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B Taub

Ann Arbor, MI United States
  • 16
  • reviews
  • 56
  • helpful votes
  • 50
  • ratings
  • Samurai!

  • By: Martin Caidin
  • Narrated by: Kevin Waites
  • Length: 11 hrs and 27 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 11
  • Performance
    2.5 out of 5 stars 9
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 9

Saburo Sakai became a living legend in Japan during World War II. Pilots everywhere spoke in awe of his incredible exploits in the air. Of all Japan’s aces, Saburo Sakai is the only pilot who never lost a wingman in combat. For a man who engaged in more than 200 aerial combats, this was an incredible achievement. His remarkable book Samurai! written by Martin Caiden but with the assistance of Sakai and Fred Saito is a brilliant account of life as a Japanese pilot in the Second World War.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Interesting But Worst Narration Ever!

  • By B Taub on 06-22-19

Interesting But Worst Narration Ever!

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

Reviewed: 06-22-19

For all of its flaws of this book and especially this recording, it is still worth the time for someone looking for an interesting aviation war story with lots of action from a completely different perspective that we typically see in the West. Saburo Sakai, the subject of this book, fought in China and in many Pacific campaigns - both winning and losing. He lived the meteoric rise and the eventual fall of the Japanese empire. He, therefore, provides a great perspective on the Japanese fighter pilot experience and how it evolved over the course of the war. He was there in the early days, when the Zero was supreme. He was there in the later days when his side just couldn't keep up with their enemies' tactics, manufacturing capacity, and technological innovation. So, there is a lot to learn here.

It's also exciting stuff. There are a ton of dogfights and flying adventures, many told in detail. (as a slightly surprising aside, I found it interesting that I just couldn't separate myself from an American focus, really feeling bad for the crews that Sakai shot down - even though the story is told from his, not their, perspective. When I read material told from the American perspective, I don't feel nearly so bad for the enemy pilots who are suffering from the same horrible fates.)

Not that the material is completely accurate. As, I guess, might be expected, Sakai never mentions the treatment of conquered people or prisoners of war. He once does refer to a brothel at Rabaul but never discusses how it was likely staffed with sex slaves. I also know that in aerial combat, kill totals are frequently inflated. While some of his kills have been documented in other literature I've read, I wonder if anyone has correlated his records with American & Australian records.

Finally, I can generally live with just about any narrator, and I managed to suffer through this one, but it was tough! There were many mispronunciations throughout the text and many places where a few seconds of audio are repeated and overlapped on each other. There was even one spot where the narrator seemed to record a phrase three times, hurling what I believe was an expletive after the second time. The reader's voice was fine and his attempt to add drama to some scenes was, I guess, forgivable but this title could really benefit from some serious editing. I don't mean to cast aspersions, especially if this was a recording done by the reader charitably for people who can't read, but this one is worth a redo,

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Air Apaches

  • The True Story of the 345th Bomb Group and Its Low, Fast, and Deadly Missions in World War II
  • By: Jay A. Stout
  • Narrated by: Robertson Dean
  • Length: 15 hrs and 5 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 184
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 171
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 173

The American 345th Bomb Group - the Air Apaches - was legendary in the war against Japan. The first fully trained and fully equipped group sent to the South Pacific, the 345th racked up a devastating score against the enemy. Armed to the teeth with machine guns and fragmentation bombs, and flying their B-25s at impossibly low altitudes - often below 50 feet - the pilots and air crews strafed and bombed enemy installations and shipping with a fury that helped cripple Japan. 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Great Story and a Great Performance

  • By Carter L. on 02-09-19

Great Info About a Little Discussed Part of WW2

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

Reviewed: 03-16-19

Like most of Mr. Stout's books, I really enjoyed this one. It covers the history of the 345th bomb group from its start on New Guinea through its fighting in and from the Philippines and on to its time actually in the Japanese home islands. There was a lot of great detail in here and I left with a real sense of what fighting the air war in that part of the world was like. If you're interested in this topic (and if you like military aviation history, you should be), great companions to this listen would be "Lucky 666", about a B17 crew that flew from New Guinea in 1943 leading to a medal of honor for the pilot and "Indesctructible", about Pappy Gunn.

