From master storyteller and historian H. W. Brands, twice a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, comes the riveting story of how President Harry Truman and General Douglas MacArthur squared off to decide America's future in the aftermath of World War II.
This book is a very detailed account of the story of how President Truman ultimately decided to fire Douglas MacArthur, one of the country's true heroes from World War II.
The story is well told and seems to be well sourced. It is very detailed. It tells both sides of the story, essentially in alternating chapters, at least until the end.
In retrospect it seems almost unavoidable that Truman--a plain spoken, unlettered, but highly intelligent student of world history (and a purely accidental President)--would be underestimated by the imperious MacArthur. In this respect, the book is a very interesting character study.
MacArthur accomplished many great things in his life: He was a soldier of unusual bravery. He accomplished a great deal in both world wars. His administration of Japan after the war set the stage for making Japan into a modern democracy and an ally.
He was a decisive and strategic military thinker--certainly one of the best. Who knows, maybe if we had followed his aggressive approach in Korea we would not still have the peninsula divided (and we might not have communist China). But there is no doubt that his approach was risky business, and there is also no doubt that MacArthur was dead wrong in advising Truman that red China would not come into Korea after MacArthur's astonishing operation at Inchon.
Truman, the State Department, and the Joint Chiefs all preferred a more conservative approach because they were afraid of starting World War III. Scholars can debate whether this was the correct approach, but one thing we do know is that it avoided a general war. That said, it also left a lot of unfinished business.
At the end of the day, MacArthur could only see it his way, and he actively tried to undermine Truman and others. Truman was the Commander in Chief, and really had no other choice.
If you want to learn the details, the book is very worthwhile.
The dramatic, pulse-pounding story of Harry Truman's first four months in office, when this unlikely president had to take on Germany, Japan, Stalin, and the atomic bomb, with the fate of the world hanging in the balance.
I'm a fan of A.J. Baime. He writes well-researched and interesting books.
Harry Truman's life story is well-known: A somewhat obscure Senator who was drafted as Roosevelt's Vice President for an unprecedented fourth term. Truman didn't want to be Vice President. But he was as shocked as the rest of the Nation when Roosevelt died only a couple of months into the fourth term.
Baime does not try to write a comprehensive account of Truman's life. Rather, the book offers an almost hour by hour account of the first four months of Truman's presidency in which many truly momentous events that would shape the world occurred, from victory over Germany to Hiroshima (Truman did not even know about the atomic bomb until after he was president).
Truman was thrust into these circumstances largely unprepared, because Roosevelt made almost no effort to educate Truman or to draw Truman into his inner circle. My guess is that Roosevelt--who surely must have had a monumental ego--simply never contemplated the possibility of his own demise very seriously.
Truman did better than most would have expected. One emerges from the book with a heightened respect for Truman, and a somewhat diminished view of Roosevelt. That is not due to any effort on Baime's part--he simply lays out very cogently what happened.
One thing that I really like about this book is how it moves. Baime does not dawdle nor does he make needless digressions. It is a very straight-forward book about a very straight-forward man.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Acclaimed author Andrei Cherny tells the gripping saga of a rag-tag band of Americans - with limited resources and little hope for success - keeping West Berliners alive in the face of Soviet tyranny, winning the hearts and minds of former enemies, and giving the world a shining example of fundamental goodness.
Before reading this book, I had a general understanding of the Berlin Airlift. I had no idea of its crucial importance in shaping the world we live in today. Simply put, if the Soviet blockade had not been broken, Berlin would have fallen, and perhaps the rest of Germany, and, from there, who knows?
The characters in this book are well developed. Lucius Clay, in charge of U.S. operations in Berlin, is a fascinating character. He was a General who never saw action, but whose ability to handle huge logistical challenges saw him rise through the ranks. He was a very important, although somewhat forgotten, American military officer. William Tunner, another overlooked figure, was a genius at organizing supply operations by air, having previously run the operation supplying China from India by flying over the "Hump" in World War II. The Airlift was floundering until Tunner was put in charge, and then things began to change.
