LISTENER

John

Chamblee, GA, United States
  • 147
  • reviews
  • 572
  • helpful votes
  • 170
  • ratings
  • Operation Paperclip

  • The Secret Intelligence Program that Brought Nazi Scientists to America
  • By: Annie Jacobsen
  • Narrated by: Annie Jacobsen
  • Length: 19 hrs and 26 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 551
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 504
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 503

Drawing on exclusive interviews with dozens of Paperclip family members, colleagues, and interrogators, and with access to German archival documents (including papers made available to her by direct descendants of the Third Reich's ranking members), files obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, and lost dossiers discovered at the National Archives and Harvard University, Annie Jacobsen follows more than a dozen German scientists through their postwar lives and into one of the most complex, nefarious, and jealously guarded government secrets of the 20th century.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • The Osenberg list

  • By Jean on 08-07-14

Important, But Flawed

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
2 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-12-18

Ms. Jacobsen appears to have done a great amount of research and has brought to light important information about German scientists' work in the U.S. after the war. Many of these people had dark backgrounds, which she highlights in considerable detail.

That said, this book is written with a clear agenda. Ms. Jacobsen clearly does not think that Operation Paperclip was a good idea and is a stain on our country. I really do not have a problem with a book written to present a case for a position--so long as it is clearly labeled as such (and this book is not).

What seems to be lacking here is a perspective about what the country was facing after World War II. Roosevelt had thought that the relationship with Russia could be managed. After he died and the war in Europe ended, that view quickly became wishful thinking. The Russians raped, pillaged and took anything they could out of Germany (routinely dismantling factories, for example). There was a real rush to secure the best scientists and the best weapons, not only to strengthen the U.S. (which was still at war with Japan), but perhaps even more so to keep them from Russia. Fortunately, the Paperclip scientists did not end up in Russia, although many other German scientists did. Russia subsequently installed puppet governments in the eastern European countries, blockaded Berlin, and constituted a threat to western Europe (and the U.S.) until the end of the Cold War. It was a much darker and confusing time than seems to be acknowledged here, and decisions such as Paperclip involved many shades of gray and were not black and white.

Did the Cold War not become a hot war because of the German scientists? We will never know for. We do know, however, that if we had not brought over von Braun and his group that we would have lost the space race. I think that lends some credibility to a more balanced viewpoint. As other reviewers have pointed out, Ms. Jacbosen does a great job of cataloguing what the scientists profiled did in Nazi Germany. She does not do a good job of covering what they did for the U.S. thereafter, although some of those profiled (including von Braun) seem to have done a lot.

The author's tendency to categorize all profiled as "ardent Nazis," mainly based in membership in the party or organizations, seems questionable. A little more detail here is in order, at least in most cases, to draw that conclusion regarding a totalitarian country where there were not a lot of options. I do not think that most people who found themselves in the vortex of the Third Reich were in much of a position to push back. For example, von Braun was arrested in 1944 by the Nazis (then released), an episode not covered in this book.

There are other issues with this book. It could have used a good editing. It is very repetitive. It also spells out in great detail the names of organizations (in German with an English translation) and military ranks without simply using the translation or an explanation. This gets tedious and takes away from the flow of the story. There also are some errors. Nazi generals in a "private jet" circa 1950? I don't think so.

It is also extremely unfortunate that Ms. Jacobsen chose to narrate this book. She has a very monotone voice with just a touch of condescension--kind of like a slightly egotistical high school teacher. She repeatedly mispronounces names and places. If you are thinking about buying this book, listen carefully to the sample and be sure you are prepared for over 19 hours of this.

In short, it should have either been presented as an opinion piece or should have been more balanced. It could have been shorter and more effective. Another narrator would have helped. But there is a lot of important information and disturbing information here.

  • The Battle of Britain

  • Five Months That Changed History; May-October 1940
  • By: James Holland
  • Narrated by: Shaun Grindell
  • Length: 26 hrs and 39 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 316
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 292
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 291

The Battle of Britain paints a stirring picture of an extraordinary summer when the fate of the world hung by a thread. Historian James Holland has now written the definitive account of those months based on extensive new research from around the world, including thousands of new interviews with people on both sides of the battle.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • The battle up to The Battle of Britain

  • By Chiefkent on 11-07-17

Misleading Title

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
2 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-28-18

The title of this book is misleading. It is really about the first phase of World War II through the Battle of Britain. It does not get to the Battle of Britain per se until about half way through the book (and it is nearly a 27 hour book). The start of the war and the invasion of France are told in great detail. This is actually pretty interesting as it is not often recounted, but it is not about the Battle of Britain itself. Still, it sets the story up nicely.

