Avid Readers, Occasional Bloggers

Tag: Second World War

Audiobook Review: Countdown 1945 by Chris Wallace

After I heard Chris Wallace on special Dispatch Live event with Jonah Goldberg, I put Countdown 1945: The Extraordinary Story of the Atomic Bomb and the 116 Days That Changed the World by Chris Wallace, with Mitch Weiss on my TBR pile.

Not that I am particularly interested in WWI (military history is Jeff’s bailiwick) or the dropping of the atomic bomb, but because I was interested in seeing how Wallace made the subject interesting given we all know what happened and the issues involved have been debated too death.  I was curious to see what an old school, straight shooter journalist made of the history.

It turned out the easiest way to get a copy from the library was to listen to the audiobook narrated by Wallace himself. So when it became available, I grabbed it and started listening.

Not surprisingly, Wallace is a great narrator and the style and focus of the book work well in audio format.  Unlike some more dense and technical history, I found this enjoyable to listen to and easy to pay attention

As to content, I found it to be a compelling and informative look at the events leading up the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan in August of 1945. It gives you the perspective not only of President Truman and other larger than life figures but also of a host of minor characters from scientists and military leaders to those who worked at Oak Ridge and Japanese citizens who experienced the destruction of Hiroshima.

Never Call Me a Hero: A Legendary American Dive-Bomber Pilot Remembers the Battle of Midway

So, after too long of a hiatus due to family medical issues, I am finally getting back into reading and reviewing.

First up, N. Jack Kleiss (with Timothy and Laura Orr) recounts Kleiss’s role in the pivotal battle in the book Never Call Me A Hero: A Legendary American Dive-Bomber Pilot Remembers the Battle of Midway. This past June was the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Midway.

An overview of the book from the publisher:

On the morning of June 4, 1942, high above the tiny Pacific atoll of Midway, Lt. (j.g.) “Dusty” Kleiss burst out of the clouds and piloted his SBD Dauntless into a near-vertical dive aimed at the heart of Japan’s Imperial Navy, which six months earlier had ruthlessly struck Pearl Harbor. The greatest naval battle in history raged around him, its outcome hanging in the balance as the U.S. desperately searched for its first major victory of the Second World War. Then, in a matter of seconds, Dusty Kleiss’s daring 20,000-foot dive helped forever alter the war’s trajectory.

I love the title of this book. Kleiss never considered himself a hero for doing a job that thousands of other men did throughout the war – flew as pilots for the United States Army, Air Forces or Navy. The word hero has been thrown around so many times that it is now somewhat cheapened when it is used – which is too bad because there are/were some true heroes.

Kleiss’s account of the battle from his perspective is riveting. His detailed analysis of how everything transpired is a testament to the professionalism and expertise of the Navy pilots. Kleiss rightly criticizes naval commanders for their plan to form a large gaggle of planes from the three carriers – the pilots knew it would take too long – and then attack the Japanese fleet.

Kleiss’s personal account of the battle is touching. He brings the personal costs into focus. For example, he recounts the last time he saw his flight school buddy the morning of the attack. They both knew that his friend was going on a suicide mission (his friend was a torpedo plane pilot) because all naval pilots in the Pacific knew the defective nature of American torpedoes. You can sense his raw emotions of the moment even decades after it occurred.

The blow-by-blow account of the battle from a pilot’s perspective is great. Kleiss details what it was like to dive bomb a ship and see the results of a successful bombing run. Although morbid, he describes seeing parts of the ship and men flying in the air because of the explosions. Yet another description of war as hell.

Never Call Me a Hero is a fantastic first person account of the Battle of Midway.

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