The most endearing character is pilot Gail ("Hal") Halverson, who was the original "candy bomber." Halverson felt sorry for the children of Berlin who had suffered through the war and now had little to eat and nothing to look forward to. So he began parachuting (with handkerchiefs) rations of chocolate and candy to the kids. At first he was fearful that he would be busted, because it was against regulations. But the brass (and then the politicians) quickly saw the value of the candy drops in changing hearts and minds--on both sides of the Atlantic. In the U.S., grass roots efforts (and later corporate donations) helped supply the candy bombers. Berliners saw the good will of the American effort and, for the most part, staunchly resisted the Soviet effort to break their will.
It is really a great book. If I have one reservation, it is that the story is very slow in developing. This book is about 26 hours. The story really does not start moving until you are about a quarter of the way in. Stick with it. It is well worth it in the end.
In the early hours of February 25, 1968, a Russian submarine armed with three nuclear ballistic missiles set sail from its base in Siberia on a routine combat patrol to Hawaii. Then it vanished. As the Soviet navy searched in vain for the lost vessel, a small, highly classified American operation using sophisticated deep-sea spy equipment found it - wrecked on the sea floor at a depth of 16,800 feet, far beyond the capabilities of any salvage that existed.
This is a really fascinating story of a CIA operation to raise a Soviet sub that was carrying nuclear missiles. The characters are very well-developed. The technology (and the speed with which it was developed) was amazing. I don't want to give too many details for fear of spoiling the story.
If there is one weakness in the book, it is the failure to really nail the question of what the operation accomplished in terms of gathering useful intelligence. There are a lot of rumors floating around. A lot of Navy brass at the time thought the whole exercise was essentially useless because the K-129 was an older boat when it sank. It would be really interesting to know the truth.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
No espionage missions have been kept more secret than those involving American submarines. Now, Blind Man's Bluff shows for the first time how the navy sent submarines wired with self-destruct charges into the heart of Soviet seas to tap crucial underwater telephone cables. It unveils how the navy's own negligence might have been responsible for the loss of the USS Scorpion, a submarine that disappeared, all hands lost, 30 years ago.
This book has been out for about 20 years and has received a lot of praise. It is well-deserved. This book reads like a novel, or, perhaps more accurately, a great collection of short stories about particular missions and boats. The characters are compelling and the stories are well-told. The narration is excellent. If you are interested in the Cold War or submarines, this will be a great book for you.
Sleep is one of the most important but least understood aspects of our life, wellness, and longevity. Until very recently, science had no answer to the question of why we sleep, or what good it served, or why we suffer such devastating health consequences when we don't sleep. Compared to the other basic drives in life - eating, drinking, and reproducing - the purpose of sleep remained elusive.
This is a very interesting book about why we need to sleep and dream. The science that is discussed is very interesting. Basically, the message is simple: We need to get more sleep, and sleep cycles vary among individuals. Hence "early to bed and early to rise" is not good advice for all of us.
That said, I'm not sure that all of the author's suggestions are practical. I doubt that many of us are willing to exist with abstaining from caffeine and alcohol. I'm not sure that many of us will be able to persuade employers to allow us to work hours that mesh with our sleep cycles.
Still, the author provides some food for thought. Extremely early start times for schools are probably not a good idea. Allowing staggered starting times would not only accommodate different sleep cycles, but might reduce the crush of rush hour traffic.
Overall, I learned a lot from this book and liked it.
I wasn't so fond of the narration which is very British and comes across at times as somewhat condescending.