The Mr. Stout probably doesn't read these reviews but, just in case, he opens the book with a gripping account of a mission on which a B-25 crew is brought down by friendly fire in New Guinea. This has to be a largely fictionalized account of that experience (the mission is referred to later in the book) as the entire crew was killed in the crash. This piece was quite engaging and really shows how historical fiction / fictionalized accounts of real events can give us a better understanding of what it was like for the airmen. It would be great if he put his military flying experience and writing skills to the task of writing an entire book in this format, perhaps following the exploits of one crew or writing a series of accounts from the perspective of crews in different parts of the war.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Angels in the Sky

  • How a Band of Volunteer Airmen Saved the New State of Israel
  • By: Robert Gandt
  • Narrated by: Tom Perkins
  • Length: 12 hrs and 57 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 35
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 33
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 33

Angels in the Sky is the gripping story of how an all-volunteer air force helped defeat five Arab nations and protect the fledgling Jewish state. It is the exhilarating account of a ragtag band of volunteer airmen from around the world who fought for Israel during the war of independence. They arrived from America, Canada, Britain, France, and South Africa. Almost all were World War II combat veterans. Many, but not all, were Jewish, and many knowingly violated their nations' embargoes on the shipment of arms and aircraft to Israel.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Truly excellent story - highly recommended

  • By Shimon on 03-21-19

Way More Than the Std Story We've All Heard!

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

Reviewed: 02-12-18

Wow, what a great book! Many of us amateur aviation history fans have heard how a few Jewish and gentile pilots flew Czech-built Messerschmitts during Israel's 48 War of Independence and that's where the story usually stops. This book goes way deeper - it wasn't just a few fighter pilots, it was also bomber pilots, and it was transport pilots, it was savvy businessmen willing to go to jail by flouting export regulations to get Israel the planes it needed. This story flows like a novel - it's interesting, follows twists and turns, has heroes (and a few villains), shows the pain of loss, and the thrill of ultimate victory.

Here are a few things (spoilers - sorry) I didn't know before listening to this book that might pique the interest of aviation fans, like myself:
- The last Israeli victories of the war were actually over 4 RAF (not Egyptian) Spitfires
- The IAF used T6 Harvards (planes without dive brakes) as dive bombers
- Israel flew B17s in combat
- Early in the war the combat consisted of Israeli pilots flying ex-Nazi equipment against Egyptian pilots flying ex-British equipment

The book is not super-technical but technical enough to be credible.

In listening to this book I couldn't help but think, Wow, this would make a great movie!!!

The narrator was good although his pronunciation of certain Hebrew words and Israeli place names was a bit off, which can be a bit jarring.

Overall, though, highly recommended!!!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Battle of Britain

  • Five Months That Changed History; May-October 1940
  • By: James Holland
  • Narrated by: Shaun Grindell
  • Length: 26 hrs and 40 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 412
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 381
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 379

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

WW2 Thru the Battle of Britain

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

Reviewed: 12-15-17

While filled with a huge number of personal accounts, this book also delves deeply into the strategies that brought about the Battle of Britain and the tactics that led to its outcome. The book starts well before the BoB, though, and spends a huge amount of time on the invasion of France and then the evacuation at Dunkirk. So, it would probably have better been titled WW2 Through the Battle of Britain but, I suppose, that's not as marketable. However, if you're ok with that, there's a lot to learn here. I, personally, ended up happy that I learned more than I originally expected.

For example, we're all brought up to think of Hitler as doing things just out of evil, which he most certainly was. But, he did also have strategic concerns about the rise of communism and Germany's geographic position in Europe. Understanding these help, at least, explain his expansion into Western Europe. The book gives you that nuance, as well as an understanding of Goering that transcends his reputation as a purely comical figure.

The book is also very sympathetic to Neville Chamberlin and the role he eventually played in Churchill's government.

