Cowboy: interpreter, warlord, one more casualty


Not fair, not balanced, and not to be missed!

Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy, 1945-1975 is longest and best-written history of the Indochina wars, but oh! did I get sick of the author's contempt for the devious French and the bumptious Americans! And "Sir Max" gets so much wrong! Among the errors he tosses into the first hundred pages: the nickname of Walter Bedell Smith; the American bomber flown by the French against the Vietminh; the American aid mission in Saigon; and the first US combat fatality in South Vietnam. Like most people who passed through Vietnam without really seeing it, he thinks the rain forest is a "jungle" and that a rice field is a "paddy." He thinks that "brigadier" is an officer grade in the US and Vietnamese armies, and that the projectile fired by a mortar is a "bomb." Perhaps there should be a rule that no one can write about military service who hasn't at least been through basic training.

But still! The book should be read by every serious student of the Indochina Wars. There's just too much good in it to be ignored. And the tone does change for the better, not long after we pass the halfway mark. Hastings's treatment of the Tet debacle in February 1968 -- a disaster for both sides, though for different reasons -- does indeed strike me as fair and balanced. For a thorough-going review, see the Annals of Vietnam.

A P-40 in Shanghai waters

P-40 being lifted from water No, sorry, not the long-sought "Kittyhawk" in Lake Danchi (aka Lake Kunming)! It seems that the Chinese are filming a television series about local people helping Americna pilots after an aborted bombing raid upon Japan. When I saw this sequence online, the modern crane and the workers' hardhats really baffled me, but apparently its a replay of the same notion that lay behind my own AVG novel, Remains, which opens in the present day and then switches to a backstory in the desperate months of the Pacific War. What we see here is a full-size P-40 replica being lifted out of the salt sea near Shanghai in southern China. The time is the present, and no doubt will soon switch back to the glory days of the American Volunteer Group, the 14th Air Force, or the Chinese-American Composite Wing.

Also worth noting: the University of Leiden has translated two volumes of the Japanese histories of the Second World War. Reflecting the fact that it was the colonial Dutch military that bore the main defense of the East Indies, they are the ones that focus on the Japanese invasion of what is now the Indonesian archipelago. Not only are the books in English, but they are available for download as PDFs at no cost. For more, see Japan at War. Blue skies! — Daniel Ford

Welcome to the forum!

Here are a thousand or so files on airplanes, pilots, and the wars of the past hundred years, grouped under these headings:

Annals of the Flying Tigers
Annals of the Brewster Buffalo
Annals of Poland: war and exile, 1939-1948
Japan at War, 1931-1945
Annals of the Chinese Air Force
Glen Edwards and the Flying Wing
Remembering Bluie West One
The Spadguys Speak (carrying a nuke to Sevastopol)
Annals of Vietnam
War in the Modern World

Plus these excellent places to look for more: