chapters. Their self-explanatory titles are: Commercial and Humanitarian Operators past and Present (Appendix I); World Military User Dictionary (Appendix II); and Models and Variants (Appendix III). A single-page Acknowledgments completes the book. Within it, the author thanks those who assisted him in writing the volume. Numerous colour and black and white photographs appear in the book, some being sourced, some not. Their existence is not however mentioned on the Contents page.  The single map that the book contains, refers to a specific series of events narrated within Chapter 3 (The Last flight of the ‘Stray Goose’). The volume contains no plans, 3-view drawings or diagrams relating to its subject. There is also no Bibliography, Glossary (To explain the myriad military acronyms that occur throughout the volume) or Index.

When requesting this volume for review, this reviewer had certain expectations of it. One of these was that he would be able to find specific locations, units and variants of the basic C-130 airframe quickly and easily through the use of an Index. In that expectation he was wrong; there is no Index. Perhaps spoiled by his experience with other books of a similar nature, he also expected to find at least a basic 3-view drawing of the aircraft. In this he was again wrong, Although regrettable, these failings could possibly have been overlooked. However, what could not be overlooked was the complete absence of any reference to either Australia or New Zealand in the World Military User Directory (Appendix II); this despite an entire chapter (Chapter 9 The Antipodean Hercules) being devoted to these two air arms!! The discovery of proof-reading errors was also not helpful, and created an overall impression of a ‘sloppy’ book, while raising doubts about the volume’s veracity and authority on its subject.

The previous details notwithstanding, this volume is likely to appeal to all and anyone who has been associated with the C-130 in whatever capacity, with Vietnam-era C-130 aircrew in particular likely to find some of the content nostalgic. Those with a more-general interest in the type may also find the volume worthy of their attention. The colour photographs may be of use to both aircraft and military modellers.

On a Rating Scale where 1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent, I have given this volume a 6.

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BOOK REVIEW: ‘C-130 Hercules: A History’.

Book Review: ‘Launch Pad UK: Britain And The Cuban Missile Crisis’

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Reviewer: NZ Crown Mines

Title:  Launch Pad UK: Britain And The Cuban Missile Crisis

Author: Jim Wilson OBE

Total Number of Pages: 200

Rating Scale (1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent): 8

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‘When ignorance is bliss, ‘Tis folly to be wise’, is a well-known and oft-repeated phrase that indicates that there are times when a lack of knowledge can be advantageous. It is also an effective summation of the events described within this volume, with the subtext that ‘Those with the political power’ are not necessarily those who are in in control.

On the weekend of 27/28 October 1962, in what became known as ‘The Cuban Missile Crisis’, the United States of America, NATO and Great Britain faced off against their mutual enemy the Soviet Union. The ‘Cold War’ was at its height and this event was the closest that the protagonists ever came to direct, nuclear weapon-using. confrontation; an event which would probably have seen the extinction of mankind. Incredibly, the political leaders of one of the protagonist countries (Great Britain) knew almost nothing about what was occurring.  How this came-about is the focus of this volume. It details and describes the political events surrounding the event, revealing both the Russian and Western Allies actions which ultimately led to the confrontation.   While this in itself is of interest, the revelation that the British participation in the conflict was ultimately in the hands of a single member of the Royal Air Force is more so. Most astonishing of all is evidence that contemporary British politicians were largely unaware of the seriousness of events occurring around them, and acted accordingly.  ‘When ignorance is bliss’, indeed!  There are two stories within this volume; while usually running in parallel, they sometimes intersect. One story is of British, American and Russian political activity at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. The other is of the use by the Royal Air Force (RAF) of the nuclear-equipped (and American-built) ‘Thor’ Medium Range Ballistic Missile (MRBM), a weapon loaned to Britain by the United States of America at a time when Great Britain had no viable nuclear weapons of its own.  As they were (at least nominally) the owner/operators of the missile, the RAF’s story is the larger of the two, and is enhanced by personal reminiscences which give insights into the realities of  life and thoughts at a time of international uncertainty. Details of the interaction between the RAF and the United States Air Force are also given, and make for interesting reading. The technical development of both ‘Thor’ and the long-range, nuclear-armed missile, is also covered in depth.

The largest section of this volume consists of 16 Chapters. They are preceded by an Acknowledgements section which thanks those who contributed to the finished work. Two Appendices are included. One provides technical details of the missile itself, the other a list of the RAF units which operated it. Included in this section are details of Unit Numbers, Base (Station) locations, deployment periods and Commanding Officers. A Bibliography details reference sources, while an Index completes the volume. Sixteen pages of captioned photographs appear in the centre of the work; these are from a variety of sources.

Although this book is both well written and illustrated, no mention of its photographs appears within the Contents section. The Contents sections also contains no reference to the existence of a map (Thor and Jupiter Sites in Europe and their effective range) on page 32 or of technical diagrams on pages 36 and 37. The absence of these details was a disappointment.

In this Reviewer’s opinion, this volume is likely to be of greatest use to historians specialising in the geo-political events of the ‘Cold-War’ era (of which the ‘Cuban Missile Crisis’ was the apex), although more generalist historians may also find it of use.  It could well become a valued resource.  Aside from historians (and due to the breadth of its subject), this work may well be of interest to other groups. These could include those interested in both the Royal Air Force and the United States Air Force and the equipment and history of those organisations. Readers interested in military aviation, ‘rocketry’ space exploration and Twentieth Century technology may also find it informative.

On a Rating Scale where 1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent, I would give it an 8. It should have been higher.

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nzcrownmines is available for book reviews: Contact nzcrownmines @gmail.com

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Book Review: ‘Launch Pad UK: Britain And The Cuban Missile Crisis’