After the fall of France, the book does a great job of proceeding through the BoB and how the battle evolved.

I don't want to give the impression that the book is only about politics, though. That is maybe 20% of it. The rest is dedicated to tactics, technologies, and individual stories.

I've read a ton of aviation history but I still learned a lot here. For example, the author makes a good argument that, objectively, the Me109e was better than the Spitfire Mk1 and way better than the Hurricane. He may have ignored a few details but, overall, his analysis seems sound.

My only complaint about the book is that a few basic concepts were just wrong. The one that grated on my nerves most was that the author almost always referred to g-forces as negative-g. Negative-g just didn't make sense in many of the cases where he described it - it was just g! But, overall, I think he knew what he's talking about (he's probably not a pilot, though).

In the final analysis, most people will finish this book (after some time - it is quite long) with a far more nuanced understanding of the Battle of Britain, it's importance, and why it went the way it did.

16 of 17 people found this review helpful

  • Al Franken, Giant of the Senate

  • By: Al Franken
  • Narrated by: Al Franken
  • Length: 12 hrs and 6 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 15,205
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 14,032
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 13,888

Al Franken, Giant of the Senate is a book about an unlikely campaign that had an even more improbable ending: the closest outcome in history and an unprecedented eight-month recount saga, which is pretty funny in retrospect. It's a book about what happens when the nation's foremost progressive satirist gets a chance to serve in the United States Senate and, defying the low expectations of the pundit class, actually turns out to be good at it.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • I was reading this when the allegations against Franken came out

  • By Fruitsalad200 on 12-10-17

Funny politics intro for folks who hate politics

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

Reviewed: 10-01-17

OK, I listen to a lot of audiobooks and all of them are about some aspect of aviation history. So, looking for something different in a moment of weakness I picked up Al Franken's latest, GIANT OF THE SENATE. While I don't agree with all of his positions, I absolutely loved this book! It was funny, thoughtful, and engaging throughout.

Franken spends about the first quarter of the book giving his biography and talking about his time at SNL. Most of the book, though, covers his senatorial campaigns, his time in the senate, and how the senate really works. From that perspective, much of this book would make a great civics textbook. It describes how things really work but in an engaging and entertaining way.

I should also note that it was perfect that the author narrated his own book. Franken's comedic background and timing came across in his delivery. I wonder if audio might be a better format for this book than print.

Anyhow, five stars all around! (BTW, if you want a great WW1 aviation history book, try OPEN COCKPIT by Arthur Gould Lee)

  • Carrier Pilot

  • By: Norman Hanson
  • Narrated by: Chris MacDonnell
  • Length: 12 hrs and 47 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 168
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 163
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 162

In 1942, Norman Hanson learned to fly the Royal Navy's newest fighter: the US-built Chance Vought Corsair. Fast, rugged, and demanding to fly, it was an intimidating machine. But in the hands of its young Fleet Air Arm pilots, it also proved to be a lethal weapon. Posted to the South Pacific aboard HMS Illustrious, Hanson and his squadron took the fight to the Japanese. Facing a desperate and determined enemy, Kamikaze attacks, and the ever-present dangers of flying off a pitching carrier deck, death was never far away.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Absorbing

  • By Jean on 11-26-17

Interesting account of little covered piece of WW2

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

Reviewed: 09-15-17

At least here in the US, we don't hear much about the British navy in the Pacific in WW2, and even less about British naval pilots. Hanson does a nice job of recounting his experiences as one of those pilots. There was a lot to learn here, especially for aviation buffs as the author covers his flight training in Florida, his time serving in Egypt and, eventually, his work flying Corsairs from carriers in the Pacific. He mourns the close friends he lost but also, at times, gives very detailed accounts of things like the experience of flying a corsair and the experience of escaping one that had crashed and was sinking. He also, at times, demonstrates a wonderfully dry sense of humor.

