In Retrospect: The tradegy and lessons of Vietnam - Robert McNamara

First off, this book by former Secretary of Defence, Robert McNamara will be polarizing.  Whether US should have been involved in the first place, whether the communist threat to world peace was real, and whether the war was 'winnable' but just pursued wrongly by its leaders, its still a controversal topic. Being the 'architect' of the American response to Vietnam's kicking out French colonial power after WW2, McNamara was directly involved in the policies, the key players, and how the war was pursued. Having kept silent all these years until this book was written, what he has done here is one big Mea Culpa. The book is perhaps one man's attempt to make peace with mistakes of his past. Given that perspective, you will either admire his honestly or find it incredulous that he did not draw those conclusions during the war.  At the end, I don't think he really brings much new to the American Vietnam experience. However, as a document to the one person that was intimately involved in that conflict, its worth reading if you have an interest of this era, but ultimately its not going to give you a new perspective on the war.

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

GodsChineseSon 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 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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