The story is told from both the British and German side, with vignettes from pilots on both sides (typically told in the first person). At the time the book was published (2010) or while it was being written, a surprising number of them were still alive. The book seems very well researched. To me, however, the very large number of participants and many personal stories does detract a little from the flow of the story. Others may disagree.

What is really strange about this book is that it just kind of peters out at the end. We get to the Battle of Britain and there are rousing stories of the air war, and then it is just kind of over--with not much of an effort to wrap it up. It's almost as if, after all the detailed build up the author just ran out of gas (much like many 109s did heading back to France). Perhaps it was a publishing deadline. There is an Epilogue that helps, but it still seems the story ended rather abruptly. In my opinion, the book is way too slow on the start and then too quick on the finish. But there is a lot of interesting material in between.

There are two other things that bothered me about this book. First, the author chose to use German titles for the German participants and units. I guess this is more accurate, but it tended to detract from the story, especially since many were not pronounced very well by the narrator. Second, the narrator was just not that great. Oh, he's very British, which I guess is natural, but in addition to the German pronunciation issues, he has a rather odd cadence, where he is slow at some points and very quick at the others. Not my cup of tea, so to speak.

It's a good book, but know what you are getting into.

  • Mission

  • Jimmy Stewart and the Fight for Europe
  • By: Robert Matzen, Leonard Maltin - foreward
  • Narrated by: Peter Berkrot
  • Length: 11 hrs and 46 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 98
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 91
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 92

In March 1941 Jimmy Stewart, America's boy next door and recent Academy Award winner, left fame and fortune behind and joined the United States Army Air Corps to fulfill his family mission and serve his country. He rose from private to colonel and participated in 20 often-brutal World War II combat missions over Germany and France. In mere months the war took away his boyish looks as he faced near-death experiences and the loss of men under his command. The war finally won, he returned home with millions of other veterans to face an uncertain future.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Penetrating Telling of Jimmy Stewart's War Years

  • By David on 05-09-17

Who Knew?

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-28-18

I think most of us who remember Jimmy Stewart think of him as the quintessential American from "It's a Wonderful Life" or countless other films, or perhaps as the courtly gentleman on the Tonight Show. Who knew Jimmy was a war hero and ultimately a General? He certainly didn't talk about it, at least that I can recall.

The book takes us through Stewart's early life through this success in Hollywood in the 1930s. We learn (again, this was new to me) that he was quite a ladies man, having affairs with most of the well known actresses of the day. His duty to country having been instilled by his father and grandfather, we wanted to serve in World War II. As a pilot, he wanted to serve in the Air Corps.

The story then turns to Jimmy's struggle to get into the service, and then to take a front line (as opposed to ceremonial) role, all at a relatively advanced age for combat pilots. Stewart flew the missions and saw many young men under his command not survive. He had to write the family members, and it is clear that it was painful and stressful to him.

The story is well told, from a first person point of view that the author (surprisingly) makes work quite well. The story moves along and it is a very good listen.

  • Three Days in Moscow

  • Ronald Reagan and the Fall of the Soviet Empire
  • By: Bret Baier, Catherine Whitney
  • Narrated by: Bret Baier
  • Length: 12 hrs and 37 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 412
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 379
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 377

In Three Days in Moscow, Baier explores the dramatic endgame of America’s long struggle with the Soviet Union and President Ronald Reagan’s central role in shaping the world we live in today. On May 31, 1988, Reagan stood on Russian soil and addressed a packed audience at Moscow State University, delivering a remarkable - yet now largely forgotten - speech that capped his first visit to the Soviet capital. 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Amazing!

  • By Brian W. Barton on 05-20-18

Great Recap of Reagan and Gorbachev's Relationship

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-28-18

Bret Baier and Catherine Whitney do a great job in recounting the history of Reagan and Gorbachev's relationship. In just a few years, they were able to take the relationship from being arch enemies to at least one of peaceful coexistence. The book is framed around a somewhat remarkable (and, as the authors note, largely forgotten) speech that Reagan gave at Moscow University near the end of this presidency. The idea that he would be speaking freely to Russian college students would have been unthinkable when Reagan entered office in 1981.

The authors do a good job of recounting relationship between Reagan and Gorbachev from both sides. It had its ups and downs, but eventually the two men built a relationship of trust and respect. It is sad that we have not been able to build on this relationship in recent years, which, I think, is largely due to Putin. It certainly would be a good idea if the U.S. and Russia were at least able to get along, and perhaps this book is a good reminder of that.

The narration by Baier is first rate.

