God's Chinese Son: The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom of Hong Xiuquan - Jonathan D. Spence

The book tells of the Taiping Rebellion that devasted China in the 19th century. Led by Hong Xiuquan, self claimed brother of Jesus Christ, the rebellion lasted almost 15 years. This was essentially a civil war that engulfed most of southern China, and an estimate of 20 millions dead - making this one of the most costly of wars in all history. Contrast this with the estimated 10-15 million Chinese dead in WWII. The story is well documented here and Dr Spence is one of the foremost Chinese historian today. The only problem is that the book does descend to 'academic speak' in many places. So it will be a tough read at points, but if you can get past those areas (frankly, you can skip some of those pages and still have a coherent history), the books is a good reference into the Taiping rebellion. If you are looking for a lighter read though, there are better choices out there.

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The Longest Day - Cornelius Ryan

As cliché as it sounds - if you only read only one book on D-Day, the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, this is it. The book was written in the 1950's, where Mr Ryan interviewed planners and survivors of the battle, on all both sides. Included are also stories of the French people living in Normandy. Dividing the book into three sections "The Waiting", "The Day", and "The Night", he weaves the overall grand strategic plan among the generals with the intimate stories of the men and women who experienced the battle first hand. It is those smaller stories that really bring the invasion to life for the reader. You know how it ends, but you still can't wait to see what happens next. There has been numerous books about D-Day since this was published in 1959, while each adds to our understanding of that event, none has surpassed it as a single volume narrative both in accuracy, perspective, and prose.

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Sharks over China: The 23rd Fighter Group in World War II - Carl Molesworth

After the famed "Flying TIgers" aka American Volunteers Group was disbanded by the US Army Air Force, they were replaced by the 23rd FIghter Group. Many former members of the AVG transitioned to the new 23rd FG, while many did not - but that's another story. Mr Molesworth has done much extensive research into the air war over China, an often negiected area in WWII studies. While personal correspondence and interviews are interspersed through the book, the book's structure is basically a day by day recounting of the missions. In terms of narrative, that is the biggest shortcomings of the book, those descriptions often become dry and repetitive. If you are looking for a fantastic reference book on the 23rd FIghter Group, this is it. If on the other hand you are looking for an interesting read, this may be tough going for all but those with intense interest in the China Air War during WWII - like I am.

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The Face of Battle: : A Study of Agincourt, Waterloo, and the Somme - John Keegan

The Face of Battle was written back in 1983 and remains one of the best of its kind to examine. At the time, it was ground breaking work as it tries to understand what it was like to be in a battle, not from a general's perspective, not from a squad's perspective, but from an individual's perspective. What was it like to face a cavalry charge? How about marching in formation toward the enemy who is firing at you? Running toward enemy trenches with machine gun fire? From the mundane to facing immediate threat to you life, the question is asked what would a person do. In many ways, you will be asking yourself what would you do? While the prose can descend into academic speak at a few places, it is only minor annoyance given the questions poised and his analysis are so fascinating. Keegan passed away in 2012, leaving a good body of original military historical analysis. While he has written many other fine histories, I highly recommend this one if you are interested in the experience of warfare.

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Vietnam: A History- Stanley Karnow

This book was orginally written in 1983, but was revised in 1990 with additional interviews. Karnow was a reporter who was in Vietnam during the war, and had access to many primary sources. This is an excellet book that gives an account of the American involvement in Vietnam.  But be forwarned that it is exactly that, the American's experience and perspective in Vietnam. Nor is this a military history of the war, but a political history only - military details are only mentioned in the larger context of the whole conflict.  Some may disagree with some of his conclusions, but they are well argued. Given those caveats, this is a very good one volume introduction into the Vietnam war.

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Tiger Diorama from good old days

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This diorama was built with my good friend Terrence way back in the late 70's. It's a 1/35 Tamiya Tiger tank that was built over a span of a summer vacation. This diorama no longer exists intact and these outdoor photos remains as evidence of a simpler past - where boys had all the time in the world to indulge in their hobbies.

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