Odd Man Out - RIchard Thorton

Odd Man Out: Truman, Stalin, Mao, and the Origins of the Korean War.  The book presents a list of arguments to turn the conventional wisdom regarding the role of USSR, China, and United States in the Korean War.  Convetional wisdom: US was totally surprised by the invasion, the war was started by Kim despite the misgivings of both USSR and China.  Thorton thinks otherwise, Truman had ample warning and allowed the conflict to escalate because he needed a united front from a war weary population to support against the spread of Communism world-wide. Mao wanted to invade Taiwan, but needed USSR's weapons, so supported the North's invasion in the bargain, and finally Stalin pushed Kim to start the war to keep the Chinese dependent on the Soviet Union. Whether you buy into Mr Thorton's ideas or not, he does present a well researched and thoughtful approach in examining this crucial period immediately after WWII. While I as not ultimately convinced of all of his arguments, it gets one thinking and questioning, as a good history book should.

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How to Build Dioramas - Sheperd Paine

This is Sheperd Paine's revised classic on building dioramas. Through the free 'how-to' pamphlets that was included in many Monogram kits in the 1980's, Mr Paine influenced a whole generation of modelers. Showing us what we all aspire to as modelers. There are detailed instructions on diorama design, painting figures, groundwork, and shadow boxes. We have to note that even though revised edition is more than a decade old now, and many of the newer techniques and tools are not covered here. However, as inspiration and as instruction on the composition and laying out of an diorama, it remains unsurpassed. So don't for a second think that this books is outdated, his shadow boxes are still a marvel to behold.

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NJIPMS 2005

F18 Chippy Ho - Testors Metal display model

F18Metal Box

This F18 Hornet kit is unique in that its a metal kit, only the armaments and wheels are plastic. While not as detailed and authentic compare to styrene model, it makes into a sturdy office display. The scheme of this particular aircraft is the CAC's bird "Chipp Ho" based on USS Independence.

Read more: F18 Chippy Ho - Testors Metal display model

It Doesn't Take a Hero: The Autobiography of General Norman Schwarzkopf

This is Norman Schwarzkopf's story. If you didn't know, Schwarzkopf spent 30+ years in the US military, eventually finding himself in command of Half a million troops during Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm in early 1990's. As expected, after a brief discription of his childhood and his early experiences in Vietnam, the book concentrates on the events surrounding the Iraq invasion of Kuwait and the world's response. Interestingly, we see how the Gulf war was not only about turning back an invader that threatened a US ally and important source of energy, it was 'proofing ground' for much of the junior officials who served in the US in Vietnam. Now in position of command, this group wanted and needed to prove to themselves that the changes they've implemented corrected the mistakes in the US military. If you wanted to get a military view from the US perspective on this war, this is a great book. Not only that, Schwarzkopt comes off as a geniiuely decent man, irregardless of you agree or disagree wiith this particular decisions during the war.

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NJIPMS 2004

Mitsibushi A5M4K "Claude" - Classic Airframes

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This one took a while, as its my first 'limited run' kit with lots of resin details. Its the A5M2K, the trainer version of the Japanese fighter that preceded its famous offspring, the A6M2 Zeke - more popularly known as the Zero in the West. Code named "Claude", it saw extensive action in China before the the outbreak of war with the US.
 
Read more: Mitsibushi A5M4K "Claude" - Classic Airframes

1421: The Year China Discovered America - Gavin Menzies

Mr Menzies has written a book with a fascinating premise, too bad its almost too flawed to be considered non-fiction. The main concept is that China had landed in North America in the early 1400's before the Europeans had. Much of the premise starts with the Chinese Muslim admiral, Zheng He, who sailed to the coast of Africa. According to Menzies, unlike traditonal accounts, Zheng He did not stop on the west coast of Africa, but actually rounded the Cape of Good Hope before Magellan. Some people have debated that, but at this point most will say its more conjecture. However, Mr Menzies not only claim Zheng He rounded Africa, but traveled to North America. He cites many 'proofs', but unfortunately the leap in faith from a small clue to the conclusion that the Chinese reached the Americas is huge indeed. This is definitely one of those cases where a conclusion was already reached, and every 'fact' was made to fit into that conclusion.

In general, I am much happier reading history meant for a general audience, as books produced for an academic audience tends to be much more densely written at times, and at other times just poorly written. In this case however, the book screams for some formal academic scrutiny. Keep in mind that I would love for some of Menzies speculations to be true, but as I said previously, this book is more speculation than history.  It's so off from what a good history books is that I'm hestitant to even link to it , but hey maybe you just want to see how NOT to write a history book.

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