Looking Back From Ninety

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Steven Bailey has done an admirable job with Target Hong Kong. On page one, we meet Commander John Lamade, squeezing into the cockpit of a Grumann Hellcat fighter while "burdened with chartboard, oxygen mask, goggles, flight helmet, flashlight, Mae West, revolver, spare rounds, radio lead, parachute harness and pack, life raft, jungle kit, and the knowledge that he had survived when so many of his former crewmates ... had not." Right away, we know that more men will be lost today. Hong Kong is a hellacious target, and American planning leaves a lot to be desired, with the result that eleven aviators are lost for very little gain, and the neutral colony of Macaou is bombed and strafed in error. The combat scenes are a five-star effort, but I'd subtract one star for the detours we must take along the way. Before the fighters, bombers, and torpedo planes even reach Japanese-occupied Hong Kong, we are sent back to December 1941 to meet an English expat named Ray Jones, whose role in the book will be to witness that air strike from the ground as a prisoner of war. Then it's forward again, through more than a hundred pages of Pacific naval warfare before the targeting of Hong Kong actually begins. Still, it's an exciting ride, leavened from time to time with glimpses of the war as seen by the Japanese and by P-51 Mustang pilots of General Chennault's 14th Air Force.

Friday night at the movies

Greyhound is a great war flick, in which an aged Tom Hanks plays the skipper of an American destroyer on the convoy route in the Second World War. He must battle the German Wolf Pack submarines in the North Atlantic dead zone, too far from home for US patrol planes to guard them, and too far from England for the British to take over. I watched it in one go, which I rarely do these days when I too am getting old; it had all the excitement of war movies in the 1950s and 1960s, when the good guys battled bad guys against all odds, and came out victorious. I wasn't sure about the taunting radio calls from the Wolf Pack (really? they had time for this?), but it did help personalize the duel. I think it's worth a $9.99 month's subscription to Apple TV+, especially since you'll be able to watch four or five episodes of 'Masters of the Air', a wonderful tribute to the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, along with the excellent 'Slow Horses' mini-series. Or you can watch it on Amazon Freevee with advertisements and under an oddly different title.

Blue skies! -- Daniel Ford. You can send humanitarian aid through Razom for Ukraine (a tax-exempt US-based charity). Or donate to the military through the National Bank of Ukraine.

Daniel Ford's books:

Looking Back From Ninety: Depression, War, and the Good Life That Followed
Cowboy: Interpreter, Soldier, Warlord, and One More Casualty of Our War in Vietnam
The Only War We've Got: Early Days in South Vietnam
Flying Tigers: Claire Chennault & His American Volunteers, 1941-1942
Tales of the Flying Tigers (think of it as a lengthy appendix to the history)
The Lady and the Tigers (Olga Greenlaw)
Poland's Daughter: How I Learned About Love, War, and Exile
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
The Greater America: An Epic Journey Through a Vibrant New Country (Ralph Paine)
~ ~ ~ ~
Michael's War: A Story of the Irish Republican Army
Remains: A Story of the Flying Tigers
Incident at Muc Wa: A Story of the Vietnam War
The High Country Illuminator: A Tale of Light and Darkness and the Ski Bums of Avalon

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

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