Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Jungle Fighters by Jules Archer

Jungle Fighters: A Firsthand Account of the Forgotten New Guinea CampaignThis book is the author's true accounts of the Allied efforts to protect New Guinea during WW II. Failure to defend this land would lead to the Japanese invasion of Australia. The author, Jules Archer, helped defend Allied forces against enemy air attacks, and he also had experience with land battles. This book describes his memories of victories, defeats, humor, and bravery. The author also shares the stupidity of military decisions and the stubbornness of some officers leading to the unnecessary deaths of thousands of soldiers. There are many examples in the book, but the stories of "Lieutenant Baxter", a fake name of a real officer, highlight the problems.

Fighting the enemy in the jungle was difficult due to the heat, flooding rains, dangerous animals, and disease. Baxter created new problems right away when he took over Archer's plotting platoon. He refused to care about the welfare and morale of his troops; he had his men set up pup tents and sleep on the ground even though there were larger tents with cots available. He ordered the men to move jeeps, trucks, and equipment into a deep ditch even though Archer and others warned him that torrential rains would wash everything away. Guess what happened nine days later? He endangered the lives of his men by refusing to allow them to take cover during enemy bombing raids. I've only shared a couple of incidents, but Archer was finally able to convince the Army that Baxter was incompetent and got him removed.

Despite the examples of poor leadership, the bravery of the American and Australian soldiers shined through. Sick, tired, and hungry men were still able to defeat Japanese forces that outnumbered them by thousands. Herman Buttcher was wounded twice but still led his men to overtake enemy positions that had previously killed hundreds of other soldiers. Sgt. Bill Simon had bullets in a rib and shell scraps in his arm and leg, but he still returned to successful bombing missions. Sgt. Tom Derrick single-handily took over an enemy ridge by scrambling across the area, tossing grenades, and taking out ten Japanese posts. He accomplished this feat even after his battalion had been ordered to retreat, because leaders did not see any way to win.

The author honestly shares his frustrations with the military efforts, but Archer's stories celebrate the courage and determination of the American and Australian warriors.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Changed History Series #2: Fantastic Fugitives by Brianna DuMont

Fantastic Fugitives: Criminals, Cutthroats, and Rebels Who Changed History (While on the Run!)Wow! Think of a buddy telling you stories about famous people who rebelled against society resulting in important historical changes. Some of the changes were news to me. Some of the people might have done terrible things, say John Dillinger and Typhoid Mary, while others clearly were not, like Nelson Mandela and Harriet Tubman. Reading non-fiction is not something I usually enjoy, but reading about all these legendary fugitives was fun and informational. I didn't really know how Martin Luther hugely changed the Catholic religion in the early 1500's, or how Koxinga's armies in the 1600's started a dispute between China and Taiwan that's still going on today. The FBI was formed because of Dillinger's criminal activity, new disease control was needed after Mary's cooking spread typhoid around New York City.

The author writes about these important people in history using a VERY casual and amusing style. Cleopatra marrying her little brother was "super gross considering he was ten years old", and the author called him "pip-squeak Ptolemy". The whole marrying one's relatives thing was compared to "a bad reality show". Typhoid Mary's poor choices caused people to "diarrhea themselves to death", and Virginia Hall "made Rambo look like Bambi." After sharing their stories, the author summarized how the culture or society was changed forever because of them. Pictures and side stories in the margins were an added bonus. "Fantastic Fugitives" offers an entertaining way to learn history! I would have enjoyed history classes more if DuMont had written my books!