Highly Recommended

I just finished reading Lynne Olson’s Citizens Of London, and all I can say is I wish I’d read it before Tony Judt’s Postwar (which I recommended earlier).

Of course, as a keen student of 20th-century European history, I’m very familiar with the WWII period — or at least, I thought I was.  In fact, I’ve always been more interested in the military history thereof rather than the diplomatic side… and Citizens Of London  took care of that for me, in spades.

Oh, good grief:  how could I have been so ignorant?  Of course I knew about Edward R. Murrow (“the voice of the Blitz”), and Averill Harriman (more so for his post-war career).  But Gilbert Winant?  All I knew about him was that he was successor to the horrible-in-every-way-imaginable Joe Kennedy as U.S. Ambassador to Britain, and I vaguely remember him as one-time governor of New Hampshire.

Olson’s book has set me straight on that, and if you are similarly ignorant about this period and these characters, it will do the same for you.  Run, don’t walk, to your favorite bookstore or to Amazon, and buy this book because it will change your perspective on WWII completely.

I should point out in passing that in this history, Franklin D. Roosevelt does not come out well (not that this is a Bad Thing, of course), and nor does his successor Harry S Truman.  And I have never read so personal and compelling a story about not just Winston Churchill, but also the entire Churchill family during this period.

It is clear that but for Murrow, Harriman and Winant — with an excellent assist from Dwight D. Eisenhower — there may well have been a completely different outcome to the events of 1939-45.

And if that doesn’t get you to read Citizens Of London, we can’t be friends.

Worthwhile Read

…and quite possibly one of the best Modern European History books I’ve ever read.  It should be the foundational text for all college courses of European history  of the post-WWII period.

I speak of Tony Judt’s excellent work: Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945

You don’t have to be interested in European history, or a history buff at all to enjoy this.  But if you ever look around at the total screaming insanity that has become a feature of our modern political and social era, read Postwar  and you’ll see exactly where it all came from.

And as one critic wrote, it reads with the pacing of a whodunnit, but contains all the detail and dispassionate analysis necessary for an outstanding study.  I cannot recommend it highly enough.

I wish I’d read it eighteen years ago, when it was first released.  I am most certainly going to re-read it within the next year.

Mae’s Top 10

Some while back, I linked to C&Rsenal’s wonderful series on WWI guns, but then I spotted a little addendum, namely Mae’s Top 10 Rifles.

Now, as the lady in question has fired almost all WWI-era rifles — and certainly more of them than I’ve fired — I think it behooves us all to pay the show a visit.  Here are her top ten WWI rifles, in no specific order (so as not to spoil the surprise at the end):

Mauser K98 TZ (8x57mm)


SMLE No.1 MkIII* (.303 Enfield)


Mannlicher-Schoenauer 1903 Carbine (6.5x54mm)


Ross Rifle MkIII (.303 Enfield)


Arisaka Type 38 Carbine (6.5x50mm)


Ottoman Mauser 1903 (7.65x53mm)


Springfield ’03 (.30-06 Spfld)


Serbian Mauser 1908 Carbine (7x57mm)


Carcano Moschetto 91 (6.5x52mm Mannlicher)


Enfield 1917 (.303 Enfield / .30-06 Spfld)

Some of Mae’s choices are seriously, shall we say, eclectic nay even controversial, but all of them are very well supported (and Othias’s reactions to them are alone worth the price of admission).  Have fun as you pick your way through her arguments.

For the record, I have absolutely no quibble about the composition of her list — I’d shoot any of them without a qualm, and carry any of them off to war.

And by the way:  I actually agree wholeheartedly with her #1.  It is unquestionably one of the rifles I most regret having to sell during Great Poverty Era I.

For those who haven’t seen my own (and I think vastly inferior) take on the topic, see Great War Rifles.


For those who’ve been living on the Planet Zarq and have only recently returned to Earth, or for those with failing memories, let me remind you all of how Othias and Mae’s C&Rsenal has made amateur gun geeks like me completely superfluous (and that is a really good thing).

So if you’re doing nothing special tonight (and over the whole weekend, come to think of it), go there and indulge yourself.

They are absolutely my favorite couple on Teh Intarwebz.

Changing History, Just A Little

This little flight of fantasy was inspired by Chris Muir’s cartoon from yesterday and the day before.

In the spirit of our Crossing America series, imagine that you and a dozen of so of your best buddies were able to go back to any time during the Civil War and enlist in the army of your choice, at an appropriate age and level of fitness.  In your travel back through time you could take the battle rifle and sidearm of your choice and 500/50 rounds of ammo for each piece respectively, subject to the following conditions:

  • no full-auto rifles or machine guns of any type;
  • no explosive ordnance e.g. hand- or rifle grenades
  • no fanciful crap like lasers or photon pulse guns — you know what I’m aiming for, here.  You’d be a foot-soldier but by the standards of the time, a Starship Trooper.

To make life even easier, let’s assume that you could pick the campaign or battle you’d fight in, under your choice of battlefield commander, but you and your platoon would have a certain degree of autonomy.

Your choices and supporting arguments in Comments.

My weapons of choice:

Swedish Mauser M96 (6.5x55mm) as equipped below:

…with a bagful of loaded stripper clips, to save on weight.

Next (to nobody’s surprise):

Springfield 1911 in .45 ACP:

…ammo pre-loaded in five 10-round Chip McCormick magazines.

As to the battles and such, I’ll have to think about that for a while longer, but I’m leaning towards Stones River, on the Confederate side.