  • The Age of Eisenhower

  • America and the World in the 1950s
  • By: William I. Hitchcock
  • Narrated by: Arthur Morey
  • Length: 25 hrs and 38 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 138
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 127
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 127

In a 2017 survey, presidential historians ranked Dwight D. Eisenhower fifth on the list of great presidents, behind the perennial top four: Lincoln, Washington, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Teddy Roosevelt. Historian William Hitchcock shows that this high ranking is justified. Eisenhower's accomplishments were enormous and loom ever larger from the vantage point of our own tumultuous times.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A Very Thorough and Balanced Biography

  • By John on 05-28-18

A Very Thorough and Balanced Biography

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-28-18

Hitchcock has written a very thorough and balanced biography of Eisenhower's years as President. It is not meant to be a chronicle of his entire life. Within its scope, the book is very comprehensive and interesting. Although the book generally is kind to Eisenhower, it is not a fawning portrayal and includes appropriate criticism, particularly of the U-2 affair and Eisenhower's approval of covert action that was much in contrast to his public foreign policy.

Probably the best thing this book does is to present a portrait of a decent and highly intelligent man who had to govern in a very difficult time. He did this mostly by moderation and largely in a bi-partisan way. To critics, such as on civil rights, he never did enough. But he probably did what was possible during his time--a time that included a block of southern Democrats (yes, Democrats) committed to segregation. This moderate approach also won out on foreign policy--he was able to end the war in Korea and avoid war elsewhere. He was not afraid to play hardball--including with our allies--when necessary.

The book is also notable in the respect that Eisenhower clearly had for the office he occupied. This sense of respect seems to have been lacking both inside the office and outside for most of the last twenty years.

Written from enough distance, the book offers a great sense of perspective. It is clear that the political "intelligentsia" of the time vastly underestimated and underappreciated him. The only consistency with that crowd is how often they were wrong then, and how constant that has stayed through the years.

Excellent book. Good narration.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • The Marshall Plan

  • Dawn of the Cold War
  • By: Benn Steil
  • Narrated by: Arthur Morey
  • Length: 16 hrs and 34 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 113
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 107
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 107

The award-winning author of The Battle of Bretton Woods reveals the gripping history behind the Marshall Plan—told with verve, insight, and resonance for today.

In the wake of World War II, with Britain’s empire collapsing and Stalin's on the rise, US officials under new secretary of state George C. Marshall set out to reconstruct western Europe as a bulwark against communist authoritarianism. Their massive, costly, and ambitious undertaking would confront Europeans and Americans alike with a vision at odds with their history and self-conceptions. In the process, they would drive the creation of NATO, the European Union, and a Western identity that continues to shape world events.

Focusing on the critical years 1947 to 1949, Benn Steil’s thrilling account brings to life the seminal episodes marking the collapse of postwar US-Soviet relations—the Prague coup, the Berlin blockade, and the division of Germany. In each case, we see and understand like never before Stalin’s determination to crush the Marshall Plan and undermine American power in Europe.

Given current echoes of the Cold War, as Putin’s Russia rattles the world order, the tenuous balance of power and uncertain order of the late 1940s is as relevant as ever. The Marshall Plan provides critical context into understanding today’s international landscape. Bringing to bear fascinating new material from American, Russian, German, and other European archives, Steil’s account will forever change how we see the Marshall Plan and the birth of the Cold War. A polished and masterly work of historical narrative, this is an instant classic of Cold War literature.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Great Historic Learning

  • By Dan Davis on 04-07-18

Very Detailed History

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-28-18

This is a really good history of the Marshall Plan and of the post-war era. It is very detailed. The book is a little ponderous in places because of the amount of detail. However, it picks up and ends up being pretty interesting. My advice: Be prepared for the detail, but stick with it!

  • The General vs. the President

  • MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War
  • By: H. W. Brands
  • Narrated by: Scott Brick
  • Length: 15 hrs and 22 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 468
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 426
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 421

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.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A Vivid Dramatic Accounting

  • By Jean on 11-11-16

Very Good Account of What Happened in Korea

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-20-18

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 Accidental President

  • Harry S. Truman and the Four Months That Changed the World
  • By: A. J. Baime
  • Narrated by: Tony Messano
  • Length: 14 hrs and 21 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 633
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 587
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 584

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.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Exceptional

  • By Jean on 11-14-17

Great Book About an Interesting Man

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-20-18

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.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Candy Bombers

  • By: Andrei Cherny
  • Narrated by: Jonathan Davis
  • Length: 24 hrs and 22 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 218
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 137
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 139

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.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Wonderful Story, Well-Read

  • By Alex on 10-07-09

Fascinating History that Must Not be Forgotten

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-20-18

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.

  • The Taking of K-129

  • How the CIA Used Howard Hughes to Steal a Russian Sub in the Most Daring Covert Operation in History
  • By: Josh Dean
  • Narrated by: Neil Hellegers
  • Length: 15 hrs and 47 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 509
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 480
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 474

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.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • One of the great stories in history

  • By Ben Newman on 11-21-17

Amazing Story: Reads Like a Novel

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-20-18

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