Tex Hill - Training and First Assignment (part 1)

hill david 1936After graduating high school, Tex attended Texas A&M and then Austin college and graduated in 1938. He then applied for the Army Air Corp, but didn't get in. So he tried the Naval Aviation program, which accepted him as a seaman, second class at Opa Locks, Florida. Tex and 12 other candidates took a three-week class, which began with classroom training and concluded with 10 hours of flying instruction in a Stearman NS-1 biplane trainer.

Accepted as a cadet in Class 121-C at Naval Air Station Pensacola where he underwent a further 13 week of training. In Pensacola, classes started every month and overlapped each other. It was in these other classes that Tex met three other future Flying Tigers, Ed Rector, Bert Christman, and Scarsdale Jack Newkirk.

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German Boy - Wolfgang Samuel

The book is a memoir of retired US Air Force colonel, Wolfgang Samuel, who grew up in Germany during WWII. The book begins in 1945 when the author is 10 years old. Along with his mother, grand mother, and younger sister, we follow along as they flee from the advancing Russian army.

As they travel through war torn Germany, from Stratsburg to Berlin, the story is told from his perspective as a boy. We meet Wolfgang on the eve of Russian troops over running his home town. From then on, the gripping story carries you from city to city as Wolfgang and his family tries to stay one step ahead of the Russians and head toward the Americans. Along the way, we meet Hitler youths, die-hard Nazi's, anti-Nazis, and just average citizens trying to survive the times. Eventually, the Russians would catch up to the Samuel family and the story turns into one of living under occupation of the communist regime. We get a glimpse of what life was like during the last year of the War in Germany. The mosiac of lives creates real characters living in a complex world.

The book is not only an account of a boy's view of the closing years of the war, but also one about his mother as a single parent, doing whatever she needs to keep her family alive. The family does escape to the American occupied zone. However the suffering does not stop at the end of the war - food shortages and discrimination against refugees continues to make living an everyday struggle. Eventually the family makes it to the United States.

The book is extremely well written. The war is not painted in black and white, everything shifts along different shades of gray. One of the best war time and post war Germany books you can read.

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M4 Sherman - Early Production - Tamiya

TAM32505 sherman

One of the original series of kits that Tamiya produced to re-introduce the work of 1:48 armor to the modeling world. Built as a Normandy tank with Hedgerow device

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Tex Hill - Introduction (part 0)

Introduction 1On a sunny afternoon in June of 2002, my family and I were pulling into a very crowded parking lot when I heard the unmistakable sound of low flying piston engines. As I looked up, there was a flight of five AT-6 ‘Texan’ trainers flying nice and slow in perfect formation right over our car. It had taken more than a few hours of driving to get here - Reading, Pennsylvania - an area once settled by German emigrants in the United States. Every year for three days in the summer, a 'World War II' weekend is hosted here by the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum. While I was a certified airplane fanatic, the main reason I had wanted to come this particular year was to see David "Tex" Hill - youngest man to become Brigadier General in the US Air Force Reserve, commander of the 75th Fighter Squadron in China, and as most people will remember him, leader of the Flying Tigers' 2nd Pursuit Squadron.

Read more: Tex Hill - Introduction (part 0)

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America - Erik Larson

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson. This book intertwines the story of the 1898 Worlds fair in Chicago and that of a serial killer, H. H. Holmes, that used the fair as a lure for young women into his apartment for rent. At first glance, one may question the 'sensationaliztion' of the Worlds Fair with some lurid murder, but initial judgement can be wrong. Mr Larson does a masterful job jumping back and forth between the stories. We learn about Daniel Burnham, the architect of the Worlds Fair and his struggles in bringing the fair to life. The many 'first' that was debuted there and a good slice of cultural history of America at the turn of the century (BTW, does that still mean 19th-20th, now that we are 2nd decade into the 21st?) are documented here. While fascinating by itself, the story of Holmes not only adds tension to the story, it actually does a good job taking us into how young women's accepted role in society was changing at the time.  As his boarding house for young women would not have been possible without this attitude adjusment. If you just wanted to true crime story though, skip it, this is not your book. As a slice of insight into American life and changing values in the late 1800's, it is a fascinating read.

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Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation - Joseph J. Ellis

Joseph Ellis, is one of the foremost scholars on the American Revolutionary period, and in this book, he chooses to examine the lives of several 'brothers' and the events that were taking place during the American Revolution and the decades immediately afterwards. Ellis chose not to use the more common 'Founding Fathers' to emphasize that this group of men were indeed bonded together through events and at the same time individuals with differing opinions. So we not only learn what happened in the macro sense, but also we get to understand each man  and how their personal views shaped American Independence. Perhaps even more importantly, the continued struggle to determine exactly what type of Republic the United States would become. The original Articles of Confederation were inadequate, eventually requiring a new Constitution with a much stronger central government was formed. However, to get to that point, there were many points of compromise by both sides, including such contentious decisions as not abolishing Slavery. These decisions would shape future history and continue to shape the lives of each American. Ellis not only drives these points home, he does so eloquently and I venture to say he is one of best writers of history in English currently. Even if you only had a cursory interest in this period, or perhaps trying to understand the United States constant push/pull between federal and states rights, you need to read this book. For such a small volume, its says much and says it well.

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