In 1901 Evelyn Nesbit, a chorus girl, dined alone with the architect Stanford White in his townhouse on 24th Street in New York. Nesbit, just 16 years old, had recently moved to the city. White was 47. As the foremost architect of his day, he was a celebrity. She told no one that White raped her that night until, several years later, she confided in Harry Thaw, the millionaire playboy who would later become her husband. Thaw, thirsting for revenge, shot and killed White in 1906 before hundreds of theatergoers during a performance in Madison Square Garden.
This book is a very thorough re-telling of the "crime of the century." Evelyn Nesbit, a beautiful teenager who had come to New York to make a living as a model and a chorus girl, caught the fancy of Stanford White, the most prominent architect of the day. She later married a rich man with a trust fund, Harry Thaw. Thaw then gunned down White at point blank range at a performance at Madison Square Garden, which White had designed.
Was it murder? Was Thaw insane due to believing that White had raped his wife? To reveal any more would spoil the story, but this tale has more twists and turns than you can believe. The book is well written, and reads like a drama, not a history. It is quite well done.
I thought the narration detracted from the story. I suppose the decision was made to have a woman narrate the book on the theory that the story is about Evelyn. More accurately, the first 40 percent or so focuses on Evelyn, but the balance of the story is about Harry Thaw. The actors in the legal dramas are mainly male. I found Ms. Lakin's efforts to imitate male voices (there is much dialogue in the book) to range from off-putting to laughable. Her effort to effect a French accent from a Canadian official in Quebec sounded a lot like a bad Russian accent from a cartoon character.
Overall, though, well worth a listen.
1 of 2 people found this review helpful
In 1942, a team at the University of Chicago achieved what no one had before: a nuclear chain reaction. At the forefront of this breakthrough stood Enrico Fermi. Straddling the ages of classical physics and quantum mechanics, equally at ease with theory and experiment, Fermi truly was the last man who knew everything - at least about physics. But he was also a complex figure who was a part of both the Italian Fascist Party and the Manhattan Project, and a less-than-ideal father and husband who nevertheless remained one of history's greatest mentors.
This is a good book about a scientist who truly changed the world, Enrico Fermi. Sometimes called the father of the atomic age, he rose from a stable middle class environment in Rome--not a real hotbed of science at the time--to become one of the world's great physicists. This book presents a comprehensive treatment of his relatively short life (he died at 53).
This is a book that can be read a multiple levels. There is a certain level of science in it, but it would probably be overly simplistic for those who have studied physics. There are parts of it that are challenging for a non-scientist such as myself to follow in detail, but the author is really good at explaining the gist of why certain events are important. The story moves well and does not get bogged down, even though it is rather lengthy.
The book provides a very good study of the man. Fermi comes across as an outstanding colleague, particularly in his later years. He had many friends and admirers. He did not just plant himself in his laboratory. He insisted on having lunch (apparently for about two hours) each day with colleagues. He liked to hike and swim. He was quite athletic. He was a good husband, perhaps not as good a father, but rather typical for his time.
I think the book provides a good--and sympathetic--treatment of Fermi and the scientists who were involved in the Manhattan Project. It is extremely easy to criticize them from the space of nearly 80 years. It must be remembered that most of the scientists had immigrated from a Europe dominated by Nazi Germany. Many had worked at German universities. Germany was the epicenter of physics in the 1930s. So they had personal knowledge of the abilities of German scientists, and considerable concern about them developing an atomic bomb. Einstein himself signed a letter to Roosevelt that led to the start of the project. The book covers all of this in great detail, and allows the reader to draw his or her own conclusions.
The narration is very good. Definitely worth your time if you have any interest in the subject.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
A shocking exposé of Volkswagen's fraud by the New York Times reporter who covered the scandal. In mid-2015 Volkswagen proudly reached its goal of surpassing Toyota as the world's largest automaker. A few months later, the EPA disclosed that Volkswagen had installed software in 11 million cars that deceived emissions-testing mechanisms. By early 2017 VW had settled with American regulators and car owners for $20 billion, with additional lawsuits still looming.