I definitely recommend this book if you're interested in military aviation, WW2 naval aviation, Corsairs, or the experience of being a British naval pilot.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Marked for Death

  • The First War in the Air
  • By: James Hamilton-Paterson
  • Narrated by: Gildart Jackson
  • Length: 12 hrs and 14 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 45
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 40
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 40

Little more than 10 years after the first powered flight, aircraft were pressed into service in World War I. Nearly forgotten in the war's massive overall death toll, some 50,000 aircrew would die in the combatant nations' fledgling air forces. The romance of aviation had a remarkable grip on the public imagination, propaganda focusing on gallant air "aces" who become national heroes. The reality was horribly different. Marked for Death debunks popular myth to explore the brutal truths of wartime aviation.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Not a swashbuckler but has some interesting stuff

  • By B Taub on 04-13-17

Not a swashbuckler but has some interesting stuff

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

Reviewed: 04-13-17

While this book definitely contained a number of accounts of flying with the RFC in WW1, it wasn't as lively as some other books (e.g. Open Cockpit, which is referenced in this book). It does, however, contain a number of facts about the early days of the RFC and RAF.

It is probably important to note that this book is specifically about the RFC / RAF. It touches on the air services of other countries only when necessary to complete a point. In fact, the book ends with details of how the RFC evolved into the RAF of 2015 and the author's feelings about that evolution.

As opposed to most accounts of WW1 aviation, this one is not chronological. It, instead, builds chapters around topics of interest. For example, there are chapters on the 1914 -
1918 evolutions in: aircraft design (teaching, among other things, why biplanes were favored over monoplanes - a reason different than most people think), aviation medicine, pilot lives, and armament.

I thought the narrator was quite good, picking up decent accents to represent people from various countries. It seemed that there were a few mispronunciations but I suspect these were actually just differences between the way that words are pronounced in the UK and here in the US.

So, while I prefer first person flying stories that provide facts from the time (Open Cockpit is really a great listen for anyone so interested), this was a fine book for any World War One aviation enthusiast interested in learning facts that aren't generally covered in books of this genre.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Hell's Angels

  • The True Story of the 303rd Bomb Group in World War II
  • By: Jay A. Stout
  • Narrated by: Robertson Dean
  • Length: 14 hrs and 2 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 480
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 444
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 445

At the outbreak of World War II, the United States was in no way prepared to wage war. Although the US declared war against Germany in December 1941, the country lacked the manpower, the equipment, and the experience it needed to fight. Even had an invasion force been ready, a successful assault on Nazi-occupied Europe could not happen until Germany's industrial and military might were crippled.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • The Perfect Voice for a Compelling Story

  • By Carter L. on 03-13-15

Pretty Much Amazing!

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

Reviewed: 03-17-17

Wow! Just finished Hell's Angels this morning. What a great book, especially if you're an aviation history fan. It's almost like Mr. Stout used the 303rd as a mechanism for describing, in general, what life in the 8th air force, and what bomber operations were like. So, you get the 303rd's history but end up much better educated about what the air war was like for all of the 8th air force personnel.

Here are things I really appreciated:

- The author does a really nice job of chronologically following the group's history. However, this isn't a dry recounting of events - it's got a lot of life.
- There are a huge number of compelling first person accounts. The author clearly did a ton of research.
- Sometimes I read aviation history and it's clear that some authors don't have a strong grasp of the facts and of flight concepts (e.g. one book talks about how Rickenbacker turned his plane by pulling the stick left and applying right rudder - really?). However, I didn't encounter anything in this book that seemed questionable. I think that, perhaps, this comes from the fact that the author is a pilot.
- There are technical details but I didn't find them overwhelming. For example, the description of what it was like to be a ball turret gunner, and how the ball turret actually worked, was educational. On the other hand, if you aren't interested in it, that material was over in about 15 minutes. Also, these technical items don't all come at once; Stout manages to weave them in at appropriate points during the overall chronological narrative.
- Narrator was perfect - he was clear and applied just the right amount of accent to the characters through the book. He, also, got the pronunciation right (which I can't say for all aviation history narrators)

Here are some things that aren't necessarily failings so much as ideas / a wish list for a future Stout work:
- It would be nice to hear similar (perhaps shorter) perspectives from 8th AF units that flew B24s and other hardware
- It would be nice to hear similar perspectives from fighter pilots
- I guess I would have liked a bit more detail about what flying the B17 was like from the pilot's perspective (i.e. to a pilot, what was different about flying a 17 than flying a 24? What were things they had to be careful of? What did they really like?)
- What about a similar work from groups in other theaters?

