Marines, Pearl Harbor, Yangtze
Gunboats Focus of New Books
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
IN THE GRAY AREA: A
Marine Advisor at War
By Seth W.B. Folsom. Annapolis,
Md.: Naval Institute Press, 2010.
228 pp. $34.95
Folsom, a Marine Corps lieutenant
colonel, wrote an earlier memoir,
“The Highway War,” about his experiences as a young commanding officer of a light armored reconnaissance battalion during the
advance to Baghdad in 2003. In this new book, Folsom, a
more senior and experienced officer, chronicles his tour
in Iraq as a leader of an adviser team to Iraqi forces in al
Anbar Province. Folsom describes the challenges of the
advisory mission in building the Iraqi forces and gives an
up-close-and-personal perspective of the latter stages of
the Iraq War. He focuses on the difficulties in navigating
the cultural minefields in the effort to build a modern
fighting force. He expresses concern that gains will be lost
when U.S. forces leave Iraq, and asserts that the Iraqis
themselves need to want to control their future.
PREPARING FOR VICTORY:
Thomas Holcomb and the
Making of the Modern Marine
By David J. Ulbrich. Annapolis, Md.:
Naval Institute Press, 2011.
304 pp. $35.95
Gen. Thomas Holcomb is no household name, even in the Marine
Corps. This book is the first biography of the former
commandant, who, from December 1936 to December
1943, turned the Corps from a small brush-fire war force
into four well-trained infantry divisions capable of large-scale amphibious assaults against Japanese-held island
fortresses without suffering a defeat. Holcomb’s foresight, leadership and management grew the Corps from
17,000 men during the Great Depression to 385,000
men by the end of his tour in 1943 as the great Pacific
advances were under way. He left his successor, Gen.
Alexander A. Vandegrift, a superb fighting force that
prevailed against the Japanese empire and lives on today
as a smaller but potent Corps.
ATTACK ON PEARL
HARBOR: Strategy, Combat,
By Alan D. Zimm. Philadelphia:
Casemate Publishers, 2011.
464 pp. $32.95.
There is no shortage of books about
the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, but
this one — by an operations analyst,
the head of the Aviation Systems and Advanced
Concepts Group in the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics
Laboratory — approaches the subject as an analysis of
the Japanese operational planning and execution. Zimm
examines every aspect of the attack and uses operations
research techniques to critique the planning and performance of the Japanese forces and compare results with
expectations. He also examines some of the lore and con-troversies of the attack. The author concludes that the
Japanese made operational and tactical blunders that
diminished the success of the attack.
YANGTZE RIVER GUNBOATS
By Angus Konstam. Oxford, U.K.:
Osprey Publishing, 2011.
48 pp. $17.95
The foreign gunboat era in China,
which covered the first half of the
20th century, captured the imagination of viewers of the 1966 film “The Sand Pebbles” (and
readers of the novel on which it was based). This monograph presents the true story of the gunboats from the
U.S. Navy and the navies of many European powers and
Japan that patrolled the Yangtze River, protecting missionaries and trade and diplomatic outposts, as well as
countering warlords and pirates. Each type of gunboat is
described in detail, but even more valuable are the
descriptions of life on the gunboats and the exotic political and cultural environment in which they operated.
Famous incidents, such as the sinking of USS Panay in
1937 by Japanese aircraft and the escape of HMS Amethyst
from the Communist forces in 1949, are depicted. ■