Truth can be stranger than fiction. If this story were not out of the headlines, it would be easy to characterize it as a fanciful tale of corporate mismanagement, replete with many Teutonic villains but few white knights. However, this tale appears well-documented.
As an initial matter, understand that I am the ultimate skeptic. I am a lawyer and have represented businesses for over thirty years. I have found most stories of corporate greed or wrongdoing--particularly with respect to environmental matters--are overblown when you really get down to the facts. Further, I have represented German companies for many years, and have many German friends. I generally find Germans to be very straight-forward and honest. If anything, Germans are very strict about following the rules. All of this wanted to make me take this book with a grain of salt.
The problem with being a skeptic is that--as the book reminds us--VW pretty much has admitted everything. The reporting here ends in 2017, but the ramifications continue to plague VW.
The book starts like a novel with some graduate students conductin tests to try to measure emissions from diesel vehicles on the road, as opposed to a controlled testing environment. When the anomalous results come in, they assume there is a reasonable explanation, and the story goes from there.
Before returning to the story, the author provides a very interesting history of VW, its original ties to the Nazi regime, and its connection to the Porsche/Piech family. In the author's view, and he makes a pretty good case for it, the driven management style of Ferdinand Piech not only set the stage for VW's ascent to, briefly, the world's no. 1 auto manufacturer, but also for managers to bend the emissions rules to sell "clean diesel" cars.
The author also describes, in pretty digestible detail, the rather strange (one might say absurd) ownership structure of VW, where laborers and the State of Lower Saxony effectively have a veto right over management decisions. But I don't want to say too much, as it would spoil the story.
One qualm I have about this book is the narration. Generally, Richards is a very fluent narrator. But, to me anyway, he somewhat spoiled it with his overdone pronunciations of German and Austrian names, which appear throughout the book. "Piech" is certainly difficult for an American to pronounce, but Richards takes it to a new level, often over-articulating the name, and then pronouncing it in multiple ways. He also does this with other names, making a show of trying to replicate the correct German pronunciation in an exaggerated manner. At times, it reminded me of a Steve Martin comedy routine (if you are old enough to remember!). It would have been better just to use an Americanized pronunciation and keep it low key and consistent. At least, that's how I see it (or would have preferred to have heard it).
At the end of 2008, Ford Motor Company was just months away from running out of cash. With the auto industry careening toward ruin, Congress offered all three Detroit automakers a bailout. General Motors and Chrysler grabbed the taxpayer lifeline, but Ford decided to save itself. Under the leadership of charismatic CEO Alan Mulally, Ford had already put together a bold plan to unify its divided global operations, transform its lackluster product lineup, and overcome a dysfunctional culture of infighting, backstabbing, and excuses.
This is really a great book that, in telling a very interesting story, provides a compelling story of business leadership on multiple levels.
First, there is the story of Bill Ford, who was running Ford but not making progress. Ford was smart (and humble) enough to realize that the company with his name on it was in effect going out of business slowly. He knew the company needed new leadership, and was not afraid to seek it.
When Ford turned to Alan Mulally in 2006, Mulally had already been instrumental in turning around Boeing. To a large extent, Mulally had much to lose and little to gain by taking on Ford. Bill Ford and many employees and shareholders are sure glad he did.
The book outlines, in fairly graphic detail, what a dysfunctional place Ford was when Mulally arrived. No one was on the same team, much less on the same page. Mulally brought procedures to solve this, but much more than procedures were involved. Mulally's personal leadership skills and charisma must have just been off the charts. One of the things he did not do was to clean house and bring in his own team. As the book explains, Mulally set the new standards and those who did not want to follow them "self-selected" out.
After Mulally had the team mostly rowing in the same direction, the financial crisis hit. The description of how Mulally and his management team, worked their way through the crisis while GM and Chrysler filed for bankruptcy is pretty amazing.
This is a very entertaining book that provides a lot of business and life lessons along the way. First rate!