Anyhow, I loved this audiobook. I really started to dread the end as we got into late 1944 and I knew it was coming. Highly recommend!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Indestructible

  • One Man's Rescue Mission That Changed the Course of WWII
  • By: John R. Bruning
  • Narrated by: Brian Troxell
  • Length: 17 hrs and 49 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 745
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 687
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 686

December 1941: Manila is invaded, and US citizen and Philippines Airlines manager Pappy Gunn is ordered to fly key military command out of the country, leaving his family at home. So Gunn was miles away when the Japanese captured his wife and children, placing them in an internment camp where they faced disease, abuse, and starvation. Gunn spent three years trying to rescue them. His exploits became legend as he revolutionized the art of air warfare, devising his own weaponry, missions, and more.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • You will love Pappy's story

  • By A. L. DeWitt on 11-15-16

Interesting but a bit too much detail

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

Reviewed: 12-21-16

I had heard of Pappy Gunn but never really knew much about him until I listened to this audio book. It was a really interesting story and I would recommend it to folks interested in the air war around Australia in WW2. My only problem with it was the excruciating detail that Bruning went into when telling the story. I have to believe some of the dialogue was fabricated to fit the story (I'm not sure that now, 75+ years after the events, the dialogue would have been remembered word for word). The author also was a bit too dramatic at times. All in all, though, it was a good listen, especially for an aviation buff like me.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Open Cockpit

  • By: Arthur Gould Lee
  • Narrated by: Roger Davis
  • Length: 8 hrs and 3 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 24
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 24
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 24

Author of three books, this is by far his best. Lee puts you in the cockpit in a riveting account of life as a fighter pilot at the front. At times humorous and dramatic, this thoughtful, enlightening, true account is a classic to be ranked with Winged Victory by W. V. Yeates, also published by Grub Street.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Really great insights into WW1 air combat!

  • By B Taub on 12-21-16

Really great insights into WW1 air combat!

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

Reviewed: 12-21-16

Loved this book! I read / listen to a lot of aviation history but I learned a ton from this one. Here were a few, random things that I liked and learned from:

1) When Lee first flies his Sopwith Pup, he describes what was in the cockpit. I always knew they carried hammers to pound on their machine guns but did you know they were carried in canvas cases? Did you know that they also carried 'POW bags' in case they were brought down in enemy territory? These kinds of details really make it feel like you're there.

2) Hearing the performance details of the Pup as compared to the German Albatross was cool. Lee thought the Albatross was a better plane but you could use the Pup's qualities (better high altitude performance & more agility) to your advantage. These facts aren't just dryly thrown out there, they come out during Lee's descriptions of numerous dogfights.

3) It makes sense but I never realized how much the pilots hated trench strafing and how air combat was considered less dangerous and less random.

4) Lee was very frank about the fact that he was scared. He credited his survival to both luck and to a rule that his first goal was to survive, not to get Huns. He, clearly, wasn't a coward but, at the same time, it was refreshing to hear someone admit his fears and describe how they shaped his approach to combat.

5) The narrator, with his English accent, was perfect for this book.

6) The book was loaded with flying and air combat. If there was any weakness it was that Lee didn't get deeply into his personal life or the emotions of his squadron mates and fellow pilots. Of course, that has been done in a lot of other books, though. He did, also, turn somber in the last chapter when he describes visiting the battlefields over which he fought some 40 or 50 years earlier.

Anyhow, if you're into flying, air combat, and/or WW1 air combat, I'd strongly recommend this book!