The Greater America


I've always thought that the most exciting events in U.S. history were the American Turtle, a submarine that tried to sink British warships in 1776, and the epic duel between the Monitor and the Merrimack in 1862. The Turtle, alas, has never gotten its due, but the Battle of Hampton Roads has been gloriously brought to life by Richard Snow in Iron Dawn: The Monitor, the Merrimack, and the Civil War Sea Battle that Changed History. The iron-clad Confederate actually went to war as the CSA Virginia, but it is mostly remembered by the name of the scuttled Union warship whose wooden hull and refurbished engines were used to outfit her. The Monitor is rightly remembered as the more radical vessel, because it was entirely made of metal, and it mounted only two guns -- but those in a revolving turret. (The turret changed naval history just as much as the notion of building ships from iron.) Spoiler alert: the battle was pretty much a draw. But the world, as the saying goes, was never the same again.

Such a great book! I read The Six with the avidity usually reserved for a Jack Reacher story. (And I am one who got bored very quickly with Downton Abbey, so it has nothing to do with the odd American fascination with English 'crats.) The eponymous Six are Nancy, Pamela, Jessica, Diana, Deborah, and Unity Mitford, the Bright Young Things of 1920s/1930s England, and the postwar writers of note. Laura Thompson tells their story so well that I was tempted to read some of those Mitford books. Diana and Unity became fans of Hitler, and Jessica was a lifelong Communist. Obviously this turned out rather badly for some, especially Unity, who in September 1939 tried to kill herself but only managed to damage her brain. Diana was interned with her husband, the fascist Sir Oswald Mosley; Jessica fled to America with her husband, who in best English fashion gave up anti-war agitprop to die in an RAF bomber over Germany. The others did quite well for themselves, as indeed did Jessica and eventually Diana, in the inimitable way of English 'crats.

I'm not sure how many people care any longer, but Ike and McCarthy tells the long-overdue story of how the supposedly disengaged President Eisenhower waged a guerrilla war against the Red-baiting senator from Wisconsin, Joe McCarthy. According to David Nichols, Ike was much smarter and much more hands-on than anyone gave him credit for at the time -- or since! It's a good story of how Washington works, and reassuring in its way. We're told every day that we're living in a time of unprecedented danger to the Republic, what with President Trump wielding Twitter like an axe, and the Resistance doing everything it can to overturn the 2016 election. Well, there may have been more bipartisanship in 1954, but the battles were a lot nastier and the results of a mistake more calamitous. Blue skies! — Dan Ford

Poland's Daughter

A Kindle for $79.99, a tablet for $49.99!

For ten years I've been adapting my books and articles for digital reading, most notably for Amazon's Kindle, a kludgy device that cost $399 when it first revolutionized publishing. And now the price has fallen to $79.99 for a much superior product. Even more astonishing is the new Kindle Fire, a basic but full-fledged, 7-inch tablet computer for $49.99.

Daniel Ford's books:

The Greater America: An Epic Journey Through a Vibrant New Country (Ralph Paine)
Flying Tigers: Claire Chennault & His American Volunteers (revised 2016)
Tales of the Flying Tigers (think of it as a lengthy appendix to the history)
Poland's Daughter: How I Learned About Love, War, and Exile
Michael's War: A story of the Irish Republican Army
The Lady and the Tigers (Olga Greenlaw)
The Only War We've Got: Early Days in South Vietnam
Remains: A Story of the Flying Tigers
Incident at Muc Wa: A Story of the Vietnam War
Glen Edwards: Diary of a Bomber Pilot
A Vision So Noble: John Boyd, the OODA Loop, and America's War on Terror
The Country Northward: A Hiker's Journal

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Question? Comment? Newsletter? Send me an email. Blue skies! -- Dan Ford

Flying Tigers
available again for Kindle

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Posted July 2017. Websites © 1997-2017 Daniel Ford. All rights reserved.