Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War - Mark Bowden

The year was 1993, Somalia was in the midst of a civil war with warlords fighting for their corner. The violence and turmoil caused famine within the country, this in turn prompted the United States to send in the its military.  Distractors would say this is the classic example of what can go wrong when the US plays the role of the world's policeman.  One of the key warlord was Mohammed Farah Aidid, the strongman who held power in Mogadishu.  Americans had already attempted to capture him after he ambushed a United Nations peace-keep force, but mostly civilians were killed which turn the Somolians against the UN and American forces.  Finally, Clinton sends in the Delta Force and Army Rangers.

Black hawk down describes gives almost an minute by minute blow of the American attempt to capture 2 of Aidid's advisors. The operations goes wrong as soon as the the Rangers fast rope down into the streets.  Even though Mr Bowden wasn't there, via numerious interviews with those who were, he places you squarely in the operation. Besides operation details, the confusion of the situation is conveyed immedidately to the reader. Perhaps a little too well, as the lack of good maps in the book sometimes makes it hard to follow the action. But overall, thats a minor fault to a a book that is tightly written.  From the initial wounded, the downing of the US Black Hawk Helicopter from which the book gets its title, the confused ground convoy that was tasked to transport the captured advisors back to base, and the eventual airing of Michael Durant, a capture helicopter pilot, on TV - all the action are well described. When the operation finally ended 15 hrs later, 18 Americans were dead, 70 wounded, and an estimated 500+ Somalis were dead.  The event caused the US to give up its mission in Somali, and had major influence on the US military and political situation.  This is a well written book that literally puts you into the midst battle.


Shanghai Girl Gets All Dressed Up - Beverley Jackson

Okay, perhaps a bit off the usual path. This is a picture book of female fashion of Shanghai in the 1930's. The books is packed with both color and black white period photos of Shanghai. Included are not just many pictures of the qi pao (pinyin) or 'cheongsam' (from Cantonese pronunciation), but also advertising, and movie posters. 1930's Shanghai was a unique mix of Chinese and Western culture, and this books does an admirable job documenting one aspect of the cultural history during this unique point in Chinese history. If you want to get a sense of life among the well off and middle class living in China at the time, this is a good visual guide.


Udvar Hazy



Located just outside of Washington DC, It is Smithsonian Institute's Air & Space Museum annex, its a huge place and a must see. There are some very rare aircrafts being displayed here - from the only remaining Horten 229 glider prototype to a Space Shuttle.  It's also free - parking extra though.>

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Nakajima Ki-27 Type 96 "Nate" in Manchuoko Service - Hasegawa

Nateki 27

The Nakajima Ki-27, code named "Nate" by the US entered service in the mid 1930's and saw extensive action in China. They were the primary fighter opposition to the famed AVG "Flying Tigers" before the US entry into WWII. Previous to that, it first saw action against Russian built I-16's and I-15's in the Chinese air force and was superior in all respects to its contemporaries in Asia.


Read more: Nakajima Ki-27 Type 96 "Nate" in Manchuoko Service - Hasegawa

Odd Man Out - RIchard Thorton

oddmanoutOdd 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.

Read more: Odd Man Out - RIchard Thorton